This paper seeks to obtain the views of student teachers in Northern Ireland as to the benefits andchallenges of inclusive education and the key issues that may need to be addressed to ensure theybecome effective teachers in an inclusive classroom. Because of the system of academic selectionthat has prevailed in Northern Ireland, issues relating to inclusion have been difficult to resolvemainly because principles of inclusion are at odds with existing structures. By 2008, however, academicselection is to be set aside and it would seem reasonable to believe that more inclusive practices will be adopted by all schools. Positive attitudes towards inclusion by practitioners will beessential in ensuring successful implementation. The majority of students entering Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes in Northern Ireland have been traditionally drawn from the academicgrammar school sector where classroom contact with pupils who have diverse special educationalneeds may have been minimal. The results of this study show that while many student teachersclaim to support inclusive policies, they believe that lack of appropriate preparation, concerns aboutclass size, resources, managing other adults and coping with increasing numbers of pupils with diversespecial educational needs are the key issues to be addressed within ITE in advance of the radicalchanges planned. Despite claiming to support inclusion, substantial numbers did not believethe removal of academic selection was the best way to ensure equality of provision for all pupils.
- student teachers
- teaching practice