The perspectives and experiences of children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools regarding their individual teaching assistant support

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Hayley Frisby
Submitted: June 2016


Over the past twenty years there has been a continuous and significant rise in the number of teaching assistants (TAs) working within English schools and they are increasingly taking on a more pedagogical role, often working with pupils with special educational needs(SEN). A systematic review of the international literature was conducted, exploring the impacts of TA support on pupils’ academic, social and emotional/behavioural outcomes(including 24 papers published between the years 2000 and 2015). Key stakeholders’ views about the impacts of TA support were found to be largely positive, as were evaluations of TA-led targeted academic interventions. A number of quantitative investigations of regular TA support for specific pupils indicated a negative relationship between TA support and pupils’ academic progress. Pupil perspectives regarding their TA support were rarely documented within the literature. A qualitative empirical study was conducted to contribute more of a pupil voice. Ten Year Six pupils with SEN took part in individual semi-structured interviews, discussing their one-to-one TA support. Props(such as a ‘Judge’ figurine)helped to set expectations and reassure participants, whilst a creative, visual activity supported their communication and engagement. Participants’ discussions highlighted that they were almost constantly accompanied by a TA and saw the TA as their ‘teacher’. There was a significant degree of separation from the class teacher and a perception that the TA knew participants better than the teacher did. Pupils had rarely been consulted about their TA support in school. However, great admiration was shown for TAs,who were often considered to epitomise their ideal TA. Participants’ discussions suggested that TAs advocated for pupils and possibly looked beyond theirlabels of SEN. They talked passionately about the emotional support provided by TAs (including building their sense of belonging with in school) and suggested that TAs support more positive interactions with peers.

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Encouraging ‘pupil participation’; exploring school practices, benefits and challenges

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Abi Sharpe
Submitted: November 2017

The requirement for schools to listen to pupils’ views on their education is now endorsed in both government policy and law. Researchers have found that young people have useful things to say about their education, and yet pupil participatory practices are not embedded in schools. Throughout this essay, Hart’s (1992) ladder of participation is used as a framework to consider the different levels of effective participation. School councils are a popular participatory practice in schools but are not always seen as an effective method of eliciting pupils’ views. Studies suggest that appropriate planning and a change of school ethos is key to their success. Research has also been conducted into how teachers engage pupils in giving feedback on teaching and learning. Findings indicate that individual differences amongst teachers can impact on their engagement in participation, and resulting practices can vary in the degree to which they would be considered participatory. The limited research into democratic schools highlights promising outcomes for their pupils but the prospect of similar approaches working in mainstream schools raises a number of challenges. This essay concludes that engaging in effective pupil participatory practices in schools has the potential to result in a range of positive outcomes. Policy makers and schools need to consider the degree of decision-making or influence they want to give to pupils. They may also require more training and guidance to make participatory practices effective. Educational Psychologists are well placed to support this process both at a whole school and policy level.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology to Explore Young Peoples’ Experiences of SEN Support in a Mainstream School

Assignment type: Research Project (Small Scale Research Project, Year 1)
Authors: Kate Brant, Rosa Gibby-Leversuch, Catherine Goodchild, Cate Mullen and Hanna Kovshoff
Submitted: Spring 2017

The 2015 Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice mandates that pupils’ views on their educational experience should be sought and used to inform practice. Practitioners have responded to this recommendation by actively including pupils in planning meetings for statutory assessments and annual reviews. However, there is no clear process in place to capture the views of pupils with SEN who receive support at school but do not have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or Statement of SEN. Continue reading