Special Education: Policy and Provision within one Education and Library Board in Northern Ireland

  • Peter G. Cunningham

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This research examines education provision for pupils who have a statement of special educational need, as specified by the 1986 (NI) Order, in an Education and Library Board in Northern Ireland as such provision existed on 1 March 1994.

    Teachers, administrators and parent/guardians completed self-administered questionnaires. In addition to interviews with respondents from each group, interviews with statemented children were also conducted. Supplementary interviews were sought from administrators within the ELB and from professionals outside it. Two case studies were undertaken. The first was a secondary comprehensive school; the second was a college of further education. Archival and statistical documents were analysed in order to frame the development of special education provision within a historical context.

    Findings were explored under headings of administration, curricular and integration. Wide variations in interpretation of special education terms were identified within and between groups - which led to much confusion. Poor communication between groups also contributed to this confusion, and while ELB administrators saw little wrong with the system, teachers and parents /guardians felt far from satisfied with various aspects. Funding was also a major issue.

    The research discovered that whilst the majority of respondents were supportive, at an ideological level, of the principle of integrating statemented children into main school contexts, at a practical level such support was rarely in evidence.
    An apparent lack of knowledge on the part of many mainstream teachers regarding special education curricular issues was identified. The lack of access to specialist subject teachers, by statemented pupils, was a source of some concern. Mainschool teachers were critical of the apparent lack of support for special educational initiatives from a range of statutory bodies. Special school teachers expressed no such sentiments, though all teachers were critical of the lack of special education In-set provision.

    Overall, these results suggest that statemented pupils are not getting their full curricular entitlement and are still viewed a separate grouping within education circles.

    The research findings are discussed and recommendations made, in the light of the literature, legislation and forthcoming Code Of Practice.
    Date of AwardDec 1998
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorRosemary Kilpatrick (Supervisor) & H. R. Cathcart (Supervisor)

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