Issue and Context
The present challenges faced by Australian schools are with respect to working in
conditions where there are rising numbers of students who have special needs.
Cleghorn (2016) asserts that for several reasons, students attend school with
varying experiences and different learning requirements. According to Dempsey &
Davis (2013), a longitudinal study conducted with Australian school children
indicated that around twelve per cent of the Australian students in School have
special needs to be fulfilled. The education of these students is the core focus of
inclusive education in the context of this research. There is proof to indicate that
the students are being asked to attend segregated schools as the school are unable
to meet the special education needs of many of these individuals. In regions such
as NSW and Queensland, the past years have witnessed that the number of
students relocated into specific conditions are on the rise and will persist to rise
more in the future (Dempsey & Valentine, 2017). Since the year 2000, the number
of such organised segregated settings across the nation has risen by about 13%
while the overall ability of schools to integrate and provide inclusive education has
continued to fall (Graham, 2015). However, this trend of rise in exclusion from the
regular school settings needs to be investigated from a professional context where
the views of special needs education (SEN) children and the ability of the school to
manage the same are being considered (Graham, 2015). It is evident that to
bolster the educational outcomes for such students’ various efforts are being made
including the government pledging high levels of funding from various sources into
its educational systems to improve inclusive education and its role.
As a result of these events of students being placed in segregated educational
conditions, the problem of disproportionality in such populations has grown.
Graham (2015) argues that many students across Australia have being asked to
shift to more segregated schools for a wide range of reasons. The most commonly
observed reasons for suspension were difficulty in meeting needs due to learning
disability, challenges in providing the right support as there is a need for different
stakeholders and most importantly providing the right education plan while
including parents, teachers and other professionals.
Findings in an Australian context have shown that for teacher level engagement
with inclusive education can be the key element which drives success. Beauchamp
(2016) conclude that support and cooperation from others including colleagues and
parents is the key to ensuring that inclusive education is achieved. At the same
time, there are studies which have highlighted the need for teacher quality and
teacher level competencies. At the same time, including students with disability is a
key component of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers which requires
teachers to be able to identify and use strategies which can help differentiate
learning for students with special needs and support inclusive participation through
engagement with other individuals (ARACY, 2013). Given these findings, the focus
of this research is on the professional needs of teachers and the challenges faced in
a school context with respect to meeting SEN needs. This essay will identify the
challenges that teacher face in addressing and improving overall inclusive education
and identify areas of professional improvement as driven by research findings. The
essay first discusses the review of relevant research evidence on the importance of
understanding teacher level challenges influencing inclusive education.
1.2. Relevant Research Evidence
A discussion on the theoretical basis of the research shows that the most prevalent
educational conceptualisations on inclusive education show a variety of research.
According to Berlach and Chambers (2011), contend that inclusive education begins
when efforts are taken to enhance availability of opportunity for SEN children,
acceptance of their needs, capability to address their needs and the absence o bias
and prejudice. Loreman (2009) in their assessment of inclusive education
elements contend that schools should be able to provide regular, heterogenous
classrooms where similar programs of study are adapted or modified to meet
individual needs of the students. They concluded that inclusive education at its core
would involve removing barriers to participation in education and that such
inclusive education can be achieved only when efforts are made at the policy level
to address these requirements.
The focus of this research paper is on the role of teachers and the changes that
they can bring about. A good teacher is one who is capable of satisfying the
requirements within their academic field and achieves the necessary targets.
Another factor that is useful to judge the capability of the teacher is their talent to
distinguish between student needs within the classroom (Lee et al., 2015).
Differentiation is a way of teaching in which the teaching staffs constantly alter the
curriculum, syllabus, their methods of teaching, learning materials and activities to
suit the needs of the students every now and then to ensure maximum learning
According to Florian (2012), teachers need to be able to accept ownership of
inclusive education and showcase significant commitment to all children who are
part of their classroom. Similarly, Smith (2015), also argues that teachers are
expected to be highly trained professionals without efforts to address their attitude
and willingness to work with others. Additionally, Florian (2012) also concludes that
teacher education on the importance of parental engagement and parent level
involvement is also key to improving overall quality of inclusive education. Finally,
as Eisenman et al., (2011) conclude teacher resource needs along with support for
materials as well as additional multi-professional needs should also be addressed.
There are many studies which give empirical evidences on this subject. This section
will highlight a few of these studies.
In the recent years, there is a notable increase in the diversity levels in a classroom
due to the concept of IE. Hence, a good and efficient teacher has to take up
sufficient efforts to distinguish the curriculum and teaching methods to help
students from different backgrounds to cope with pressure and their various
learning disabilities (Eisenmen et al., 2011). On the other hand, the teachers
depend on the strengths and weaknesses and even special educational needs to
understand what they need and how to help them out without hassles (Lee et al.,
2014). The advantages of knowing what the students want can help the teacher
understand the needs of the students. Hence, it is vital for teachers to gain more
information with respect to the academic and behavioural background of students.
For teaching some students, a special knowledge about SEN and its influence on
learning is mandatory. The teacher’s behaviour does not entirely depend on their
knowledge levels and it has been observed that the teachers’ behaviour
corresponds to the theory proposed. The Ajzen theory states that the beliefs and
the principles of the teachers place a vital role in modifying the way of
differentiating students in classroom (Lee et al., 2014). However, some of the
beliefs of the teacher consist of their beliefs on the IE and the concept of diversity
in class room or even their self-efficacy.
De Boer, Pijl and Minnaert (2011) aimed at understanding the benefits of IE and
the overall views of the teachers. The findings showed that the teachers are almost
unsure about their stand on IE systems and can at times have negative attitudes
towards such setups mostly because they do not have support from other
professionals including speech therapists, a SEN expert or a child psychologist.
Moreover, Kurniawati et al. (2014) proclaim that it has also been proved that these
ideologies based on the practical issues on which can be most practical and how
parents can help manage or balance the efforts provided within the school.
According to De Boer et al., (2011), the teachers are also human beings who have
their own emotions which in turn impacts their responses to various classroom
conditions. Their study revealed that the teachers who have past experiences in
interacting with disabled children with special needs are more likely to show certain
attitudes and behaviours towards children with similar requirements. For example,
if a teacher had a tough time teaching a student with ADHD, it is most likely that
the teacher would require support and engagement from the parent in providing a
complete learning environment. There is past evidence that indicates the
prevalence of a positive association between the self-efficacy of a teacher and their
attitudes towards SEN is driven by their willingness to engage with parents.
Pearson, Mitchell and Rapti (2015) showed that teachers who had higher self-
efficacy were most probable to suggest merging children with SEN needs by
considering alternative options and determining areas where they can focus.
According to the study by Almog and Shechtman (2007), a study among the Israeli
teachers was performed and it was discovered that the teachers who have higher
self-efficacy were observed to be effectively coping with different problems and
challenges encountered with children who exhibit problematic behaviour. One of the
major reasons for this link between the positive reception of IE concept and higher
efficacy levels is mainly because of the fact that the beliefs associated with the
efficacy levels exerted a direct impact on the success of the teacher to instruct and
guide special students by depending on external agents. An analysis of the above
findings shows that there is a need for focus on the teacher knowledge, attitude
and perceived self-efficacy. These elements can be improved by addressing overall
parental engagement and involvement and a willingness to ask for help from
external agents in the education system by providing a multi-professional learning
1.3. Evidence in Relation to Issue
The purpose of this section of the essay is to revisit two important elements
identified through empirical research including parental engagement, improving
teacher training and engagement as well as addressing the need of multiple
professionals who can work within this environment.
Improving Parental Engagement
According to Bowe, Ball and Gold (2017), the concept of parent partnership may
sound interesting to start with but it does not mention about the practical issues
related to it. Bowe et al., (2017), adds that the parents and teachers often end
upon on a contention with respect who knows what and which is best for their kids
and their learning requirements. Most parents with children who have special
needs often discover that they lack sufficient opportunities to involve the children in
interactions and activities with schools due to either less opportunities or due to
lack of sufficient staff members who encourage parent partnership. Moreover,
Hornby and Lafaele (2011) adds that the void between the needs of the child and
the demands of parents can only be filled by the parent partnership collaboration.
They also contend that the parents of the school children are not so keen and tend
to ignore the progress of children in the school. Hence, the vital role played by
SENCO matters here. Moreover, Bowe et al., (2017), argues that in certain
situations, the parents have even complained that they have not been informed
about the availability of such services The authors assert that the SENCO can work
hard to assure that the parents are regularly given updates and pertinent
information to such programmes that are available readily to be joined in their local
region. This can be categorised as an approach that comes under the befriending
model. The briefing model shall greatly help in accentuation of communication with
parents and hence, enhancing the support whenever needed.
A criterion for a teacher to be a leader in terms of providing and meeting the needs
of the SEN child is the coordination and the organisation of provisions made to
meet the child’s needs. Hence, the responsibilities will consist of coordination of
children’ requirements, understanding their needs with respect to syllabus,
recognising the differences in curriculum and trying to communicate with parents in
a regular manner (Thomas, 2013). It is important for teachers to assure a proper
involvement with parents to make effective progress with their students. However,
parents do have multiple experiences dealing with their children regarding their
likes and dislikes and ways to encourage their children. Thomas (2013), states that
it is recommended that all professional bodies and local authorities actively express
their interest to work with parents and stress on the importance of contributions
made by the. Moreover, it is suggested that the parents of children with special
needs should be considered as partners only.
From the above contentions and literature reviews, it can be inferred that the
communication between the schools, parents and administrators play a major role
to ensure sufficient care for such children with special needs (Thomas, 2013).
However, a lack of proper interaction between any two groups of professionals is
usually the key reason for misunderstanding and complete dissatisfaction among
the parents. Even in some cases, the parents expressed that they have not been
involved enough in their child’s educational programs. The importance of such
parental engagement has been discussed in the context of Australia.
According to Bowe et al., (2017), there has been efforts taken within the
Australian community to acknowledge shifts in practice where parental engagement
is evolving as a key factor influencing the overall education process. Similarly,
Blackmore and Hutchinson (2010) also identified that there are policy shifts within
the education system in Victoria where parent and teacher engagement has
changed with parents becoming active participants and becoming key players who
drive school level reforms. Education has since them been restructured to service
the economy where parents had significant choice in providing feedback. In the
context of inclusive education, some challenges faced is ensuring that there is
strong support from the teacher for this type of operations (Smith et al., 2015).
This problem can be resolved by promoting the schools to introduce new steps that
concentrate on enhancing parental involvement. Moreover, there are sufficient
factual evidences that show that the there is a rise in children’s attendance and a
higher positive attitude among children if parents were engaged as well
Furthermore, if the teacher and parents work side by side, they can reach a
consensus on which will be the best suited method to teach their own children
based on their talents and requirements. This step also encourages more
participation by students. This essay concludes contends that the parents play a
key role in fulfilling the needs of special children after school too. In other words,
even a good and healthy home environment encourages a positive attitude and
more achievements in children and by encouraging parents to be active role
models, positive evidences can be gained through this approach.
It is indicated that the parental involvement is not only sufficient, but also teachers
must also attempt to combine itself with other agencies. This is key as it may be
important for teachers to work along with welfare officers, clinical psychologist,
speech therapists, doctors and occupational therapists to design the best and most
effective program to teach SEN children. There are various studies that have
judged the importance of multiagency work as being key to education of children
and their welfare. The organisations that are not restricted by resources shall
always try to raise the input that can be got from professionals to encourage the
use of partnership working. Moreover, Smith et al. (2015) quotes that the efficiency
and the pace of a programme can be increased by maximising the collaborative
actions between different professionals. A study by Sloper (2004) also proves that
there is an increase in agreement with respect to a collaborative effort and the
results are more convincing when compared to independently working outputs.
Norwich and Eaton (2015) state that there are various efforts to collaborate and
resulted in enhancements in interactions between the two groups of professionals.
According to them, the complete level of communication between different
professionals and co—workers helped in increasing the efficiency and productivity of
operations. It is generally trusted that by using a common assessment framework
along with a sound education plan is a suitable way to assess the child’s needs.
Graham (2015) asserts that the five main principles of SEN code are that a child
with special needs should be dealt carefully by ensuring that the right level of
engagement is evident across individuals from different levels.
Smith (2015) identified the requirement for such strategic collaborations between
different members who can offer education and care as required by children, health
and social services and parents. Such a collaboration shall greatly help in analysing
the child’s needs who have special needs at a very early age. The initiative by
government aims to design a trust model of practice for children and its purpose is
to assure that all the pertinent specialists and professionals are merged in the effort
to aim at positive results for the children (Graham, 2015). The goal of developing
the children’s plan was to attain and fulfil goals of special needs children. With
respect to the plan, a high budget is required to assure that sufficient workforce is
involved and is professionally sound to hand the special needs children. However, it
is also to be noted that they should improve the role of multi-agency work to help
aid the needs of these studies.
Anderson and Boyle (2015) concludes that efforts were taken to provide inclusive
education at different levels of schools with support from government to enhance
overall functionality. For example, NSW Department of Education and Training
(DET) has argued that access to supplementary funding for SEN students is
directed towards a need based analysis where the engagement of different
professionals and a multi professional platform is engaged. The findings show that
curriculum assessment is linked to other support services like physiotherapy,
occupational therapy and counselling. However, as the NSW Legislative Council
(2010) concluded, this can be on an ad-hoc basis where there can be inconsistency
in many regions and that more multi-level engagement was needed. In the context
of Victoria, the 'Program for Students with Disabilities' (DEECD) needs to be
considered. This programme provides supplemental funding along with access to
psychologists, social workers, youth workers, speech pathologists and other
teachers (DEECD, 2011). However, the report concluded that in many cases the
access to multi-level sources is not clear as limited efforts are being taken to reach
out and request these services. These showcase the need for more teacher training
and teacher knowledge on available multi-agency support platforms.
1.4. Lessons Learnt
The primary lesson to be learnt as part of this essay is that while there are efforts
to encourage special needs education and acknowledge its role within the Australian
education system, there are also challenges.
Improving Parent Involvement: The findings show that parental engagement
and involvement can be a key element which can help any teacher or a practitioner
to be able to engage with the parents and ensure that all the needs of the child are
understood and all needs of the child are addressed. As (), argued, as a teacher I
would have to go an extra mile and take more efforts to ensure that the parents
are aware of the SEN policies in their respective schools. Doing so shall help in
assuring the parents requirements are dealt carefully and the capacity of the child
is judged. Moreover, a forum needs to be started within the context of my school
where parents, teachers, Principals and other stakeholders are able to engage. This
will also give a platform to the parents of my students on introducing their ideas
and how teaching methods can be changed to suit children. The language of the
children, their creativity talents and their spatial skills can also be increased if
parents work along with teachers. Moreover, only in such forums parents will also
comprehend the shortcomings and challenges faced by children. I should be able to
assume the role of communicating agent with the parents regarding the policies
and requirements of the programme. Moreover, the teacher are also required to
take enough efforts to clear any questions asked during assessment of the child’s
challenges and the nature and the steps that needed to be taken. () concludes that
the teacher ensures that he or she takes up all the steps mentioned before and
then parents shall understand that their partnership is a two-way path and the aim
of which is to help their children.
Train to Work with Others: Secondly, this research also has shown that there
can be a need to understand the role of other players and acknowledge the
presence of a multi-agency platform. From a professional development viewpoint,
clearly, the first step I should take as a teacher is understand who the different
stakeholders are and how these stakeholders can be reached. Therefore, the first
step would be to recognize the need for external help (Mitchell, 2014). This can be
challenging process as (), argued sometimes new technology solutions or other
elements are introduced as quick solutions without considering the needs at the top
level and overall policy level. Once, this is done, teachers should be given training
on their own learning and development needs and given opportunity to interact
with other players within the multi-agency network. As a teacher, only if I interact
with others I would be able to understand my own areas of challenge an be able to
identify areas where more training is required. I also believe that there is an
urgent need for peer level collaboration where I would be able to work with other
teachers. As seen in the UK, there should be designated special education needs
coordinator (SENCO) who can in the context of the school represent the needs of
the SEN child as well as identify the needs for the teachers. This will help encourage
risk assessment and ensure that the teachers are given feedback on when they
need external support (Maher & Vickerman, 2017). I would be able learn more
about the collective belief of the local authority and understand the types of
professionals, I can recommend for my SEN students by interacting with different
players who work within the SEN network to help the child. Finally, as (), argued,
there is a need to ensure that there are opportunities for the school staff to reflect
and reconstruct the beliefs and values that are present within the system. This will
help working with different players and improve knowledge which can in turn
improve the teacher self-efficacy. One recommendation that I would like to see
implemented in a school context is independent training programmes where other
professionals like occupational or speech therapists and psychologists work with
teachers to identify potential areas where they can improve their overall
understanding of student needs. Therefore, improvement in collegiality and
cooperation between the teachers and other agency members can improve quality
of education for the SEN child.
This essay has identified that teacher level challenges influencing overall challenges
of inclusive education can be attitude, knowledge and self-efficacy perception.
These further complicate relationships with other stakeholders including parents
and external agency players like psychologists, speech therapists, occupational
therapists and others. This essay concludes with the view that improving and
adopting a helper model along with a focus on professional education development
it is possible to improve overall quality. This essay also concludes that such an
effort can also improve teacher self-efficacy, teacher engagement and teacher
knowledge. There is a definite need for a specific special needs coordinator who can
at the school level address these challenges.
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