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Fostering independence through care? A study of the preparedness and deployment of Special Needs Assistants when supporting pupils’ behavioural care needs and independence development in mainstream primary schools in Ireland

Griffin-O'Brien, Claire; (2019) Fostering independence through care? A study of the preparedness and deployment of Special Needs Assistants when supporting pupils’ behavioural care needs and independence development in mainstream primary schools in Ireland. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The educational landscape in Ireland for persons with special educational needs (SEN) has changed significantly over the past two decades. This research project sought to explore the preparedness and deployment of Special Needs Assistants (SNA) in supporting pupils with behavioural care needs in mainstream primary schools in Ireland. In particular, the research aimed to obtain a detailed and integrated account of the preparedness and deployment of SNAs when supporting target pupils’ behavioural care needs and developing target pupils’ independence. This study employed a mixed-methods approach to data collection. The study’s research design was modelled on that employed in Strand 2 Wave 1 of the internationally renowned ‘Deployment and Impact of Support Staff’ project (Blatchford et al., 2008), as conducted in the United Kingdom. This study comprised a large scale SNA survey (n = 814), in addition to systematic classroom observations and case studies conducted across 20 mainstream class contexts. Throughout the study, focus was placed on the preparedness of SNAs to engage in their pupil care role including their training, continuing professional development, knowledge and understanding of pupils’ needs, and school-based planning. The deployment of SNAs to support pupils’ behavioural care needs and independence development was explored through minute-by-minute systematic classroom observations and in-depth case studies, with additional comparative observational data collected on average-attaining comparison pupils. Focus was placed on contextual classroom information, pupil interactions with the class teacher, SNA and peers, level of pupil independence and support patterns employed by SNAs with the target pupils. Data was analysed using a combination of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Findings highlighted an array of strengths and limitations of the current SNA scheme in Ireland in supporting pupils with behavioural care needs, particularly in terms of SNA training, school-based preparation and use of evidence-based strategies to support pupils’ behavioural care needs and development of pupils’ independence. In addition, findings revealed the disparate classroom experiences of pupils with behavioural care needs in receipt of SNA support when compared with their average-attaining peers. Results are discussed in light of the current status of the SNA scheme in Ireland, with a focus on implications for research, theory, policy and practice. This research serves to extend the limited data-set on SNAs in mainstream schools in Ireland and addresses the dearth of national and international research on the role of paraprofessionals in educational contexts, particularly in relation to positive behaviour support and supporting pupils’ development of independence.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Fostering independence through care? A study of the preparedness and deployment of Special Needs Assistants when supporting pupils’ behavioural care needs and independence development in mainstream primary schools in Ireland
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10065580
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