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A systematic and empirical investigation into the factors that influence the mainstream school belonging of children with special educational needs and their peers

A systematic and empirical investigation into the factors that influence the mainstream school belonging of children with special educational needs and their peers
A systematic and empirical investigation into the factors that influence the mainstream school belonging of children with special educational needs and their peers
The first chapter introduces the research topic and the research paradigm and highlights the learning that took place throughout the thesis process. The second chapter summarises the results of a systematic literature review examining variables impacting the school belonging (SB) of children and young people (CYP) with special educational needs (SEN). SB is positively associated with multiple positive academic, psychological, and behavioural outcomes. However, these benefits are limited for CYP with SEN as they typically have lower SB than their typically developing peers. A textual narrative synthesis was conducted to explore the factors influencing SB for CYP with SEN attending mainstream schools. Findings from 11 studies were extracted and synthesised into four themes consisting of nine variables: individual characteristics (SEN status, age and gender); peers (friendships and peer interactions); school staff (student-teacher relationships and teacher characteristics, attitudes and strategies), and school characteristics
(ethos, size and safety). The results highlight the importance of positive relationships with peers and school staff and how these need to be reciprocal rather than simply positive or the absence of negative interactions. The type of SEN was identified as a variable impacting how CYP with SEN are accepted and treated by others, with those with less visible needs having lower SB. Understanding the needs of each CYP and the importance of accepting and treating them as an individual were pertinent themes; strategies of individual teachers and whole-school approaches and ethos were identified as potential methods of achieving this and are discussed regarding implications for practice.
The third chapter outlines an empirical study which explored the impact of teaching assistant (TA) support and relationships with classroom adults on the SB of children with
SEN. Children with SEN often spend a significant proportion of their school day supported by TAs, which often occurs away from the classroom, meaning they can spend large amounts of time away from their class teacher (CT) and peers. This study used a mixed-methods design to explore whether a strong relationship with a TA can protect a child against the absence of one with their CT, a factor shown to be positively associated with SB, with regards to SB and whether the amount of TA support they receive is an influencing factor. Forty-nine primary-aged children self-reported their sense of SB and the quality of their relationships with their classroom adults, and their CTs reported the amount of TA support they receive per week. Children with SEN were found to experience lower SB, attend fewer extracurricular clubs, have more TA support and have weaker overall relationships with their CT than their non-SEN peers. SB was influenced by the warmth and conflict of each relationship but not by the amount of TA support received. No evidence was found to suggest that a strong relationship with their TA can compensate for a weak CT relationship. Children reflected that their relationships with classroom adults are influenced by the logistics of their support, such as location, amount and availability; the characteristics of the adult, including personality traits and job roles; and the quality and length of the relationship, impacting how adults make them feel. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.
University of Southampton
Finnegan, Charlotte
25c2c684-f486-4360-b44e-702bcc098983
Finnegan, Charlotte
25c2c684-f486-4360-b44e-702bcc098983
Cooke, Tim
7e075640-ac10-4749-80a4-670ba19039c1

Finnegan, Charlotte (2022) A systematic and empirical investigation into the factors that influence the mainstream school belonging of children with special educational needs and their peers. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 165pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The first chapter introduces the research topic and the research paradigm and highlights the learning that took place throughout the thesis process. The second chapter summarises the results of a systematic literature review examining variables impacting the school belonging (SB) of children and young people (CYP) with special educational needs (SEN). SB is positively associated with multiple positive academic, psychological, and behavioural outcomes. However, these benefits are limited for CYP with SEN as they typically have lower SB than their typically developing peers. A textual narrative synthesis was conducted to explore the factors influencing SB for CYP with SEN attending mainstream schools. Findings from 11 studies were extracted and synthesised into four themes consisting of nine variables: individual characteristics (SEN status, age and gender); peers (friendships and peer interactions); school staff (student-teacher relationships and teacher characteristics, attitudes and strategies), and school characteristics
(ethos, size and safety). The results highlight the importance of positive relationships with peers and school staff and how these need to be reciprocal rather than simply positive or the absence of negative interactions. The type of SEN was identified as a variable impacting how CYP with SEN are accepted and treated by others, with those with less visible needs having lower SB. Understanding the needs of each CYP and the importance of accepting and treating them as an individual were pertinent themes; strategies of individual teachers and whole-school approaches and ethos were identified as potential methods of achieving this and are discussed regarding implications for practice.
The third chapter outlines an empirical study which explored the impact of teaching assistant (TA) support and relationships with classroom adults on the SB of children with
SEN. Children with SEN often spend a significant proportion of their school day supported by TAs, which often occurs away from the classroom, meaning they can spend large amounts of time away from their class teacher (CT) and peers. This study used a mixed-methods design to explore whether a strong relationship with a TA can protect a child against the absence of one with their CT, a factor shown to be positively associated with SB, with regards to SB and whether the amount of TA support they receive is an influencing factor. Forty-nine primary-aged children self-reported their sense of SB and the quality of their relationships with their classroom adults, and their CTs reported the amount of TA support they receive per week. Children with SEN were found to experience lower SB, attend fewer extracurricular clubs, have more TA support and have weaker overall relationships with their CT than their non-SEN peers. SB was influenced by the warmth and conflict of each relationship but not by the amount of TA support received. No evidence was found to suggest that a strong relationship with their TA can compensate for a weak CT relationship. Children reflected that their relationships with classroom adults are influenced by the logistics of their support, such as location, amount and availability; the characteristics of the adult, including personality traits and job roles; and the quality and length of the relationship, impacting how adults make them feel. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

Text
Finnegan Charlotte - August 2022 - Final thesis - Version of Record
Restricted to Repository staff only until 20 June 2023.
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
Text
Finnegan Charlotte - PTD
Restricted to Repository staff only

More information

Published date: 2022

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 470955
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/470955
PURE UUID: 19234e8f-f39c-4739-b330-38122d3237b0

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Date deposited: 21 Oct 2022 16:39
Last modified: 18 Nov 2022 18:12

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Contributors

Author: Charlotte Finnegan
Thesis advisor: Tim Cooke

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