Thomas, Heather Claire (2011)
Ed.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
A phenomenological approach was used to elicit the perspectives of twenty ex-pupils of a special school for pupils with moderate learning difficulties on their education. Literature is reviewed on the history of special education, accessing the voice of young people especially those labelled as having learning difficulties, the perspectives of pupils and ex-pupils on their special schooling and Social Identity Theory. Semi-structured interview and other methods were used. Data were analysed using Nvivo software and manual methods. All pupils expressed affection for their special school and described a lack of adequate learning support in the mainstream schools. Otherwise their responses could be mostly categorised as one of three types. Some felt they didn‘t belong in the special school, they didn‘t choose to be there and they didn‘t easily admit having attended there. Another group identified strongly with the special school, they felt they had taken part in the decision for them to be there; they didn‘t want to attend mainstream school and engaged in denigrating them. They positioned themselves at the more able end of a hierarchy of special needs. A third group identified very strongly with the special school and saw it as a place of safety, a haven. Social Identity Theory is used as a framework to understand these responses. The work provides evidence of the unique and valuable contribution that young people labelled as having learning difficulties are able to make.
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