NEW RESEARCH FROM the ESRI has found that boys with special needs attending mainstream schools are most likely to dislike school. This is particularly prevalent among children from semi and unskilled social class backgrounds.
Joanne Banks, one of the authors of the study told TheJournal.ie that this is the first time research in Ireland has compared students with educational special needs and those without, in mainstream schools.
Our inclusive education strategy means greater numbers of children with special needs are being educated in the mainstream setting. The research focused on nine-year-old children, examining their economic and social experiences in school.
It found that while 9 per cent of children said they never liked school, this increased to 12 per cent in children with some type of special need. These difference remained strong when factors such as social background were also included.
Banks also said that a child’s school experience can vary depending on the type of disability they have. “Students with learning difficulties, emotional difficulties or multiple disabilities at once reported liking school less than peers who either had no difficulties or those with physical difficulties or speech impairments,” she said.
“This suggests that children with learning disabilities face an additional barrier in integrating into school life,” the research found.
Generally, boys with special needs are more likely than girls to dislike school and children with special needs from working class backgrounds are also more likely to be disengaged.
Banks said that researchers had “concerns about the curriculum” as well as children’s engagement with teachers and their peers.
Not surprisingly, positive relations with teachers and popularity among peers are found to enhance children’t enjoyment of school.
The report suggests a broader examination of the current school curriculum, methods of teaching and the school climate to address the needs of children who are struggling to integrate into mainstream education.