Education that fits: Review of international trends in the education of students with special educational needs

Publication Details

The purpose of this review is to outline international trends in the education of students with special educational needs, with the aim of informing the Ministry of Education’s current review of special education.

Author(s): David Mitchell PhD, College of Education, University of Canterbury, for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: July 2010

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Chapter 14: Collaboration

Kotahi te kohao - There is but one eye
O te ngira - of the needle
E Kahuna ai - Through which passes
Te miro ma - The white thread
Te Miro pango - The black thread
Te miro Whero - The red thread

Educating SWSEN requires collaboration among many people – several professionals and parents in particular. Indeed, there are few areas of education that call upon so much collaboration and teamwork. This is particularly true in inclusive education where, ideally, general classroom teachers may work with various combinations of specialist teachers; special needs advisers; educational psychologists; therapists and other specialists; community agencies such as welfare services, police and advocacy groups; paraprofessionals; technology consultants; and, of course, parents (Rainforth & England, 1997). Indeed, there are many threads to pass through the eye of the needle. To put it more technically, collaboration can be defined as a process that enables groups of people with diverse expertise to combine their resources to generate solutions to problems over a period of time (Idol et al., 1994).

In this chapter, eight topics will be addressed: (1) different forms of educational support, (2) the importance of collaboration, (3) principles of collaboration, (4) co-teaching, (5) paraprofessionals, (6) special needs advisers, (7) educational psychologists, and (8) service integration. The role of parents will be discussed in the next chapter.

14.1 Different Forms of Educational Support to Teachers

Collaborative approaches to educating SWSEN are increasingly becoming embedded in education systems around the world. This is well illustrated in the following outline of the sources of support for regular class teachers in their work with SWSEN in 23 European countries (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2003). Several interesting patterns of support emerge: (a) 17 of the countries utilised outside agencies, including psychological services (e.g., Austria Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, and Norway), (b) 16 referred to specialist teachers within schools (e.g., Cyprus, Finland, Iceland, Portugal, and Sweden), and (c) 8 utilised teachers from special schools to support their regular class teachers (e.g., Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Leichtenstein, and Switzerland). Nearly two-thirds (14) utilised two or more sources of educational support.

Austria. Support was mainly provided by specialist teachers from special schools or from visiting services. They supported both the class teacher and the pupil. Classroom and specialist teachers worked as a team, sharing the planning and organisation of the educational work. Professionals from visiting services offered temporary direct support to included pupils presenting specific disabilities.

Belgium. Support was mainly provided by specialist teachers from special schools and from Centres for Pupil Guidance. They provided information, advice and support to the class teacher. It was possible to find remedial teachers working as school staff members. They mainly supported pupils presenting short-term difficulties, but more and more providing direct support to class teachers and the school, trying to coordinate provision of support, working methods and educational programmes.

Cyprus. Support was provided by specialist teachers fully or partially attached to the school and by specialists, such as speech therapists, who had specific time allocated to each school. Outside the school, central services, such as inspectors, SENCOs, education and psychology specialists, or health and social services, also provided the necessary support.

Czech Republic. Support was mainly provided by specialist teachers or other professionals, such as psychologists. They provided advice and support to class teachers, parents and direct support to the included pupil. Support was provided through special educational centres or pedagogical psychological advice centres according to the specification of the pupil’s need. These specialist advice and guidance centres were in charge of determining, proposing and providing support and of elaborating the individual educational plan in close co-operation with the class teacher, the parents and the pupil (in accordance with his/her impairment and level of active participation).

Denmark. Support was mainly provided by a specialist teacher working as a school staff member. They co-operated inside the class with the class teacher on a part-time basis. ‘Group teaching’ outside the classroom was another possibility where the pupil needs regular support in more than one subject. Local pedagogical psychological services were in charge of determining, proposing and following the type of support to be provided to the pupil in close co-operation with the mainstream school.

England and Wales. All schools had a member of staff who was the designated special educational needs co-ordinator with a wide range of responsibilities, articulated in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practices, including: overseeing provision, monitoring pupils’ progress, liaising with parents and external agencies, and supporting colleagues. Support was also provided by external agencies – specialist support services (from the education department and the health authority), colleagues in other schools, and other LEA personnel. Peripatetic staff worked increasingly with teachers, in order to develop teaching approaches and strategies within the school, rather than directly with pupils.

Finland. Support was mainly provided by a specialist teacher working as a school staff member. A counselling teacher, school social worker or school nurse, depending on the local educational authorities, could also provide support to the school in general, to the teacher and/or the pupil. A pupil welfare team was set up involving the pupil, their parents, all teachers and any other experts involved in order to prepare an individual educational programme to be implemented in the mainstream school. There also existed a ‘pupil support group’ involving all professionals and the principal of the school to ensure good educational conditions and progress.

France. Support was mainly provided by specialist professionals from various services. They supported included pupils on a short- or long-term basis. They also helped the class teacher and the school staff. Specialist teachers from special support networks also provided support to pupils presenting temporary or permanent learning difficulties.

Germany. Support was mainly provided by a specialist teacher from a special school or from a social service. Support was diverse and included preventive measures, joint education actions in mainstream schools, education co-operation between special and mainstream schools etc.. There could also be a support teacher working as a school staff member. They were mainly teachers specialising in language or behaviour problems. They worked mainly with pupils inside or outside the classroom according to the pupils’ needs.

Greece. Support was mainly provided by a specialist teacher from a special school. Their work consisted of directly helping the pupil, assisting the teacher with the variety of teaching materials and in differentiating the curriculum – informing other pupils and ensuring good co-operation between the school and the family.

Iceland. Support was mainly provided by a remedial teacher working as a school staff member. Other types of support were also provided by specialist teachers, psychologists or other professionals from the local municipalities. They provided general advice on the curriculum and on the teaching of the main subjects; guidance for pupils and psychological counselling. Their aim was to support teachers and head teachers on daily schoolwork and school improvement.

Ireland. Support could be provided by a specialist or resource teacher working as a school staff member. They were dealing with pupils with assessed learning disabilities. Support could also be provided by a remedial teacher working as a school staff member. Their main aim was to work with pupils with difficulties in reading and mathematics. All primary and post-primary schools had such a teacher. Another type of support was a visiting teacher from the Visiting Teacher Service (Department of Education). They worked with individual pupils, both inside and outside the classroom, and advised teachers on teaching approaches, methodology, programmes and resources. They also provided support for parents. The Psychological Service of the Department of Education and Science provided assessment and advisory service for mainstream schools with a focus on pupils with emotional and behaviour problems and with learning difficulties.

Italy. Support was mainly provided by a specialist teacher working as a school staff member. They acted as class teachers, providing support in the mainstream school after obtaining parental authorisation. Support teachers shared responsibility with the class teacher concerning the work to be done with all pupils. Implementation of an individual education plan was one of their main tasks. They also supported pupils inside the classroom; pupils with disabilities were not to be pulled out of their classes unless absolutely necessary.

Liechtenstein. Support was mainly provided by a specialist teacher from a special school. They mainly provided support to pupils but also to teachers and parents.

Lithuania. Support was mainly provided by specialist teachers, school psychologists, speech therapists, social pedagogues from special schools or from pedagogical psychological services. Specialist teachers provided class teachers with information and practical support: elaborating an individual educational programme, selecting educational materials etc.. Support could also be provided by a remedial teacher, speech therapists, school psychologists working as school staff members. These specialists were mainly available in mainstream schools in big cities or towns; there was still a lack of specialists in rural areas. Pedagogical psychological services at local or national levels provided assessment of pupils and guidance for education of included pupils.

Luxembourg. Support was mainly provided by specialist support professionals from the SREA (Ambulatory Remedial Department). They were professionals in education and rehabilitation and shared responsibilities with class teachers with regard to direct support to the pupil. Class teachers were always in charge of the organisation of the class.

Netherlands. Support was mainly provided by a support teacher from a special school. They worked with the class teachers to develop educational programmes, to prepare and provide additional materials, to work with pupils individually and to contact parents. Support may also be provided through mainstream schools with experience in inclusion. Support focused on information to teachers, assessment and providing teaching materials. Support teachers may also be one of the mainstream schoolteachers providing direct help and support to the pupil.

Norway. Support was mainly provided by a specialist teacher working as a school staff member. They co-operated with the class teacher part-time or full time. Support could also be provided by an assistant in the classroom. There was close cooperation between the three of them. The local educational psychological services were the ones to advise school and parents on the content and organisation of the education required for the pupil. They were the people mainly responsible for advising teachers on the daily work.

Poland. Teachers working with disabled pupils received support from the National Centre of Psychological and Pedagogical Support or from regional Teaching Methodology Centres. These centres provided training courses for teachers. Mainstream schools were to provide psychological and pedagogical support to pupils, parents and teachers, organising, for example, remedial classes.

Portugal. Support was mainly provided by specialist teachers, or other professionals either from local support teams or internal school staff members. National policy gave priority to the second situation. The aim was to create co-ordinated teams which would provide guidance to class teachers. They co-operated with the head teacher and the school to organise the necessary educational support; they co-operated with class teachers in order to reorganise the curriculum in a flexible way; to facilitate differentiation of educational methods and strategies; to support teachers and pupils and contribute to educational innovation.

Spain. Support was mainly provided by a specialist support teacher working as a school staff member. They worked in primary and secondary schools and played an important role with the pupil and the teacher, planning together the curriculum differentiation and its implementation. They also supported families and worked in cooperation with other professionals. Another type of support was a remedial teacher for learning support, present in all primary schools. Support could also be provided by local psychological pedagogical support teams. They were responsible for the assessment of pupils, advising teachers and school staff on the measures to be taken, following pupils’ progress and involving families.

Sweden. Support was mainly provided by a specialist teacher working as a school staff member. Municipalities were responsible for providing and financing support to schools. If needed, support to build up knowledge in the municipalities could be provided at a national level through the Swedish Institute for Special Needs Education.

Switzerland. Support was mainly provided by support teachers, specialist teachers or specialist professionals from special schools or mainstream schools (milder forms of SEN). They provided support to included pupils and their teachers

14.2 The Importance of Collaboration

Collaboration has three main benefits for SWSEN:

  1. It has potential to create synergy – where ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’.
  2. It has the potential to provide opportunities for the participants to learn new ways of addressing barriers to learning.
  3. It increases the coordination of services for SWSEN.

As indicated by Mitchell (2008), to release the potential of collaboration, participants have to learn the skills of working as a team member for at least part of their work. For those who have been used to working alone as a sole professional, it is a big step to develop new ways of working in which one is expected to share responsibility and expertise with other professionals in other disciplines. The ‘private’ now becomes the ‘public’; what was once implicit and unexpressed in professional practice now has to become explicit and explained to others. One’s autonomy may even seem to be lessened, as one has to adapt to other people’s ideas and personalities.

14.3 Principles of Collaboration

Successful collaborative arrangements depends on several factors (Friend & Cook, 1992; Mitchell, 2008; Idol, et al., 1994):

  • Establishing clear, common goals for the collaboration.
  • Defining the respective roles and who is accountable for what, but accepting of joint responsibility for the decisions and their outcomes.
  • Adopting a problem-solving approach – with a sense that all those in the collaborative arrangement share ownership of the problem and its solution.
  • Establishing an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect for each other’s expertise.
  • Being willing to learn from others.
  • Aiming for consensus decision-making.
  • Asking for and giving immediate and objective feedback to others in a non-threatening and non-judgemental manner.
  • Giving credit to others for their ideas and accomplishments.
  • Developing procedures for resolving conflicts and managing these processes skilfully.
  • Arranging periodic meetings to review progress in the collaborative arrangements.

14.4 Co-teaching

Sometimes known as cooperative teaching, this occurs in inclusive education settings when a general education teacher and a special education teacher combine their expertise to meet the needs of all learners in the class. Both assume the roles of equal partners. It does not normally mean that the special education teacher takes exclusive responsibility for SWSEN and the general teacher the rest of the class. Rather, it means respecting each other’s expertise in order to benefit all students in the class. From the descriptions of the European countries above, Italy most closely fits this pattern of collaboration. In addition to the points in the previous section, to make co-teaching work, there needs to be:

  • active support from the school’s leadership;
  • adequate, regular joint planning time;
  • agreement on procedures for handling learners’ disruptive or off-task behaviours;
  • agreement on lesson objectives and structures, including teaching strategies and assessment methods;
  • clear communication with parents about the co-teaching arrangement.
    (Dieker & Barnett, 1996; Reeve & Hallahan, 1996; and Walter-Thomas et al., 1996)

In their meta-analysis of the effects of co-teaching on student outcomes, Murawski & Swanson (2001) reviewed 89 articles published between 1989 and 1999. Only six of these provided enough information for effect sizes to be calculated and these ranged from 0.24 to 0.95, with an average of 0.40. Thus, on the basis of a small database, co-teaching is moderately effective at best. There is a need for more experimental research to be conducted, especially in the light of the regularity with which co-teaching is cited in the literature as an effective service delivery option in inclusive classrooms.

14.5 Paraprofessionals

Paraprofessionals – referred to variously as ‘teaching assistants’, ‘teacher aides’ and ‘learning support assistants’ - are commonly utilised in special and, increasingly, in inclusive education. Despite this significant and growing role, Giangreco & Doyle (2002) claimed that too many of them have been inadequately appreciated, compensated, oriented, trained, and supervised. They lamented the fact that there are negligible data on student outcomes related to the utilisation of paraprofessionals. Many questions need to be addressed, both at the policy and research levels. For example, to what extent should paraprofessionals be involved in direct teaching SWSEN? What impact does their presence have on such students? How does the utilisation of paraprofessionals’ support affect teacher engagement? And what should be done to improve paraprofessional supports?

As summarised by Riddell et al. (2006), a number of studies have found that effective and inclusive pedagogies were supported by a team approach in classrooms where teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) worked together to support all children. However, whilst recognising how important this strategy has been in promoting classroom inclusion, Riddell et al. noted that commentators also recognise the complexities of managing TAs in the classroom and the fact that teachers are untrained in managing classroom teams. In addition, there is a risk of increased learner dependency. According to Groom & Rose (2005) there is no single model of classroom teamwork that should be endorsed but the aspects of the TA role that contributed to effective practice included:

  • time for establishing individual positive relationships with students;
  • good listening skills;
  • working with pupils in class, in a one-to-one, and across contexts including lunchtimes/playgrounds;
  • qualities of fairness, patience and tolerance;
  • understanding of students’ difficulties;
  • access to a range of support strategies (Groom and Rose, 2003: 12)

In their review of special education in the ACT, Shaddock et al. (2009) spent some time in discussing the role of Learning Support Assistants (LSAs). They noted that Australian research shows that in classrooms where there are students who are complex and/or challenging the LSA was much appreciated (e.g., Shaddock, et al. 2007). However, despite the generally strong support for LSAs, there are concerns about the role:

  • there is insufficient role clarity, training and professional development opportunities;
  • system policy around the skills LSAs need to assist teachers with curriculum and pedagogy are unclear;
  • there are issues around the current and future availability of appropriately qualified and experienced LSAs.
  • LSAs perform a wide range of roles for which not all may have adequate training;
  • the involvement of LSAs can have unintended, negative effects on student engagement, learning, independence and/or social acceptance;
  • in some situations, LSAs are exploited personally, professionally and/or in terms of salary and conditions;
  • the presence of LSAs has been associated with teachers devolving responsibility to them for students with a disability;
  • some teachers do not have the skills to direct and supervise LSAs; and
  • role confusion, blurring and overlap are frequently reported.
    (Shaddock et al. 2007, p.213).

Shaddock et al. (2009) went on to point out that the lack of research support for the positive impact of LSAs on student learning outcomes has prompted the search for alternatives to LSAs and/or to more carefully define their roles. They cited the following proposal from Giangreco et al. (2004):

  • using the resources currently devoted to LSAs to employ more teachers, improve teacher professional learning and networking, reduce class sizes and/or purchase therapy, equipment, consultancy and other supports for inclusive practice;
  • establishing a mobile pool of LSAs who are available for time-limited involvement and whose support is systematically phased out and replaced with mainstream supports;
  • clarifying the LSA role to be indirect support for the teacher;
  • implementing peer-support strategies that replace some roles currently performed by LSAs; and
  • consulting students about the way they would prefer to receive support.

In the US, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 clarified the job of paraprofessionals with an official title and job description. Prior to this act, qualifications for teacher's assistants were made at the district and state level. Section 119 of the NCLB Act governs the qualifications of paraprofessionals for schools receiving federal funds. This law states that paraprofessionals must have an associate's degree (equivalent to two years of study in an institution of higher education) and pass a ‘state or local academic assessment,’ including knowledge of assisting in the instruction of reading, writing and mathematics. These requirements created a distinction between aides and paraprofessionals, with the paraprofessional job description becoming much more defined. Paraprofessionals are allowed to engage in one-on-one tutoring, manage instructional materials, act as a translator and provide assistance with computers and library activities.  They must remain under the direct supervision of a licensed teacher. They can still perform non-instructional duties and work with non-disabled children so long as the time spent is balanced evenly.

14.6 Special Needs Advisers

Various countries have developed cadres of professionals to act as advisers/consultants to teachers of SWSEN. They provide an indirect service delivery model, in that the consultant does not necessarily work directly with students, except to occasionally demonstrate a teaching strategy. The essence of this approach is that a special education teacher/adviser (or some other specialist) provides advice and guidance to the general classroom teacher on the programme to be followed by any SWSEN. Both teachers normally meet outside classroom teaching time (admittedly, a logistical problem, which has to be solved by the school leadership: see Idol, 1997) and discuss any curricular, teaching and assessment adaptations required for such students As well, the special education adviser may provide additional instructional materials and help to modify the classroom environment. In all of this the classroom teacher carries the main responsibility (see Elliott & McKenney, 1998). To make this consultation model work, the special education teacher must be thoroughly familiar with the curriculum being followed in the classroom and the classroom teacher must continue to have chief responsibility for educating all students in his or her class.

In this section, two countries’ provisions will be discussed: England and Australia. 

England. Here, a special educational needs teacher working in a mainstream school can become a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO). Applicants for that position usually need two-plus years of post-qualification experience. The SENCO is expected to have a good understanding of the three stages of special educational needs: school action, school action plus, formal assessments and statementing31. The SENCO is usually the head of the special needs department and is responsible for day-to-day provision for pupils with special educational needs. This involves coordinating work with a range of agencies and parents, gathering appropriate information on children with special needs and ensuring individual education plans are in place. A SENCO in mainstream schools will allocate learning support assistants or teaching assistants to support individual students in the classroom and may hold the budget for these resources. A SENCO may also be the deputy head teacher or head teacher.

From 1 September 2009, new regulations from the Department for Children, Schools and Families required all new SENCOs to achieve the national award for SEN coordination . The Training and Development Agency for Schools has developed a framework of nationally approved training for teachers new to the role of SENCO. Training will take approximately a year to complete and SENCOs will have up to three years to achieve the qualification. To achieve the National Award for SEN Coordination the Department for Children Schools and Families requires that teachers should meet all the learning outcomes from a specified list of 13 topics, as follows:

  1. Statutory and regulatory frameworks and relevant developments at national and local level
  2. High incidence SEN and disabilities and how they can affect pupils’ participation and learning
  3. Using evidence about learning, teaching and assessment in relation to pupils with SEN to inform practice
  4. Working strategically with senior colleagues and governors
  5. Strategic financial planning, budget management and use of resources in line with best value principles
  6. Strategies for improving outcomes for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities
  7. Developing, using, monitoring and evaluating systems
  8. Using tools for collecting, analysing and using data
  9. Deploying staff and managing resources
  10. Providing professional direction to the work of others
  11. Leadership and development of staff
  12. Drawing on external sources of support and expertise
  13. Consulting, engaging and communicating with colleagues, parents and carers and pupils to enhance pupils’ learning and achievement.

For example, #3 specifies that training should enable SENCOs to:

  • Analyse, interpret and evaluate critically, relevant research and inspection evidence about teaching and learning in relation to pupils with SEN and/or disabilities and understand how such evidence can be used to inform personal practice and others’ practice.
  • Identify and develop effective practice in teaching pupils with SEN and/or disabilities, e.g. through small-scale action research based on evaluating methodologies, developing critiques and, where appropriate, developing new hypotheses.
  • Have a critical understanding of teaching, learning and behaviour management strategies and how to select, use and adapt approaches to remove barriers to learning for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities.
  • Have a critical understanding of approaches, strategies and resources for assessment (including national tests and examinations) and how to select, use and adapt them to personalise provision and remove barriers to assessment for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities.

Australia. In their recent review of special education in the ACT, Shaddock et al. (2009) proposed the development and trialling of a school-based, Learning Support Coordinator (LSC), a role designed to improve classroom pedagogy with a particular focus on students functioning in the lowest quartile. They cited recent Australian research in support of this role; for example, Shaddock et al. (2007) found that schools in which an experienced special educator managed learning support across the school achieved good outcomes for students with a disability.

Shaddock et al. (2009) noted that some school systems in Australia (Western Australia and NSW) were beginning to employ LSCs who have special education knowledge and experience and who have school-wide responsibilities for raising the quality of teaching and learning, with particular focus on students who struggle with the curriculum. In Western Australia, for example, the LSCs’ functions included:

  • facilitating the work of Learning Support teams;
  • consulting and collaborating with teachers with regard to meeting the educational needs of students with disabilities and learning difficulties;
  • supporting classroom teachers to develop, implement and monitor learning plans for individual and groups of students with disabilities or learning difficulties; and
  • modeling effective teaching and supporting classroom teachers who have students requiring significant teaching and learning adjustments.

The Western Australian LSCs are appointed from existing staff in schools and receive ongoing training and participate as part of the Building Inclusive Classrooms Professional Learning Program. This involves an initial 12 days of fully funded professional learning in their first two years.

In recommending the development of LSC positions in the ACT, Shaddock et al. (2009) noted that although LSCs were not widespread there, some schools had organised their services and appointed staff who fulfilled similar roles. They also noted that in WA and NSW the LSCs were ‘disability, and learning difficulties-specific’. Instead, ‘one implication of the ACT’s broader understanding of inclusivity is that if the LSC approach were to be adopted ‘a major aim would be to build pedagogical capacity at the school and classroom level’ (p.116). This would mean LSCs supporting classroom teachers to meet ‘the individual learning needs of any students, for example, students with a disability or learning difficulty; those experiencing temporary difficulties with learning because of personal or family circumstances; and, if necessary, students with gifts and talents who were not performing to potential’ (ibid.).

14.7 Educational Psychologists

In many countries, educational psychologists (referred to as ‘school psychologists’ in some countries, and ‘school counsellors’ in Australia) are considered to play a vital role, not only in the education of SWSEN, but also in education more generally. In their review of special education in the ACT, Shaddock et al. (2009), for example, commented on ‘the need for a more strategic use of these valuable, generic, resources for schools’ (p.208).

In the UK, the 2001 Code of Practice described the educational psychologist as having ‘a key role in assessment and intervention and in providing support and advice to parents’ (p.36) in early years education. At the school level, the Code of Practice had this to say:

the educational psychologist can be a very important resource for the school. The psychologist’s knowledge of the school and its context is key. Through regular consultation with schools educational psychology services can provide help in clarifying problems and devising problem solving strategies; in carrying out specialised assessments, including techniques in managing behaviour, and evaluating individual pupil progress. In addition to working with individual children, the educational psychologist can work with groups of pupils or teachers and learning support assistants at the classroom or whole school level, for example assisting schools with the development of SEN and behaviour policies, helping to develop knowledge and skills for school staff and assisting with projects to raise achievement and promote inclusion (p.136).

In their recent review of the functions and contributions of educational psychologists in England and Wales, Farrell et al. (2007) placed it in the context of the Every Child Matters (ECM) legislation. They pointed out that the ECM agenda makes outcomes for children central to the recently established integrated children’s services that form a team around the child and family in the context of community and school. Outcomes for children are specified through aims, targets, indicators and inspection criteria, which are grouped around five main areas:

Be healthy: children and young people are (a) physically healthy, (b) mentally and emotionally healthy, (c) sexually healthy, (d) live healthy lifestyles, and (e) choose not to take illegal drugs

Stay safe: children and young people (a) are safe from maltreatment, neglect, violence and sexual exploitation; (b) are safe from accidental injury and death; (c) are safe from bullying and discrimination, (d) are safe from crime and anti-social behaviour in and out of school, and (e) have security, stability and are cared for.

Enjoy and achieve: children and young people (a) are ready for school, (b) attend and enjoy school, (c) achieve stretching national educational standards at primary school, (d) achieve personal and social development and enjoy recreation, and (e) achieve stretching national educational standards at secondary school.

Make a positive contribution: children and young people (a) engage in decision-making and support the community and environment, (b) engage in law-abiding and positive behaviour in and out of school, (c) develop positive relationships and choose not to bully or discriminate, (d) develop self confidence and successfully deal with significant life changes and challenges, and (e) develop enterprising behaviour.

Achieve economic well-being: Children and young people (a) engage in further education, employment or training on leaving school, (b) are ready for employment, (c) live in decent homes and sustainable communities, (d) have access to transport and material goods, and (e) live in households free of low incomes.

The majority of respondents in the review indicated that educational psychologists’ work contributed to meeting each of the above five ECM outcomes through individual assessment, consultancy, intervention and training. There was a universally held view that educational psychologists had been too heavily involved in statutory assessments and that this had prevented them from making more effective contributions to maximising the ECM outcomes for children. Nevertheless, all respondent groups identified an important role for educational psychologists as working with individual children who have severe, complex and challenging needs. Respondents typically referred to educational psychologists’ academic background and training in psychology as being the factors that enabled them to offer a distinctive contribution. Most respondent groups valued highly the contact that they had, but would have welcomed more, particularly in the area of therapy and intervention.

As well, Farrell et al. pointed out a number of other ways in which the developments embodied within the ECM agenda impact on the role of educational psychologists. Among the most significant, they felt, was the restructuring of local authorities into children’s services, which combined educational and social services. This involves locating the work of educational psychologists more centrally within community contexts where schools form only one of the settings in which they would work. A further consequence was a renewed emphasis on the importance of multi agency work.

Among the recommendations advanced by Farrell et al. (2007) were that (a) ‘all educational psychology service development plans should be based around meeting the five ECM outcomes and that annual reviews of services should assess the extent to which these plans have been successfully implemented’, and (b) ‘educational psychologists and other agencies working with children should engage in joint planning around the five outcomes so that each agency can assess the potential and actual contribution that they can make’ (p.10).

Since 1978, in the US, the National Association of School Psychologists (2010) has promulgated successive revisions of guidelines for the provisions of school psychological services. In its latest iteration, the Association presented a model for the delivery of comprehensive school psychological services across 10 domains (see Figure 14.1). These domains reflect the following principles:

  • A foundation in the knowledge bases for both psychology and education, including theories, models, research and techniques.
  • Use of effective strategies and skills to help students succeed academically, socially, behaviourally, and emotionally.
  • Application of knowledge and skills by creating and maintaining safe, supportive, fair and effective learning environments and enhancing family-school collaboration for all students.
  • Knowledge, skills and professional practices reflect understanding and respect for human diversity and promote effective services, advocacy, and justice for all children, families and schools.
  • Integrate knowledge and professional skills across the 10 domains that  result in direct, measurable outcomes for children, families and schools.

Figure 14.1 Model of comprehensive and integrated school psychological services in the US

Image of Figure 14.1 Model of comprehensive and integrated school psychological services in the US.

Available online at:
In summary, the 10 domains are as follows:

Data-based decision-making and accountability: knowledge of varied models and methods of assessment and data collection methods for identifying strengths and needs, developing effective services and programmes, and measuring progress and outcomes.

Consultation and collaboration: knowledge of varied models and strategies of consultation, collaboration, and communication applicable to individuals, families, groups, and systems.

Interventions and instructional support to develop academic skills: knowledge of biological, cultural, and social influences on academic skills, human learning, cognitive, and developmental processes; and evidence-based curricula and instructional strategies.

Interventions and mental health services to develop social and life skills: knowledge of biological, cultural, developmental, and social influences on behaviour and mental health, and evidence-based strategies to promote social-emotional functioning and mental health.

School-wide practices to promote learning: knowledge of school and systems structure, organization, and theory; general and special education; technology resources, and evidence-based school practices that promote learning and mental health.

Preventive and responsive services: Knowledge of principles and research related to resilience and risk factors in learning and mental health, services in schools and communities to support multi-tiered prevention, and evidence-based strategies for effective crisis response.

Family-school collaboration services: knowledge of principles and research related to family systems, strengths, needs, and culture; evidence-based strategies to support family influences on children’s learning and mental health; and strategies to develop collaboration between families and schools.

Diversity in development and learning: Knowledge of individual differences, abilities, disabilities, and other diverse characteristics, including factors related to culture, context, and individual and role differences, and evidence-based strategies to enhance services and address potential influences related to diversity.

Research and program evaluation: knowledge of research design, statistics, measurement, varied data collection and analysis techniques, and programme evaluation sufficient for undertaking research and interpreting data in applied settings.

Legal, ethical, and professional practice: knowledge of the history and foundations of school psychology, multiple service models and methods; ethical, legal, and professional standards, and other factors related to professional identity and effective practice as school psychologists.

14.8 Service Integration

It is clear from the material reviewed so far in this chapter that the challenge of educating SWSEN is a multidisciplinary enterprise, requiring the highest possible levels of collaboration, both at the individual level and at the system level. In the preceding section, for example, reference was made to educational psychologists and other agencies working with children engaging in joint planning around the five Every Child Matters outcomes.

According to Shaddock et al. (2009), a feature of leading practice throughout the world is a move towards ‘integrated support’, ‘service integration’ or ‘wraparound services’, all of which are concerned with the delivery of specialised services in a more coordinated and integrated manner (see, for example, Peterson, 2009). Such coordination can take place at an institutional level, at an agency level, or at a government level.

In South Africa, the writer was impressed by the idea of institution-level support teams – an idea that many other countries have adopted in various forms. In the South African model, the primary function of these teams is to put in place ‘properly co-ordinated learner and educator support services that will support the learning and teaching process by identifying and addressing learner, educator and institutional needs’ (Department of Education, 2001).

A key to the success of such teams is the support and encouragement offered by the school principal and other senior leaders. The chief function of school-wide teams is to develop a school-wide supportive culture and policies on learners with special educational needs, as well as focussing on identifying and supporting individual learners. Such teams need a dedicated leader/facilitator and a recorder of decisions and plans, utilising advanced technology where available to facilitate communication (Ademan & Taylor, 1998).

According to Schaddock et al. (2009), the literature on service integration highlights the following factors:

  • the active involvement of the child and support for parents as the primarily responsible party;
  • conceptualisation of schools as the predominant living and learning environment for youth and as a community resource;
  • co-location of services where possible;
  • alignment of client assessments and case management; and
  • clear and realistic objectives of service integration; leadership support; time allocation for joint planning; and clarity around administrative arrangements, funding and resources.

14.9 Summary

  1. Educating SWSEN requires collaboration among many people – several professionals and parents in particular.
  2. Collaborative approaches to educating SWSEN are increasingly becoming embedded in education systems around the world. This is well illustrated in the sources of support for regular class teachers in their work with SWSEN in 23 European countries, which included school-based specialists, community-based agencies and special schools.
  3. Successful collaboration depends on such factors as establishing clear goals, defining respective roles, adopting a problem-solving approach and establishing mutual trust and respect.
  4. Co-teaching occurs in inclusive education settings when a general education teacher and a special education teacher combine their expertise to meet the needs of all learners in the class.
  5. Paraprofessionals are generally inadequately appreciated, compensated, oriented, trained, supervised, and researched. Since 2001, paraprofessionals in the US have had more defined job descriptions and are expected to have a college level qualification.
  6. Various countries have developed cadres of professionals to act as advisers/consultants to teachers of SWSEN, providing advice and guidance to the general classroom teacher on the programme to be followed.
  7. In many countries, educational psychologists are considered to play a vital role, not only in the education of SWSEN, but also in education more generally and in community contexts.
  8. A feature of leading practice throughout the world is a move towards ‘integrated support’, ‘service integration’ or ‘wraparound services’, all of which are concerned with the delivery of specialised services in a more coordinated and integrated manner. Such coordination can take place at an institutional level, at an agency level, or at a government level.


  1. See Chapter Five, section 5.5 for a description of these three stages.