New guidelines to prevent students in special classes feeling stigmatised

The NSCE's report recommends that students in special classes should be included in mainstream classes as much as possible

New guidelines to prevent students in special classes feeling stigmatised

Picture by: Dave Thompson / PA Wire/Press Association Images

New guidelines released today by The National Council for Special Education are aimed to stop students enrolled in special educational classes from feeling left out or "stigmatised".

Special classes are put in place to enable students with more complex special educational needs to be educated, in smaller class groups, within their local mainstream schools.

They offer a supportive learning environment to students who are unable to access the curriculum in a mainstream class, even with support, for most or all of their school day.

The NSCE recommends that students in special classes should be included in mainstream classes to the greatest extent possible, in line with their abilities.

The new guidelines, published today, will give updated information and guidance to schools on the setting up and organisation of NCSE-sanctioned special classes in mainstream primary and post-primary schools.

The research carried out by the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin found that some teachers did not feel equipped to teach in special classes due to the complex and diverse needs of students.

However, once they had received training, teachers considered that their ability to meet need was greatly improved. The NCSE Guidelines highlight the need for more training of special class teachers to ensure that they are equipped to teach students with diverse special needs.

The report also highlighted that some students felt a stigma attached to attending special classes, sometimes feeling that they were not popular with their teachers. The NCSE recommend for schools to aim to include students in these classes as much as possible.

"Schools planning to open special class provision should be proactive in meeting the continuing professional development needs of their special class teachers, in addition to developing and reviewing their whole school polices in relation to the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs."

The guidelines also set out how schools can set up and organise special classes to create a
suitable learning environment to meet the needs of students with more complex educational needs.

Jennifer Doran, Head of Research at the NCSE said: 

"Our research highlighted a number of worrying issues regarding special classes, such as students feeling negative about attending special classes and teachers feeling unprepared to teach in these settings.

"That is why we developed these guidelines- to provide good practice points to schools to ensure that all students feel valued and welcomed under a whole school approach to inclusion."