I'm a student, in a wheelchair : The experiences of disabled pupils attending resourced provision in a mainstream secondary school

Keegan, Gay (2010). I'm a student, in a wheelchair : The experiences of disabled pupils attending resourced provision in a mainstream secondary school. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d3cd


Seeking pupils' views became an issue of national importance following legislation (Section 29A of the Education Act 2002, CRAE, 2008) and lack of such consultation in the United Kingdom has been repeatedly raised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (1995,2002 and 2008). The importance of seeking the views of all children about their experience is particularly salient since there is a legacy of exclusion and disadvantage for disabled children in mainstream school settings and provision historically has been planned and developed for them, without consulting with or involving them directly.

This study investigates the views and experiences of ten disabled pupils who attended a resourced provision attached to a mainstream secondary school. It used semi-structured interviews within a social constructivist paradigm carried out with disabled teenagers by a disabled researcher. The transcriptions of the interviews were analysed thematically with the categories for the analysis developed by grounded theory. Detailed consideration was given to the ethical issues raised by research which focuses on the need to promote the engagement of the children and ensure their voice is heard and these issues were addressed in the context of the present study.

The evidence from this study indicates that the pupils welcomed the opportunity to talk to a disabled researcher and were willing to explore their experience of being a disabled pupil in the school. They reported issues around transition to the secondary school with the resourced provision, feeling `forced away' from their local community and from friendships established in their primary schools. They commented on bullying in the school and feelings of being perceived as `different', as lesser human beings. Most of the children did not take on board the descriptor of `disabled' for themselves, talking instead about their impairments, which they did not see as important to their sense of identity or self.

The conclusions reached stressed the need for teachers and policy makers to listen and respond to pupils' voice, taking into account individual needs, and engaging in joint problem solving with pupils at both an individual and systemic level. They need to be reflexive in their practice to avoid discrimination and support all children's rights and there should be increased awareness of the affirmative model of disability - we are valued for who we are, our disability is part of this and so our predicament and how we manage it should be accepted and valued as well.

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