Support for learners with intellectual disabilities in the transition to secondary schools
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Until recently, learners with intellectual disability were legislatively marginalised from participation in mainstream education in South Africa. Since the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994, legislation has been passed and education policy developed which supports the inclusion of learners with intellectual disability in mainstream secondary schools. This research was prompted by a problem situation which occurred in the Western Cape of South Africa when it became apparent that many learners described as having mild intellectual disability could not be accommodated within the School of Skills (previously a Special Secondary School) to which they had applied. The purpose of the research has been to evaluate the implementation of a programme of support developed collaboratively between various stakeholders to allow for the inclusion of these learners within six urban mainstream secondary schools. Through its guiding transformative theoretical framework and its evolving design, the evaluation of the programme has attempted to be as inclusive as possible. It has used qualitative research methods in order to seek out the views and encourage the participation of diverse stakeholders; from the learners whose social and academic wellbeing and advancement have been the central focus of this study, to individuals representing various systems surrounding these learners. In order to do justice to the complexity of the programme implementation and evaluation process and to identify and accurately represent common themes and categories which emerged over time, data transformation has been emphasised in three different ways; namely a description, an analysis and an interpretation. The observations and themes which have emerged from this evaluation have highlighted various factors which were seen to advance or impede the inclusion of learners with mild intellectual disability in the six secondary schools; the extent to which the learners' social and academic wellbeing had been advanced by the programme; and the degree to which problem solving was evident in the participating secondary schools and the local education authority. Prolonged and sustained engagement in a process of programme development, implementation and evaluation suggests that positive educational and social transformation is enabled when stakeholders are given the time and space to reflect upon their intentions and practice.