An evaluation of a Learning Support Model in Primary Schools in the West Coast/Winelands Area
Research indicates that the success of inclusive education lies within the provision of adequate support for learners who experience barriers to learning in mainstream schools as well as in the changing roles of teachers and support services staff. In South Africa, the provincial Western Cape Education Department (WCED) responded to the implementation of inclusive education by introducing a learning support model that was designed to systemically deal with barriers to learning in some primary schools in the province. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the learning support model that was introduced in some primary schools in the Western Cape with specific reference to schools within the West Coast/Winelands district. The evaluation was located in a comprehensive mixed methods research design, which focused on the evaluation of both process and outcomes of the learning support model. The evaluation was done sequentially in three phases: Phase one consisted of a comprehensive literature review. Phase two focused on both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis (through questionnaires containing both closed- and open-ended questions). The focus in Phase three was on follow up semi-structured focus group interviews. The participants were drawn from all primary schools situated within the boundaries of the West Coast/Winelands district and where the services of a learning support teacher (full-time or itinerant) were available. While learning support teachers were selected through purposive sampling, mainstream teachers were systematically selected. The four primary schools and learning support teachers that participated in the focus group interviews were systematically selected. Findings indicate that the current learning support model used in the West Coast/Winelands area does not provide effective learning support to all learners experiencing barriers to learning in mainstream primary schools. Constraints that contribute to this situation can be identified on all levels of the education system including the macro and micro systems. By mapping the findings from the data against the literature review, the researcher recommends that the provision of learning support should be addressed systemically from within a whole-school approach, taking into account local contextual factors impacting on the school. In conclusion a model for the improvement of learning support service delivery within a wholeschool approach is provided.