Perspectives on the roles and responsibilities of an inclusive education outreach team in one rural education district of the Western Cape
Thesis (MEdPsych) --Stellenbosch University, 2016
ENGLISH ABSTRACT : Inclusive education around the world, considers both the rights of learners and how education systems can transform to respond to learner diversity in just and humane ways. In this regard, White Paper 6, introduced by the Department of Education in 2001 has been hailed as a post-Apartheid landmark policy which provides the vision and framework for transforming South Africa’s divided and unequal education system into an inclusive one. It represents a fundamental shift from a continuum of educational placement to an infusion of education support services throughout the education system. The Western Cape Education Department has interpreted this ‘infusion of support’ to include the establishment of Inclusive Education Outreach Teams. These teams are based at special schools’ resource centres in order to support designated full service/inclusive schools. This study looks specifically at how one rural Inclusive Education Outreach Team in the Western Cape perceives its role and responsibilities. A qualitative research design within an interpretive paradigm was used to explore these perspectives. This exploration was conducted from within an ecological community psychology approach. Doing so allowed a view of the research question as the dynamic interaction between research participants and their environment. Convenience and purposive sampling methods were used to select the four participants in the study. Data was collected by way of in-depth individual interviews and a single focus group interview and analysed using thematic data analysis. The data revealed the following key findings. On the one hand, there are significant enabling factors to support the effectiveness of Inclusive Education Outreach Teams as enabling agents of inclusion. These include: A significant degree of convergence between inclusive education theory and existing inclusive education policy; Enabling Inclusive Education Policy and guidelines; Research participants’ understanding of inclusion and the intentions of inclusive education are in line with policy, which they view as a reference to guide and support their practice; The Inclusive Education Outreach Team’s view of their role is fundamentally that of a support service with the primary responsibility of enabling the implementation of inclusive education. On the other hand, there are disabling systemic factors that significantly undermine the effectiveness of these teams. These include: No official policy pertaining to the functioning of these teams; No uniformity in the way in which these teams function across education districts within the Province; The team members’ respective job descriptions are unofficial draft documents, effectively rendering their status in the district and in schools ‘unofficial’; Uncertainty, confusion and even dissent about the roles and responsibilities of Inclusive Education Outreach Teams at many levels of the education system. Within the broader context of the failure of Inclusive Education Policy to impact on the education system in any significant way, 14 years after its introduction, the key challenge remains the translation of enabling policy rhetoric into meaningful practice at every level of the system. At the District level, this requires visionary leadership across, and firm management within, the Specialized Education Support Component (which includes the Inclusive Education Outreach Teams and the Special School Resource Centres), to enable systemic alignment and inter-sectoral collaboration within an integrated community framework.
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