What's so 'special' about HPE in special schools?

Year: 2017

Author: Fitzgerald, Hayley, Maher, Anthony

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There is an increasingly body of research that explores the inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream/regular school HPE from the perspective of teachers, students, special educational needs coordinators and learning support assistants. However, little is known about how HPE is experienced by students and practitioners within a special school context. Within England the apathy for researching special school HPE has been fuelled by a discourse that positions mainstream/regular education and inclusion as the preferred means of provision and delivery for students with disabilities. In part the catalyst for the valuing of mainstream/regular rather than special schooling was Baroness Mary Warnock, whose 1978 report contributed significantly to supporting mainstreaming of education. She, along with other scholars, parents and advocacy groups, have more recently argued that education possibilities should include (and value) more special school possibilities.

In order to begin to shed light on special school HPE this presentation will report on a small-scale research project that aimed to explore the nature, purpose and value afforded to HPE in special schools in England. To explore HPE culture in special schools data were generated from head teachers (n=6), deliverers of HPE (n=6) and facilitators of HPE (support assistants; n=6). The findings from these interviews reveal that: (1) Practitioners considered HPE to be an essential aspect of their student's education. (2) The nature of HPE extends beyond that which is usually conceived of and delivered in mainstream/regular schools. (3) Practitioners demonstrated differences in their receptiveness to delivering HPE as part of the curriculum and some felt ill-equipped to do this. This research points to the importance of better understanding and learning from special school HPE settings. There are some similarities between mainstream/regular and special school HPE in terms of its nature, purpose and value. There are also differences that should be acknowledged, particularly where each setting (mainstream/regular or special) could learn from the other in order to enhance student's experiences in HPE.