Geographies of exclusion

Year: 2019

Author: Zundans-Fraser, Lucie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Often the ways in which special needs settings are conceptualised within schools are already exclusory. A high number of special needs classrooms are situated ‘out the back’ in isolation from the central school site. There is a need for these classrooms to have contact with others for behavioural, health and safety reasons. The researcher found special needs classrooms in hastily converted ex-toilet blocks, rowing equipment sheds, sports store rooms, draughty hallways with a barricade to create a room and resource store rooms. This is in total contrast to where these classrooms should be placed for optimum support, access and safety for both the students and teachers. There is also a dichotomy created between what is officially stated by a school regarding their enrolment policy of students with disabilities and how they can be subtly excluded purely through their physical placement in the school setting.

A case study approach was used which allows for an in-depth investigation of an issue. A case study focuses on the unique attributes of an individual case or cases and investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context (Richards & Morse, 2013; Yin, 2011). A case study approach allowed the researcher to explore the dynamics of relationships, interactions and decisions made. This case study utilised snowball sampling as the recruitment process for participation with participation and interest shown through ‘word of mouth’. Five illustrative case studies will be used to demonstrate the special needs classroom placement within a wider school context, discuss the implications and propose a number of solutions. Data was analysed by making comparisons between the site maps drawn by the researcher, discussion with participants and examining the placement of special education classrooms for things such as safety, access and support, elements that had been identified as the optimum for the student experience as determined through literature.

Preliminary findings suggest that in school settings educators are at times reluctant to introduce accommodations and adaptations for students with special needs, arguing that these provisions provide an unfair advantage over other students. Further to this, students with less visible disabilities may experience high levels of stigmatisation as compared with students who have more visible disabilities. There is a failure to view students within a broader ecological context which considers them as an individual, their connection and engagement with their environment, their perceptions of themselves and others and the opportunities provided to engage and interact with others.