Conciliating the principles of inclusion and dealing with challenging behaviours in the regular school is not always easy. It demands adequate support for classroom teachers responsible for all of their students whatever their needs. The New Zealand model for support is based on the level of students' behavioural needs. While school resources are considered sufficient to deal with low needs, Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) are the designated support for moderate needs. However, a consensual definition of inclusion is lacking and some of the barriers to the inclusion of students experiencing behavioural difficulties are linked to teachers' and RTLBs' perceptions regarding specialist support.
This paper further investigates teachers' and RTLBs' perspectives addressing the two groups' understanding of inclusion, their preferences for support and perceived roles. This project consists of a preliminary analysis to a study aimed at understanding representations of inclusion in the context of including teenagers experiencing behavioural difficulties. Data collection involved an online questionnaire piloted by four practitioners and five academics. The sample included 57 secondary education teachers from 21 schools of different socio-economical levels located throughout New Zealand and 33 RTLBs invited by their national organisation. The anonymous online responses were analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic data analysis.
On groups' understanding of inclusion the results show that teacher and RTLB participants' definitions of inclusion referred to the same themes mentioned at different frequencies. The groups had different stances on some characteristics of inclusive schools, including teacher aides' role, categorisation of students, location of provision, use of suspensions and school safety. As for participants' preferences for support, the data show that RTLB participants favoured in-class specialist support whereas a majority of teachers identified in-class teacher aide support as their preferred provision. Accordingly, more teacher participants indicated they received help from other teachers and teacher aides than from RTLBs to deal with a student's difficult behaviour, although RTLBs ranked second as whom teachers would consult for help including a student with special educational needs in their class. Teacher participants selected other teachers and teacher aides as their sources of information about inclusion more often than they selected RTLBs.
By highlighting teachers' and RTLBs' perspectives, this paper identifies areas of similarity and disagreement needing to be addressed in initial teacher education, professional development and work organisation in order to reach a common understanding of inclusion and increase collaboration towards inclusive educational practices.