University of Sussex
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Exploring the restructuring of special educational needs in one local authority with a particular focus on the impact on school leaders

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posted on 2023-06-08, 11:48 authored by Janet Myles
This thesis is about change, and the impact of change on the restructuring of special educational needs provision. The impetus for my research came from my work with the National Association of Head Teachers, supporting school leaders in managing the education of a more diverse pupil population. The research relates to the Labour Government’s policy to increase the number of children with more complex needs in mainstream schools. Following Baroness Warnock’s (2005) call for a review of special educational needs, the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee carried out an ‘Inquiry’. Their final report (SEN: Third Report of Session 2005-06), identified high levels of dissatisfaction amongst parents and teachers, and it concluded that the Special Educational Needs framework was no longer fit for purpose. In response, the Labour Government stated that it was too early to carry out a review because their ‘Every Child Matters’ initiative was still developing. However, they stated that, in future, local authorities would be required to demonstrate improved special educational needs provision when restructuring their overall educational provision. This significant response prompted me to explore the implementation of the restructuring of provision as several authorities were putting forward proposals for change during 2007-08. The research began in 2008. It is a piece of small-scale educational research which explores the perspectives of school leaders in one local authority and the local authority’s documented evidence. The concepts of ‘inclusion’ and ‘change’ provided the foundation to develop my research study within a broad ‘constructivist interpretative’ paradigm and, the direction to review relevant literature on inclusive education and on strategies for implementing change. It discusses the qualitative methods used to investigate my overarching research question: What is the nature and impact of change, in the restructuring of special educational needs provision? I set out to explore two aspects of the nature of change: the first objective was to investigate the process and the second was to investigate the impact of change. My intention was to tease out whether school leaders in mainstream schools, subject to competing government policies (‘inclusion’ and ‘market’ ideologies) would choose to increase their provision and the impact of proposed change on the individuals and schools involved. My fieldwork was carried out during 2008-09, and follow-up interviews were carried out with those respondents, who were directly involved in the restructuring of provision, during 2010-11. The findings illustrate the influence of individual values and attitudes and the importance of effective school leaders in driving forward reform. It describes the actions of the local authority during the process of implementing change and highlights the improvements that could be made during the stages of transition. Importantly, the significance is considered of internal and external influences that impact on the actions of school leaders and how they influenced the policies of the local authority. Each individual’s, or body’s, interaction within and between each level (i.e. national, local, school and individual levels), created an impact on the other levels, a process that was far from straightforward. A significant finding of the research was the importance of the interrelationship between these four dimensions, building on Fullan’s (2003) tri-level reform. Although the findings demonstrated that to implement progressive change requires motivated school leaders, it also depends on the collaborative effort of all stakeholders involved. However, even with a concerted effort other unexpected events may alter its course: change may be influenced but it cannot be controlled. It is therefore important to develop and understand those strategies and dimensions that contribute to the effective implementation of ‘change’ because, in the world of education, change is on going.


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University of Sussex

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