Methodology

This report is based on questionnaires completed by 254 schools reviewed in Terms 3 and 4, 2011. Appendix 1 shows that the schools that responded were broadly representative of schools nationally, with proportionately more contributing schools and fewer composite, secondary, rural, and very small schools.

The questionnaire

The questionnaire defined special education students as those who have learning difficulties, communication, emotional or behavioural difficulties, or intellectual, sensory, or physical impairments.

The questionnaire asked schools to report on:

  • the number of students in various special needs categories
  • policies addressing the inclusion of students with disabilities or special education needs
  • PLD (professional learning development) and support related to students with special needs
  • systems, initiatives, and programmes to support the achievement and/or inclusion of students with special education needs
  • SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) and their relevant experience and background
  • self-review data given to the board about achievement and/or inclusion of students with special needs
  • building projects or hardware additions
  • challenges in including students with special education needs
  • a self-rating of inclusiveness with supporting comment.

Analysis of documentation

As well as completing the questionnaire, one-fifth of schools provided a copy of information reported to the board. These documents and the collated questionnaire responses were analysed for this report.

Limitations

This report is based on data reported by schools. Although the questionnaire referred schools to ERO’s report on Including Students with High Needs (2010) as a basis for identifying their strengths and weaknesses, schools interpreted inclusion in a variety of ways.

The questionnaire defined special education students as those who have learning, communication, emotional or behavioural difficulties, or intellectual, sensory, or physical impairments. However, school responses indicated that many considered a broad range of needs as they responded. For example, some wrote about gifted and talented students, and students for whom English was a second language.

It should be noted that schools rated themselves on how inclusive they thought they were. Nevo [2] points out the benefits of internal self review for accountability, but reminds that the credibility of the findings might be limited without external evaluation. These limitations need to be kept in mind when interpreting the report’s findings.

The information for this report was provided by schools reviewed during Terms 3 and 4, 2011. Schools responded to open questions and they varied in the amount of detail they provided. The report describes the most common responses given but it should be kept in mind that they may also apply to other schools. When a percentage is given it should be seen as a minimum.