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Traditions and Challenges: Special Support in Swedish Independent Compulsory Schools
Mälardalen University, School of Education, Culture and Communication, Educational Sciences and Mathematics. (REDDI)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5079-9581
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Traditioner och utmaningar : Särskilt stöd i fristående grundskolor i Sverige (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

This thesis has two overarching aims. The first is to generate further knowledge about Swedish independent schools, specifically regarding the organisation and provision of special support and how these relate to special educational traditions and inclusive education. This is conducted through four empirical studies, utilising data gathered in two total population survey studies. The first survey was a total population study of Swedish independent compulsory schools (N = 686, response rate = 79%), and results from this study are presented in articles I, II and IV. Article III presents results derived from a total population survey of special pedagogues (SENCOs) and special education teachers in Sweden educated according to the degree ordinances of 2001, 2007 and 2008 (N = 4252, response rate = 75%).

Article I contains a general description of special education issues in the total population of independent schools. Article II continues with comparisons of these issues in different groups of independent compulsory schools. Article III studies differences in organisational prioritisations regarding special support and special educators in municipal and independent schools. Finally, article IV presents qualitative content analysis of over 400 responses regarding special support at independent schools.

The second overarching aim of the thesis is to further develop the discussions initiated in the articles about how special education and inclusive education can be understood in light of the education reforms that introduced the independent schools. A critical theoretical analysis and contextualization of the empirical results from the articles is conducted to explain and describe the consequences of the new (market) education paradigm.

Results show that, generally, the independent schools have not challenged special educational traditions to a significant degree. Rather, traditional conceptions, explanations and organisational measures are reproduced, and in some cases enhanced, by market mechanisms. However, there are great differences between the different types of schools with regard to both their perspectives on special education and their organisational approaches. There are also indications that the principle of choice is limited for this pupil group as compared to some other groups. Additionally, the increasing clustering of pupils in need of special support at certain schools replicates a system with special schools. In this case, market mechanisms are contributing to a system that is in contradiction to the idea of an inclusive school system.

The theoretical interpretation of the results suggests that Skrtic’s theory can largely explain the empirical patterns found. However, his theory gives rise to different predictions or potential scenarios depending on what parts of his theory are underscored. Moreover, his theory must be complemented with additional perspectives to more fully account for diversity within the results, particularly as the results indicate that discourses/paradigms of special education and inclusive education often occur simultaneously and can thus be seen as expressions of practices taking place in a complex social and political environment.

Keywords: Special education; inclusion; school choice; education reform; independent schools; compulso-ry schools; pupils in need of special support, SENCOs; special education teachers; critical pragmatism; Thomas M. Skrtic

Abstract [sv]

Denna avhandling har två övergripande syften. Först, att generera kunskaper om fristående grundskolor i Sverige, specifikt vad gäller organisation och tillhandahållande av särskilt stöd, samt hur det kan förstås i ljuset av specialpedagogiska traditioner och inkludering. Fyra empiriska studier presenteras med data från två stora forskningsprojekt. Det ena var en totalpopulations undersökning av fristående grundskolor (N=686, respons=79 %), resultat från den presenteras i artikel I, II och IV. Artikel III presenterar resultat från en totalpopulations undersökning av specialpedagoger och speciallärare i Sverige, utbildade enligt examensförordningarna från 2001, 2007 och 2008 (N=4252, respons: 75 %).

Artikel I beskriver specialpedagogiska frågor inom hela populationen av fristående skolor i generella termer. Artikel II gör jämförelser mellan olika grupper av fristående skolor, artikel III beskriver skillnader i specialpedagogisk organisation mellan fristående och kommunala skolor i termer av specialpedagogers och speciallärares anställningssituation och artikel IV presenterar resultat av en kvalitativ innehållsanalys av över 400 svar om särskilt stöd i fristående skolor.

Det andra övergripande syftet är att utveckla den teoretiska diskussionen som initierades i artiklarna, om hur specialpedagogik och inkludering kan förstås i ljuset av de utbildningsreformer som presenterade skolval och fristående skolor i Sverige. En kritisk teoretisk analys och kontextualisering av de empiriska resultaten från artiklarna genomförs för att förklara och beskriva konsekvenserna av de nya (marknads) paradigmet inom svensk utbildning.

Resultaten visar att de fristående skolorna inte har utmanat specialpedagogiska traditioner i någon högre grad generellt. Traditionella synsätt, förklaringar och organisatoriska lösningar reproduceras, till och med förstärks, av marknadsmekanismer. Däremot så är det stora skillnader mellan olika skolor, både vad gäller specialpedagogiska perspektiv och organisatoriska lösningar. Det finns också tecken på att skolvalet kan vara begränsat när det gäller elever i behov av särskilt stöd. Dessutom riskerar en samling av elever i behov av särskilt stöd på vissa skolor att reproducera ett system med specialskolor, något som inte är i linje med ambitioner för ett inkluderande skolsystem.

De teoretiska tolkningarna av resultaten visar att Skrtic’s teoretiska verktyg kan till en hög grad förklara de empiriska resultaten. Däremot kan olika scenarier skapas beroende på vilka delar av hans teorier som betonas. Dessutom behöver hans teorier kompletteras med tilläggsperspektiv för att förklara variationen i resultaten.

Nyckelord: Specialpedagogik; inkludering; skolval; utbildningsreformer; fristående skolor; grundskolan; elever i behov av särskilt stöd, specialpedagoger; speciallärare; kritisk pragmatism, Thomas M. Skrtic

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University , 2015.
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 185Mälardalen Studies in Educational Sciences ; 21
Keyword [en]
special education; inclusion; school choice; education reform; independent schools; compulso-ry schools; pupils in need of special support, SENCOs; special education teachers; critical pragmatism; Thomas M. Skrtic
Keyword [sv]
specialpedagogik; inkludering; skolval; utbildningsreformer; fristående skolor; grundskolan; elever i behov av särskilt stöd, specialpedagoger; speciallärare; kritisk pragmatism, Thomas M. Skrtic
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-28823ISBN: 978-91-7485-225-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-28823DiVA, id: diva2:851062
Public defence
2015-10-23, A 407, Drottninggatan 12, Eskilstuna, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Fristående skolors arbete med elever i behov av särskilt stödSpeciella yrken? – om speciallärares och specialpedagogers arbete och utbildning
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2008-4701Swedish Research Council, 2011-5986
Available from: 2015-09-04 Created: 2015-09-03 Last updated: 2015-09-24Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Challenging Traditions?: Pupils in Need of Special Support in Swedish Independent Schools
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Challenging Traditions?: Pupils in Need of Special Support in Swedish Independent Schools
2012 (English)In: Nordic Studies in Education, ISSN 1891-5914, E-ISSN 1891-5949, Vol. 32, no 4, p. 262-280Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article presents the general situation for pupils in need of special support (PNSS) within the Swedish independent compulsory schools. The analysis is based upon a survey of all independent schools in Sweden. Results show that the amount of PNSS is lower in independent schools than in municipal schools and that a deficit perspective seems to be common regarding explanations of school problems. There is, however, great diversity among the schools. Conclusions are that the challenge of independent schools to the traditional way of conceiving education, regarding school choice, seems to be more effective less for some other groups of pupils than for PNSS and that there are few signs that independent schools challenge traditions in work with PNSS in municipal schools.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 2012
Keyword
Independet schools, pupils in need of special support, inclusion
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-11434 (URN)2-s2.0-84880110033 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Fristående skolors arbete med barn i behov av särskilt stöd
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2011-01-17 Created: 2011-01-17 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically approved
2. Similar Situations? Special Needs in Different Groups of Independent Schools
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Similar Situations? Special Needs in Different Groups of Independent Schools
2014 (English)In: SCANDINAVIAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, ISSN 0031-3831, Vol. 59, no 4, p. 377-394Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study explores differences between different groups of Swedish independent schools' work with pupils in need of special support (PNSS). Data comes from a total population study of independent schools. Data is analyzed using six categories of profile that may affect the special educational values at the schools, and therefore the situation for PNSS. Additionally, the data is analyzed with regard to the school ownership structure. Results show that diagnosis is important for receiving support, despite contrary legislative intentions. The groups differ regarding proportions of PNSS (12-100%), incidence of refusals of admission (8-40%), and in the way they explain problems and organize support. Generally, there is little challenge to a deficit perspective in views on school difficulties and the organization of support; market rationality may be a contributing factor. There are more differences between educational profiles of schools than there are between types of school ownership.

Keyword
inclusion, independent schools, pupils in need of special support, school choice
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-25672 (URN)10.1080/00313831.2014.904422 (DOI)000357019600001 ()2-s2.0-84933676709 (Scopus ID)
Note

Correspondence Address: Magnússon, G.; Mälardalen University, School of Education, Culture and Communication, Eskilstuna, Swedenemail: gunnlaugur.magnusson@mdh.se

Available from: 2014-07-14 Created: 2014-07-14 Last updated: 2018-02-26Bibliographically approved
3. Different Approaches to Special Educational Support?: Special Educators in Swedish Independent and Municipal schools
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Different Approaches to Special Educational Support?: Special Educators in Swedish Independent and Municipal schools
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The independent schools have become securely established in the Swedish education system as tokens of school choice and educational innovation. Prior research has shown that they generally have fewer pupils in need of support and lower proportions of special educators. Here, results are presented from a total population survey study of Swedish special educators (n=4252) educated according to degree ordinances from 2001 and onwards. The aim of this paper is to explore prerequisites of special educational work in Swedish independent schools and municipal schools in terms of: a) the occurrence of these special educators and their occupational situations, and b) what specific values they express regarding identification and work with school problems.

Results show that while the respondents are demographically similar and express similar values, they have very different occupational situations. Those employed in independent schools often have shorter experience as special educators, are more often employed part time than full time and have other occupational positions to a higher degree, for instance as head teachers, than those employed in municipal schools.

The results can be seen as indicators of different approaches towards special educational needs and the special educational work. Apparent is that independent schools offer these special educational resources to a much lower degree and utilize them differently. This is likely to influence the current situation of pupils. It can also be interpreted as an indicator of innovative approaches to special education at the independent schools that do employ special educators.

Keyword
School choice, independent schools, special education, special educators, inclusive education.
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-28826 (URN)
Projects
Speciella yrken? - ett projekt om speciallärares och specialpedagogers arbete och utbildning
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2011-5986
Note

Manuskript till vetenskaplig artikel

Available from: 2015-09-03 Created: 2015-09-03 Last updated: 2016-02-25Bibliographically approved
4. Images of (Special) Education? Independent Schools’ Descriptions of their Special Educational Work.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Images of (Special) Education? Independent Schools’ Descriptions of their Special Educational Work.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

An important argument for the introduction of school choice in Sweden, was that independent schools would be a source for innovation. But what images arise independent schools are asked if there is anything that they would like to emphasise regarding special support? Do these images follow traditional notions of special education, or do they aim for alternative organisational solutions, approaching inclusive education?

Here results from a total population questionnaire of the Swedish independent schools (N = 686; response rate = 79%) are presented. 400 written responses to two open-ended questions were received. The responses covered topics such as resource allocation, school descriptions, and good practice. Themes and categories were condensed using qualitative content analysis. The results are analysed statistically using official groupings of schools. Finally, the results are theorised in terms of special educational perspectives and inclusive education.  

Results show examples of alternative and inclusive approaches, as well as examples of traditional understanding and organisation of special support within the field. The idea of market competition as a driving force of innovation is not supported in this material, marketing and niching of schools can contribute to a less inclusive education system. The author argues that more research that is both large scale and contextual is needed to understand further how schools cope with contradicting educational ideals and policy when competing for pupils.

Keyword
Independent Schools; School Choice; Inclusive Education; Special Education Sweden; Market Competition
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-28844 (URN)
Projects
Fristående skolors arbete med elever i behov av särskilt stöd
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2008-4701
Available from: 2015-09-04 Created: 2015-09-04 Last updated: 2015-10-12Bibliographically approved

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