Pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schools : a Foucauldian analysis of discourses
This research focuses on pupils with special needs in mainstream schools. It is concerned with how their identities and experiences are constructed at a formal level, within official documents, and informally, in the way the pupils are talked about. A Foucauldian perspective provided the framework for analysing formal and informal discourses and the power/knowledge relations these contain. Formal SEN discourses were examined by analysing the Warnock and HMI reports and earlier official documents. At an informal level, accounts were obtained from eleven pupils with a range of special educational needs and their peers. The pupils were also observed within mainstream classrooms and playgrounds. The pupils' accounts challenged the appropriateness of conventional binary divisions, for example disabled/able-bodied; integrated/segregated, for understanding the identities and experiences of pupils with SEN. The data suggest a much more continuous process of construction, characterised by oscillations, uncertainties and ambivalences and by resistance from the pupils with SEN. A number of implications for the placement of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schools are considered. These relate to how schools might build on mainstream pupils' existing understanding of disability and ensure that integration is a positive experience for all.