Teachers and peers attitudes towards the integration of pupils with Down's Syndrome
This study is an exploratory piece of research into the question of attitudes towards the process of integration. A socio-political approach to attitudes is used as a theoretical framework for exploring and understanding the meanings and the complexities involved in the formation of attitudes. The study considers the case of one primary school in particular, Yorkshire School, that had a policy of integrating, in a cross sectional way, forty pupils identified as having special educational needs, including six pupils with Down's Syndrome. The research involved extensive participant observations within the school, semi-structured interviews and informal discussions with nineteen (19) teachers as well as individual and group discussions with the use of a picture with a hundred and three (103) pupils. The findings of this study show that integration has become a contentious term. Teachers' attitudes are conflicting and often confusing while the directives embedded in the teaching act, especially after the introduction of the Educational Reform Act, render the commitment of inclusive education more difficult to maintain. Further, the exploration of the meanings children ascribe to their interactional and perceptual patternings with disabled peers revealed the ways that "handicapped" identities are being socially created. The value conflicts and ethical dilemmas in which both teachers and pupils are becoming enmeshed as well as the structural conditions within which integration is implemented are discussed in an attempt to show that integration must become a policy oriented towards its own destruction. The findings also confirm the necessity of a socio-political approach in the study of attitudes by revealing that any serious attempt of exploring and understanding the complexities involved in the formation of attitudes towards the integration process cannot be divorced either from the wider set of social formations or from the educational context within which attitudes have been developed in the first place.