Departmental differences in attitudes to special educational needs and their impact on practice in the secondary school
With increasing inclusion, mainstream teachers need to be sympathetic towards meeting the needs of those with special educational needs. Little previous research has considered the complex relationships between attitudes and practice and how the subject taught impacts on this. Consequently a case study approach was adopted using a Likert-type attitude scale and open-ended questions to determine the attitudes towards SEN of the teachers in one school. This suggested that teachers of the core subjects, English, maths and particularly science, were more likely to have less positive attitudes than those of other subjects. Of the core subjects, students with SEN made least progress in science at Key Stage 3. More in-depth studies, using interviews, structured and unstructured observation, of five teachers from two departments, science and English, revealed that attitudes to SEN did not necessarily relate directly to practice. Although teachers with less positive attitudes were less willing to use strategies to meet the needs of those with SEN, they did try to meet those needs. Success however, was probably more related to effectiveness as a teacher. The importance of attitudes to practice is probably related more to subtle messages effecting students' self-esteem and beliefs about their suitability for specific subjects.