“A different world” – Supporting self-efficacy among teachers working in special classes for autistic pupils in Irish primary schools.
Keywords:Inclusive education; special classes; autism; teacher isolation; teacher wellbeing; self-efficacy
Education provision for autistic pupils within the Irish education system has changed radically in recent decades. Autistic pupils now comprise 1.5% of the current Irish pupil population and the number of autistic pupils in receipt of Special Needs Assistance (SNA) support in mainstream schools increasing by 83% in the five-year period between 2011 and 2016 (Campbell at al. 2017). This small-scale qualitative study seeks to examine the experiences and perspectives of principals and teachers working in special classes for autistic pupils across a range of Irish primary schools. Face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with 10 participants, 4 principals and 6 special class teachers, were conducted, thus facilitating a context-driven and nuanced understanding of how autism classes operate across a representative sample of six Irish primary schools from the perspectives of those involved. In doing so, it seeks to identify some factors perceived to impact efficacy among teachers working in autism classes, as well as explore potential avenues that may support schools in building teacher capacity to foster inclusive provision. The findings of the study may have relevance in identifying the challenges faced by teachers working in autism classes in Ireland, signposting some avenues for addressing such challenges and building capacity within schools to ensure quality educational outcomes for autistic pupils.
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