Introduction: The role of the support teacher in regular schools - an international comparison
Taylor and Francis
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of Education
With the continued movement towards the education of all children, including those with a range of special needs in regular classrooms, this has resulted in a continuing debate about how these children, their teachers and schools could be best supported. Many countries have sought to resolve this by deploying additional human resources, usually though not always in the form of ‘support teachers’. The role that support teachers have adopted is undergoing a number of transformations. Traditionally, support teachers provided assistance by withdrawing students in small groups or for individual remedial programmes. Increasingly, the support teacher must now make time to provide professional guidance and support for the regular class teacher to implement modified programmes within the regular classroom. The current trend promoted by most systems is for a more collaborative approach between the support teacher and the regular class teacher. Additionally, support teachers are seen not simply as supporting individual pupils, but as taking on a more proactive role in improving the capacity of the mainstream school to overcome barriers to learning and participation. Not surprisingly, there is still considerable variation in the support teacher’s role at international, national and local levels. The adoption of a new focus to the role of the support teacher is not unproblematic and there are relatively few comparative studies of how this role is developing.
In this Special Issue of the European Journal of Special Needs Education, the role of the support teacher in four countries, namely England, The Netherlands, Spain and Australia, is reviewed. Each paper provides a discussion of the role of the support teacher in a particular country. A final paper reviews the role across the four countries. Consideration is given to the concerns raised by support teachers regarding what they consider to be an expanding need for their services in a globalizing market within tightening educational budgets.