Recent years have highlighted the central place of the voice of the child in matters that affect their lives. Stemming from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 2010), the importance of ensuring children can express their views freely in all matters affecting them is emphasised, with such views being given due weight in accordance with the child’s age and maturity level. Notably, such rights also extend to cover both formal and informal educational contexts and are relevant for children with and without disabilities. Nonetheless, the degree to which such rights-based legislation has impacted global practices in schools remains questionable. This paper seeks to focus on the voices of children in receipt of paraprofessional support in mainstream primary school classrooms in Ireland. This paper stems from a large-scale study conducted in Ireland which examined the preparedness and deployment of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) when supporting pupils with behavioural care needs. This study employed a mixed-methods approach to data collection, as modelled on Strand 2 Wave 1 of the internationally renowned ‘Deployment and Impact of Support Staff’ project [1]. This comprised a large-scale SNA survey (n = 814), in addition to systematic classroom observations and case studies conducted across 20 mainstream class contexts. Focusing on a sub-set of the data, this paper firstly explores the degree to which pupils’ voices are included in decision-making processes in Irish schools in relation to the SNA scheme. Thereafter, the paper focuses on the strengths and limitations of the SNA scheme, as expressed by 18 of the children involved in this study and analysed through an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis lens. Such data is compared and contrasted with previous national and international data in the field of paraprofessional support. This research serves to extend the limited data-set on the voice of the child in receipt of paraprofessional support and offers a myriad of suggestions for improving practices across international educational contexts.

Author: Claire Griffin

Published in: Canada International Conference on Education, 2022

  • Date of Conference: 21-23 June, 2022
  • DOI: 10.20533/CICE.2022.0046
  • Electronic ISBN: 978-1-913572-49-5
  • Conference Location: Virtual (Mississauga, Canada)