Special Education in Swedish Upper Secondary Schools Resources, Ability Grouping and Organisation

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : Department of Special Education, Stockholm University

Sammanfattning: This dissertation aims to examine some aspects of special education in Swedish upper secondary schools. The availability of special education resources, the occurrence of ability grouping and the organisational modalities of special education support are investigated. The further aim of the thesis is to discuss how these phenomena can be understood on the basis of democratic educational theories and theories of social educational justice.The study describes how special education support was organised in 764 upper secondary schools in Sweden in the academic school year 2010/2011, with a response rate of 80.4% (n=764). The design of the study is a cross-sectional total population survey, where data have been collected by way of questionnaires and supplemented with public statistics.The results of the study show that about 37.5% of upper secondary schools lack special education resources in terms of special educators or special education teachers. Special education support is not provided in 68% of the independent schools compared with 10% of the public schools. This uneven balance between public and independent schools can be interpreted to be a threat to an equivalent and democratic school, since students in need of special support do not have the same opportunities to receive such support in all schools. Furthermore, schools with a higher average parental educational background have shown higher availability of special education resources. It seems that students with parents who have higher educational backgrounds have to a greater extent access to special education resources.Ability grouping is used in about 43% of the schools. It is most commonly used within foundation subjects, particularly in Mathematics. The schools that use ability grouping to a very large extent have lower and more varied merit rating values and greater availability of special education resources.Special education support is primarily provided outside the students’ regular teaching groups. This is also the case with support provided by other school staff: indeed, 87% of the schools report that the majority of special education support is provided outside the students’ regular teaching groups. This can be understood as a way to organise special support in which heterogeneity and pluralism are not considered important. Based on democratic theories, the support provided outside the regular teaching group might be a risk to the creation of a democratic school where all students are given opportunities to meet and interact.   Overall, the results from this thesis show that special education resources are unevenly distributed among independent and public schools; that 43% of the schools use ability grouping; and that special support is primarily provided outside the students’ regular teaching groups.