Support activities and how they are organized are important factors when supporting students at risk of not achieving educational goals and in order to prevent students dropping out of school. International and national school policy documents advocate that support to students should preferably be given within the students regular class or teaching group.
This chapter focuses on where the special support, by special education professionals and other school staff at the schools, is provided in the Swedish upper secondary schools. Of particular focus is whether the support is provided within or outside the students´ regular classes.
The provided support is also discussed in relation to applicable national and international policy documents and previous research related to marginalization at an individual level and marginalization effects on the labour market.
A large proportion of young people, not only in Sweden but in many parts of Europe, leave upper secondary education without complete grades. The opportunities for these students to establish themselves in the labour market are more limited than those of students that successfully complete upper secondary education. Dropping out of school may not only imply a personal failure for many individuals, but it can also be considered a major social problem. It may imply that a rather large group of youths are experiencing school failure, which can lead many times to further difficulties in the labour market and to other forms of marginalization. The support provided by schools is important in decreasing the number of drop outs. At the same time, the location of support is also important. It is pointed out in previous research that support outside the students´ regular class can lead to stigma effects, feelings of non-participation and marginalization not only within school, but also later in the labour market.
The educational system should provide an equitable education to all students and should provide support to those students that are experiencing difficulties at school in order to prevent students’ drop out and experiences of school failure. In the Salamanca Statement and Swedish national policy documents, the basic principle for school is that all students, whenever possible, should be taught together, regardless of any difficulties or mutual differences.
The data come from a cross-sectional total population survey and covers all upper secondary schools (N=950) in Sweden within the academic school year 2010/2011. The response rate for the survey is 80.4%, and the number of schools included is 764. The data were collected from upper secondary schools with a questionnaire that was addressed to the school principals. The results reported show that providing support for students in need of special support outside their regular class in upper secondary schools is extensive. This way of providing support is more common than supporting students within their regular class settings. The task given most attention by the schools special 2
education professionals, as reported by the respondents of the schools, was also to support students outside their regular class, while supporting within the regular class was reported less frequently.
These two different locations of support are further discussed in the context of the concepts social exclusion and social inclusion, and the implications they might have.
The findings are in accordance with previous research that points out that schools often focus on supporting students outside their regular classes. Thus, the results reinforce and confirm previous findings, which could be interpreted (but not necessarily imply) a social exclusionary approach, in clear contrast to what policy documents advocate.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015.
Special Education, Support, Marginalization, Dropout, Upper Secondary School