Constructing and maintaining disability: discourses of power, conflict and choice in special educational needs administration
AbstractFor parents of children with motor disorders, there is controversy over selecting the most appropriate or prefer-red school, with decision-making power residing with special educational needs officers working for local education authorities. Problems arise when some parents specifically request an alternative pedagogy, that of Conductive Education, for their child. The objective of this research was to provide a social constructionist critique of the discourses that pervade the world of administrators who manage access to special education resources. One particular focus was the ways in which administrators reach decisions on school placement by exploring, via a qualitative approach, the meanings individuals construct when discussing their involvement in the statementing process. A dual methodological approach was employed, that of constructionist grounded theory followed by Foucauldian discourse analysis. Data for the grounded theory phase consisted of in-depth semi-structured interviews performed with special educational needs personnel within local education authorities. Subsequently, these data were further strengthened by document analysis and participant observation notes obtained from observing the work of one local education authority, and these were used within the discourse analysis phase. Findings from the grounded theory methodology showed how administrators succeed in perpetuating children's educational and psychological disabilities through a variety of discursive methods. By using vocabulary couched in terms of equity and fairness, and by utilising governmental rhetoric of school choice and inclusion, administrators enlist parents and children in their own oppression. The subsequent discourse analysis showed how administrators adhere to the professionalism of contemporary practice in order to strengthen their arguments within decision-making, thereby ignoring the disciplinary and regulatory practices they enact. Enmeshed in a panoptic system of power, discipline and surveillance, they are so positioned as to discourage proper and absolute parental choice - and so it is why conductive education may be denied. However, the panopticon of special educational needs is challenged by the multitude of parental voices opposed to its disciplinary practices and it remains to be seen how resistant it will become in the face of such opposition.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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