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Understanding how to support educational achievement for at risk groups: Pupils with identified learning difficulties and excluded pupils

11 January 2021

Author: Adebola Fasusi (University College London)

Educational achievement is important as it is associated with a range of positive life outcomes such as employment prospects and health.

This thesis focuses on two populations, where educational achievement can be difficult, which are pupils with intellectual disabilities (ID) and excluded pupils.

A systematic review identified predictors of academic attainment for children with a diagnosis of ID.

Nine studies identified 46 significant predictor variables for academic achievement, with evidence converging for the following variables: cognitive functioning, motivation, language skills, family related variables, and being placed in mainstream school as opposed to special schools.

Pupil referral units (PRU) provides temporary alternative educational provisions for pupils who are excluded, with the aim of reintegrating them back to mainstream schools. However, there is a paucity of research investigating factors that contribute to successful reintegration.

This study aims to understand perceptions of what factors contributes to successful reintegration, professionals' role that aid this, barriers to reintegration, and recommendations for improving reintegration.

An Explanatory Sequential Design was used. In phase one of the research, 35 professionals who worked with or in a PRU, completed a survey which included rating the effectiveness of reintegration in their borough and eliciting their views.

Content analysis highlighted that reintegration was somewhat effective in most boroughs. Several themes were identified: joint working, pastoral support, parental anxiety, staffing issues, and resources.

Phase two consisted of 12 semi-structured interviews administered to professionals who completed the survey.

Thematic analysis identified overarching themes: personalised care, support, relationships, communication, gradual transitions, realistic expectations, and prioritisation of resources.

These findings suggest several practice recommendations: personalised care with tailored support, teamwork underpinned by communication, gradual transitions that involves early development of relationships with staff, realistic expectations as a way to negotiate uncertainties within the system, and the importance for local authority to prioritise reintegration.


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