An Irish Solution…? Questioning the Expansion of Special Classes in an Era of Inclusive Education

Joanne Banks, Selina McCoy


With the major policy shift towards inclusive education internationally, this paper examines the ongoing expansion of special classes in Irish primary and second-level schools. Using data from a mixed-methods longitudinal study on special classes, we examine if special classes are operating as a form of segregation or inclusion for children with special educational needs. The findings suggest that special classes only operate as a unit of inclusion where children have severe needs. For children with moderate or mild needs, the findings are less clear with some classes operating as a segregated setting or low stream class with no official sanction resulting in issues around teacher competency and stigma among students.


special education; inclusive education; Ireland

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