A sense of belonging: childrens’ views of acceptance in “inclusive” mainstream schools

Richard Rose, Michael Shevlin

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, international initiatives such as the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education (UNESCO, 1994) and the Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations General Assembly, 2015) have encouraged educational researchers to focus their attentions on those conditions that enable schools to become more inclusive. Much of this research has focused upon teacher attitudes and expectations (Unianu, 2012), the development of inclusive pedagogical approaches (Florian & Black Hawkins,2011), and aspects of assessment and classroom management (Erickson & Davis, 2015). Less attention has been given to the experiences of children with special educational needs as learners in mainstream classrooms. In this paper, drawing upon data from interviews conducted with children during a four year longitudinal study, (Project Iris - Inclusive Research in Irish Schools), we consider the relationship between acceptance and belonging as critical factors in defining what it means to be included in school. In addition to presenting data from children in 24 schools across Ireland, we will discuss the challenges of undertaking fair analysis that ensures that the researchers’ interpretation of pupil voices can be seen as trustworthy and informed. The paper concludes with a discussion of the principles that might inform the ways in which researchers can work with children in order to ensure them fair representation in research that investigates critical aspects of their lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-80
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Whole Schooling
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2017


  • Children's voices
  • Inclusive education
  • Ireland
  • educational experiences
  • emancipatory research
  • inclusion
  • special educational needs


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