Inclusion of traveller children

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The introduction chapter describes the subject of this dissertation, i.e. Inclusion of traveller children in the mainstream classroom. The main focus is on whether traveller children are fully included in the mainstream classroom and school life and whether cultural differences or school life hinder inclusion. I am interested in uncovering what teacher's true opinions and viewpoints are, with the inclusion of traveller children and the measures the government are taking to ensure inclusion in primary schools.

'Planning small-scale research' an article created by Daphne Johnson in 1994 highlighted l research measures which I found to be apt and successful in my own dissertation.

Johnson outlines her research process as "stages of activity which must be worked through in carrying out and completing an investigation" (Johnson, 1994, p.172).

These are as follows:

Establishing the focus of the study

Identifying the specific objectives of the study

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Selecting the research method

Arranging research access

Developing the research instrument

Collecting the data

Pulling out of the investigative phase

Ordering the data

Analysing the data

Writing up

(Johnson, 1994, p. 172)

I have found these stages to be focussed and pivotal in steering my research.i have found it to my preferred style due to its clearly defined and comprehendible stages which are applicable to the educational mode of research.

I have used this method created by Johnson in my research and have laid out the remainder of this chapter using the headings as a focus point explaining my actions and reasons in my research.

1-Establishing the focus of the study

Establishing where I wanted to place my attention to in this study was relatively clear-cut as it came from my interest and experience of traveller children in education and the still need for full inclusion into the school environment. "It is very important for all children to feel confident and positive in their own identity in school. Unfortunately many Traveller children are aware that their

identity will pose a problem for them in school." (Paveepoint.ie/education)

2-Specific objectives of the study

In some cases there is a problem which then develops into the stage of research and forms objectives. The problem I identified which is a bases in my research is that despite new statutory curriculum objectives and new government initiatives published in reports to achieve full inclusion of ethnic minority groups like travellers in school life, there seems to be still a huge absenteeism problem among traveller children in school thus contributing to low levels of literacy and numeracy numbers among pupils. Also there are still large reports of discrimination of travellers in primary schools.

"It is difficult for Travellers to see the positive outcomes in staying on in mainstream

Education as many Travellers experience discrimination in trying to obtain employment" (Paveepoint.ie/education)

Background reading and the literature review was a process which was continual throughout my observations. Johnson outlines in her stages the need for the "formation of research objectives" (Johnson, 1994, p.173) and I found my initial research reading influenced this Bell (1999) states that the researcher must. "provide the reader with a picture …. of the state of knowledge and of major questions in the subject area being investigated" (Bell, 1999, p.93). I have used this idea to help develop my literature review and allow the reader experience many texts which outline points of knowledge and the need for research to be completed on this topic.

3-Selecting the research method

According to Johnson (1994, p. 174) selecting the type research methods to be used is a "crucial element" in the research process. I found that using a variety of research methods gave a more accurate outcome. These methods were largely qualitative observations to form case studies and examination of documentary evidence with some initial quantitative research in the form of questionnaires to gather background evidence of teachers' experience and attitudes, to help achieve well researched results.

According to Simons 2009 the purpose of a case study research is "to explore the particularity ,the uniqueness of a single case.reference made be made to other cases" (Simons, 2009, p 3) .i felt this method fits my objectives of investigating two Traveller children integrated into the classroom situation both with completely different difficulties attainment and socially wise.the observations although unique to them allowed mr to compare to the experiences of other teachers.

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Johnson (1994, p.183) also acknowledges that in research "qualitative methods are slow" and this co-insides with my experience of receiving replies from thirty schools which took its time to be fully completed., Although this process was long I felt it was worth pursuing. The questionnaires allowed me to receive a better illustration of the varied type of schools and varied opinions and reflections of those who participated including teachers, principals and resource teachers who have daily experience of traveller children in their school life.

4-Arranging research access

Blaxter et al 2001 highlights that the researcher must be "totally enmeshed in the subject" of my research and "an active participant" (Blaxter et. al., 2001, p. 12). Through my work as a mainstream teacher and resource teacher with traveller experience I found myself to experience this .My close involvement is significant because it explains how I gained a clear definition of the traveller culture and also a detailed case study in all aspects of the curriculum. I gave out questionnaires to teachers, principals and resource teachers for travellers around the country. The sample of teachers is small, in comparison to the thousands of traveller children enrolled and schools around the country and representative of the teachers from a range of schools, looking back, could have been more beneficial and certainly possible to include a school in this research which have no traveller children enrolled, in order to make comparisons with those who had.

5-Developing the research instrument

I used three investigative instruments during my research.

The first step was completing the research to form the case studies. I compiled IEP templates of the children's academic progress by setting goals for them to complete. For example: For TC1 using the word toilet was a big achievement which only came about in October, for TC2 copying the letters of their name accurately showed great improvement to what I met in august which was achieved in December of this year.

A questionnaire was given to teachers, principals and resource teachers who presently are working with traveller children every school day. By having three separate questionnaires allowed me to get a rounded view of traveller inclusion from the classroom where social aspects of school life are just as important as academic, to the principal where absenteeism is recorded officially and who deal with important issues with parents plus overseeing the running of the school ensuring that legislation is being enforced and discrimination does not exist in their school.

A stamped addressed envelope was included for replies so as to ensure anonymity as the name of school or children were not required in the questionnaires. Of the 150 questionnaires I sent out I received thirty replies. Seven from resource teachers of traveller children, ten from principals who have traveller children in their school, and thirteen from teachers who have Traveller children in the classroom.

From the questionnaires I wanted to examine a random sample of schools, teachers and principals and decipher how they feel about inclusion of Traveller children in their school.

The questionnaire evolved after observation of successful previous questionnaires and also having personal questions of my own from teaching traveller children to which I wanted to see if other teachers of traveller children had similar experiences as me.

Bell (1999) provides advice on designing and administering questionnaires which seeks to give the reader confidence and a good basis of thought when creating questionnaires. The questionnaire was designed to be quick and easy for those to complete, with adequate space for a written response which was required and for those completing them to provide additional information. Thirty questionnaires were returned, so it was a relatively small sample in comparison to the number that was administered.

The data from the returned questionnaires was collected and analysed.

6-Collecting the data

Questionnaires were distributed via post to schools around the country and returned to me through stamped addressed envelopes provided thus encouraging teachers and principals to commit to it as there was little effort needed in returning them. It was necessary to gauge the experiences of both principals and teachers in my research as their plans and methodologies are surfaced around the children in their class. Keeping the questionnaires anonymous was assured and respected. The questionnaires provided a range of experiences and opinions which could be transformed into data. Most of the information received was analysed in a quantitative way, mainly to do with the background and personal experience of the teachers of traveller children and principals had other data, to do with perceptions of curriculum, legislation college training was more qualitative.

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The Case study period took place in October to January. Johnson describes this as a "distinct and discrete phase of the investigation" (Johnson, 1994, p.177). During this time goals were set to achieve in the education attainment of the children and observations, reports and parent meetings allowed me to analyse the goals and the development of the pupils in the classroom.

7-Pulling out of the investigative phase

According to Johnson the case study period is where the researcher is "investing most in the study, by way of time and personal involvement" (Johnson, 1994, p. 177). This proved very significant as I was teaching the children as I observed them throughout the day.

I observed the children over four months and although could have completed a longer observation period I decided against to avoid Johnson's description of an "open-ended period of data collection" (Johnson, 1994, p. 178)

8-Ordering the data

All the questionnaires were "collected and classified" and held on file even after the research was complete so that the researcher was "prepared to be accountable for the investigations" (Johnson, 1994, p.179). Case study notes and observations were also kept on file.

9-Analysing the data

The data collected from the case study and received responses in the questionnaires form much of the substance of my results chapter in order to evaluate the specific experiences and opinions of principals and teachers in primary schools which are needed in order to make statements of results and conclusions.

The results from my research are compared to my background reading which include journals, published books, leaflest and official reports from the department of education.