The IMAS Project released a report on the "role of learning and support assistants in inclusive education” in December 2017.
The report focuses on the work and broader environment of the assistants. It maps the current situation in 5 European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Portugal, Slovakia and the United Kingdom) and recommends actions to align the current situation with an ideal situation, where learning and support assistants have the tools and autonomy to fully support the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Some of the dimensions studied included the role within the educational institution, career prospects, job security and financial framework for funding of the assistants.
The report provides specific recommendations in each dimension, eg “special consideration should be given to all duties of assistants: the main focus is working with pupils but additional time should be allocated for preparation, supervision, liaison with other staff etc”
The report also presents 5 key recommendations:
- The goal of inclusive education should be firmly set in law.
- Funding needs to be available to schools, to enable them to respond to the full diversity of children and young people.
- Relevant training and continued professional development should be offered to all assistants.
- Job descriptions for assistants should make it clear that they are required to support children's learning as well as their social and emotional development, and should clarify that planning, preparation and liaison with teachers and other professionals are included in their contractual duties.
- Assistants should be recognised for the importance of their contribution to the learning and development of children and young people with disabilities; this should be reflected in their remuneration and status in school.
Read the full report here
The project “Improving Assistance in Inclusive Educational Settings” (IMAS) focused on the education of children and young people with disabilities in Europe, with the aim of establishing a common framework for scrutinising how assistance is organised in schools. The main objectives of the project were to understand the contribution of assistance services to inclusive education for children and young people with disabilities, to develop recommendations for the further development of these services and (if necessary) to enhance them through the project activities.
This project has set an important first step to draw attention to assistance services at European and National level, on the understanding that these play an important role in developing a more inclusive education system consistent with the requirements of the UNCRPD. The project has clearly demonstrated that there are no clear and consistent frameworks for availability, quality and responsibilities of learning and support assistants in schools and other educational settings. The project has also shown that in some regions of Europe the possibility of making assistance services routinely available to children with disabilities does not exist.
It is anticipated that the recommendations developed during this project will provide orientation for decision makers and assist them in further developing assistance services in their countries, in ways which are consistent with the requirements of the UNCRPD.