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This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only



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Education Research International, January 2019.


Over the past decade, there has been a societal push for social inclusion in Ireland for students with special educational needs (SEN). As a result, the number of dedicated special needs schools has dramatically decreased across the country as students with SEN enrol, instead, in mainstream schools. Dedicated SEN schools provided an environment in which students with a general learning difficulty (GLD) could develop at a pace suited to them. However, this developmental pace is different for GLD students in a mainstream school. This research explores the social development of students with a GLD in a mainstream school in postprimary education in Ireland. Informed by educational policies, both national and international, this research aims to find whether we are, as a society, inclusive of all educational needs in postprimary education, specifically students with GLD. The research question explicitly explores if students with a GLD have enhanced social development as a result of being part of a mainstream school setting. Employing a mixed methods case-study methodology, key emergent themes were observed and, overall, it was concluded that in a suitable environment, both physical and cultural, the social skills of students with a GLD can improve, primarily through increased social interaction with their peers.


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