School-based support teams’ understandings and experiences of inclusive education in the Western Cape
South Africa's education system has undergone dramatic changes in the last decade resulting in an increase in the levels of stress reported by educators. Changes, such as the implementation of Inclusive Education as well as the new culture of human rights in schools, have created extra responsibilities for educators. Today, educator’s don't just have to adjust to these changes, but also have to deal with a rise in learners experiencing barriers to learning and a variety of problems displayed by school leaners. This study explored the understandings and experiences of School-Based Support Teams (SBST) of inclusive education in the Western Cape. For the purpose of this study, a qualitative case study design was used. The researcher found it advantageous to use the qualitative research case study design because it enables the researcher to gain an in-depth understanding of the lived experiences of educators. The participants in this study were twenty educators who serve as members of the SBST in a special and public ordinary school. Participants reported that they experienced success in the implementation of Inclusive Education (IE) in their schools. These include established teamwork, increased access and participation, improved teaching practices as well as the provision of assistive devices. Participants reported positive gains during the implementation, they also reported challenges. These include lack of capacity, lack of resources, problem behaviours, unrealistic workloads and lack of support. This study concludes that if the School Based Support Team is critical in the implementation of IE in South Africa, the Department of Education as well as the schools needs to rethink these roles or develop a Human Resource Development Strategy that will empower educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to play the role. Secondly, the Department of Education should seriously consider ways in which educators can be protected from perpetrators. Lastly, based on the lived experiences of the SBST in the study, educators should continue with the good work but be allowed to provide support in ways that work within their capacity and broader socio-cultural contexts.