The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Paraprofessional support – a help or a hindrance? Critiquing the current status and future directions of paraprofessional support for pupils with additional needs

Claire P. Griffin, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland (Ireland)


Recent years has witnessed the growth in paraprofessional support roles across a range of international countries. In particular, this is evident in educational settings, where pupils with additional needs are increasingly supported in classrooms by paraprofessionals. Notably, the role and duties of parapraprofessionals vary across the globe, with duties spanning a myriad of educational, developmental and care domains. Nonetheless, in spite of the growth in paraprofessional roles internationally, a significant lack of research is available to verify the strength of the paraprofessional role or best-practices to ensure the paraprofessional serves to help, rather than hinder, the development of pupils with additional and/or special needs. This paper draws on findings from a recent large-scale research project, as conducted across a range of mainstream primary schools in Ireland (Griffin 2019). Through the use of minute-by-minute systematic observations and related case studies, a comprehensive set of objective, valid and reliable data was gathered on the moment-by-moment classroom experiences of pupils with behavioural care needs in receipt of paraprofessional support, with comparisons drawn with their non-supported peers. Based on findings, and with reference to related national and international research in the field, a range of implications for research, theory, policy and practice are forwarded. This research serves to extend the limited data-set on paraprofessional support in mainstream education. Additionally, the research offers a myriad of evidence-based suggestions for enhancing the future role of paraprofessionals across international educational contexts.



Paraprofessional support; special educational needs; inclusive education; independence; Ireland



Griffin, C. (2019) Fostering independence through care? A study of the preparedness and deployment of Special Needs Assistants when supporting pupils’ behavioural care needs and independence development in mainstream primary schools in Ireland. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). 




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