A special teacher for a special child? (Re)considering the role of the special education teacher within the context of an inclusive education reform agenda
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Notwithstanding the recent signing and ratification by Cyprus of another International Convention on the rights of students designated as having special educational needs and/or disabilities to attend mainstream schools on an equal basis with their peers, local policy and practice promote an 'exclusionary inclusion' that draws a discernible line between general and special education. This paper concentrates on exploring the role of special education teachers in Cyprus in the light of policy concerns about providing the 'least restrictive' learning environment for this group of students and enabling them 'to reach their full potential'. It is suggested that the role of special education teachers embodies and reflects reductionist forms of inclusion informed by deficit-oriented and assimilationist special education perspectives, while there is also evidence of a lack of professionalism and accountability. The paper draws on head teachers' and special education teachers' interviews in order to portray the ways in which they view and experience the role of special education teachers in mainstream schools in Cyprus. New objectives and future directions are identified and discussed.