The formation of a democratic South Africa led to learners with barriers to learning being included in one education system. The South African Constitution, policies and white papers encourage inclusive education by providing mainstream schools which include support for learners with barriers to learning. Scholars described the role of the learning support teacher as unclear and ambiguous, yet, essential as part of mainstream education (Travers, 2006, Krüger & Yorke, 2010, Dreyer, 2013, Mulholland & O’Connor, 2016). South African literature indicates that limited research has been conducted on the role of the learning support teachers (Krüger & Yorke, 2010, Dreyer, 2014).
This study focused on defining the role of five learning support teachers in private schools. The focus fell on private schools due to the financial capability of such schools to employ specialised staff to support learners. The assumption was that the private school context was advantageous in having funding available for learning support. A qualitative methodological paradigm allowed for the learning support teachers’ opinions and experiences on designing, implementing and managing learning support within their schools to be explored. A multiple case study design was utilised and data was obtained through semi-structured interviews with five learning support teachers.
Four themes emerged as a result of a thematic analysis, namely; the role of the learning support teacher, the nature of learning support provision, private school factors and general teacher and learning support teacher interaction. This study concluded that a multifaceted role was assumed by the learning support teachers. The participants’ roles presented as a myriad of assumed roles within their schools. As part of their role, participants explained that a large portion of their role was to support learners with barriers to learning on an academic and emotional level. Additionally, their support role seemed to even extend to parents, general teachers and other staff members within their respective schools. The findings of this research seemed to correlate with literature (Walton et al., 2009, Sanahuja‐Gavaldà et al., 2016, Dreyer et al., 2012).
Further research within the field of learning support could be advantageous, thus I recommended that a learning support forum be established. The forum could enable possible discussion and formation of consensus on the role learning support teachers should assume.