Newsletter 79 Learning Support Teachers

Exploring the changing role of learning support teachers in the Western Cape, South Africa by LORNA M DREYER - Stellenbosch University

Talking about learning support teachers in the Western Cape note that Lorna has chosen not to comment about capacity, selection, scope, affordability and the feasibility and sustainability of the implementation model.


  • The role of the learning support teacher as it has evolved from special education is still vague and is still deeply rooted in the medical model paradigm, in spite of statements to the contrary.
  • This, however, allows a new role in the South African context to be identified, that of making quality education and support in schools more accessible to all learners.
  • From the discussion above it is clear that there is a dire need for more and improved collaboration between general classroom and learning support teachers.
  • Although learning support teachers in the WCED have a specific job description (Western Cape Education Department, 2002), there is no national directive, such as the SENCO code of practice in the UK (DfES, 2001), for example, to serve as a guide to schools and learning support teachers alike.
  • The Education White Paper 6 (Department of Education, 2001) provides a broad framework for practice. Nonetheless, if learning support teachers are to coordinate learning support in schools and support and train general classroom colleagues, they will need to be given more authority.
  • In recognition of their changed role and job description, they should be acknowledged as part of senior leadership, working strategically to promote systemic changes in schools for the inclusion of pupils with diverse learning needs (Layton, 2005).
  • By embracing this new and challenging role, learning support teachers could ensure collaborative support, both in the classrooms and the schools as a whole. This would enable them to affirm their position on a national as well as an international level.

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