The Impact of Adopting Positive Education and Wellbeing Culture on Learners with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in a Private and Mainstream School in Dubai: An Exploratory Case Study During Uncertain Times, a Perspective from Dubai, UAE

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
The impact of positive education and wellbeing culture on learners with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Dubai-based inclusive schools has been an active area of education research. While it has been demonstrated that the role of positive education and wellbeing culture is vital to the optimal development of students within school settings, scrutiny and reluctance to employ novel techniques present a significant challenge and a never-ending list of “to-dos” that hinder the opportunity to ensure an ideal school environment. Inclusion is similar to a puzzle that should not be completed unless its entire fragments are recognised and positioned accordingly (Gaad 2004). Inclusion lies at the heart of positive education and wellbeing culture. Positive education and wellbeing principles empower inclusive education and alleviate stigma. In fact, inclusion conceptualised and paralleled with positive education and wellbeing culture is a catalyst requiring schools to positively approach all students including students with SEND, who might present additional vulnerabilities and lower levels of wellbeing because of their feelings of inadequacy, when compared to typically developed peers. In this case-study, the researcher explores the impact of positive education and wellbeing culture on learners with SEND, through a mixed-method approach of interviews and surveys, to gain a thorough understanding on ways to allow them to flourish and recognise their character strengths in a sustaining environment where happiness is paramount. Several factors affecting student wellbeing are discussed: teachers’ approaches and wellbeing, peer attitudes and relationships, parental engagement, school climate and potential recommendations and provisions to ensure social and academic development. Preliminary findings suggest a positive impact of positive education and wellbeing culture on the psychological/social and academic wellbeing of learners with SEND whereby their character strengths are highlighted and mistakes are perceived as opportunities for learning. The study reveals that positive teacher approaches, happy teachers, friendly peer attitudes and relationships, consistent parental involvement and positive school climate aid in enhancing and maintaining students’ wellbeing. Therefore, the data suggests, through a set of recommendations, that schools should adopt positive education and instill a wellbeing culture to ensure a positive, safe and well climate for all learners including students with SEND, to promote and enhance their wellbeing and sense of belonging in a flourishing environment. It is worth mentioning that during Covid-19, schools across the globe and in UAE were closed as an effective control and safety measure to reduce the spread of the disease (Viner et al. 2020) and distance learning (DL) was introduced in March 2020. Remote learning thus became the new norm for learning during Covid-19. Thus, due to school closure, the researcher carried out the data collection in a virtual manner.
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), inclusion, positive education, wellbeing culture, provisions, character strengths, happiness, social and academic engagement, teacher approaches, peer attitudes, positive school climate, sense of belonging