University of Oulu

R. Sirkko, K. Sutela & M. Takala (2022) School assistants’ experiences of belonging, International Journal of Inclusive Education, DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2022.2122607

School assistants’ experiences of belonging

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Author: Sirkko, R.1; Sutela, K.1; Takala, M.1
Organizations: 1Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-09-21


Providing quality education for all pupils requires cooperation from members of the entire school community. One group of professionals is school assistants, who, together with teachers, play an important role in supporting pupils and inclusive education. Due to pupils’ diverse needs, the responsibilities of school assistants in schools have broadened; yet, their role in the school community has rarely been studied. This study focuses on school assistants’ experiences and addresses the following research question: How is belonging argumented in school assistants’ narratives at their work? The data comprise free writings (N  = 52) and interviews (N = 9) of school assistants’ work. The narratives are analysed using categorical-content analysis. The results yield three experiences of belonging: stories of belonging, stories between belonging and non-belonging and stories of non-belonging. The study data reveal how a school as an institution can be based on conventional practices, where relationships are often formed through hierarchies, old-fashioned work roles and exclusive meeting policies. The study’s conclusion encourages the recognition of structural inequalities in school communities.

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Series: International journal of inclusive education
ISSN: 1360-3116
ISSN-E: 1464-5173
ISSN-L: 1360-3116
Volume: In press
Pages: 1 - 17
DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2022.2122607
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: This work was supported by Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland.
Copyright information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.