Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Special Education

Major Professor

Dr. Phyllis Jones, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dr. Ann Cranston-Gingras, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dr. Brenda Walker, Ph.D., J.D.

Committee Member

Dr. Raffaele-Mendez, Ph.D.


autism, inclusion, senior leadership team, special school


In this study, I explore how the senior leadership team at an Academy Trust in England understands and operationalizes inclusion, particularly for pupils whose learning profile includes autism. England’s policies regarding inclusion appear to focus on the placement of pupils with disabilities in the mainstream provision; however, the Academy Trust, a specialist provision, suggests their school is inclusive. Gaining insight into the senior leadership team’s understandings and operationalization of inclusion will provide further understandings of inclusion in Multi Academy Trusts that are specialist provisions. In this study, I examine the understandings of eight members of a senior leadership team at a Multi Academy Trust. Participants were recruited through the Director of Research and Development at the Trust during their regularly scheduled meetings. Data were collected and triangulated though interviews, document reviews, and a focus group. Data was analyzed through qualitative thematic analysis. This study highlights the importance of strategic planning, Trust structure, pupil placement, curriculum, and evaluation systems in operationalizing inclusions for pupils with disabilities including autism. The findings also suggest inclusion, for senior leaders at the Multi Academy Trust, means meeting the individual needs of pupils, facilitating pupil voice, facilitating a sense of belonging, promoting independence, and maximizing pupil potential.