Troubled students dropped out

The Québec Ombudsman’s special report on services — or lack of services — for students in difficulty adds a heavy stone to our rickety edifice of public services in disarray, due to a lack of resources and efficient organization. Here in our primary schools we have small “emergencies”, such as in the hospital: we do the triage there, we hand out difficulty codes, we hope to have the resources in time and watch, if necessary, helplessly and helplessly the initially mild cases worsen before our eyes.

There’s nothing very surprising about this special report that looked at facilities for struggling students in primary schools and concluded bluntly: not enough services, often delivered with endless delays, and on a funding model that doesn’t serve the purpose. For nearly twenty years, the education network has struggled to find ways to optimize the big picture of special education, which encompasses all the recipes deployed to enable students to evolve in a mainstream classroom despite their specific challenges, thanks to specialized resources . But since the adoption of the special education policy by the Ministry of Education in 1999, the song of the lack of resources and the limitations of adaptation has not ceased to resound.

So nothing surprising, but the absence of surprise makes it a very disturbing report. The study, conducted just before the pandemic and looking only at the primary network, concludes no more or less that the Department of Education is violating its own laws and policies by not offering children who need it the service they need. to have. entitled. The Education Act guarantees students access to additional services, including all the services a student in difficulty would expect – and we add: when he needs them! These services range from remedial education to psychology, including speech therapy, psychoeducation or special education.

However, when the services arrive, it takes so long that they miss their original purpose, which is to support a child to avoid failing in school. In fact, the Guardian’s research allows us to understand that for lack of resources, schools are limited to only intervene when the child fails, which masterfully challenges any prevention policy and early action, principles that nevertheless guide all actions in lead education.

If the Québec ombudsman dwells on this crucial question, it is because students with special needs are not a negligible part of the school population. In 2019-20 this group represented 18.2% of all primary school children. Of this percentage a quarter are said to be disabled and three quarters have adjustment and learning difficulties.

Parents whose child has particular challenges at school face a real obstacle course to access services: many parents interviewed as part of this survey stated that they had waited more than eight months to access the some assessment of their child’s needs, and eight additional months after that to have access to a few hours of shifts here and there. That’s the equivalent of… two years of school! Many parents also turn to expensive private services—sometimes even at the behest of the school, inundated by events—and sometimes it’s just turned down by public school professionals, who don’t recognize the conclusions of private experts.

In addition, as the system continues to allocate some of the funding based on “codes” given to certain groups of children for funding set aside for them, the school — and even the parents — have become accustomed to having a ​diagnosis and then a code , to hope for a budget. This is completely contrary to the spirit of special education policies and is especially harmful to children.

What must we do ? The shortage of manpower is, of course, at the heart of this report, which touts the lack of resources. But this one argument can no longer be used to explain all the shortcomings. One of the most relevant recommendations is the comprehensive overview of financing services for learners in difficulty, centered around a minimum of services, regardless of school. Improved job tracking is also suggested, as visual navigation completely detracts from effective scheduling. Finally, the protector asks the ministry to provide an implementation plan for each of the 11 proposed actions by the next school year. We look forward to the results of this crucial project.

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