Newfoundland report calls for overhaul of policy of inclusion in the classroom

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The Newfoundland and Labrador government should scrap its existing policy on classroom inclusion, an expert panel says in a newly released report that found students, parents and teachers across the province are convinced the system for dealing with students with special needs is broken.

The four-member task force, which conducted a broad review of the K-to-12 education system, is recommending the Department of Education rescind the 1996 inclusion policy and develop a new approach toward dealing with students with “exceptionalities.”

“Students with specific learning disorders are given little help and fall further and further behind,” says the report, released Tuesday. “Parents describe the ‘constant fight,’ for supports for their children year after year.”

In consultation sessions held across the province, the task force was repeatedly told there was broad support for the “internationally embraced model of inclusive education where all children, regardless of religion, culture, gender or ability, can attend the neighbourhood school.”

However, they were also told that even though every province in Canada accepts the notion of inclusive schools, students aren’t getting the help they need.

“The message was clear: inclusion, as a model of delivering supports to students with exceptionalities, is not working,” the report says.

The report says there has been an increase in the number of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and specific learning disabilities, including those with speech disorders.

In 2017, 22 per cent of students in Newfoundland and Labrador were documented as having at least one “exceptionality,” a slight increase from 2006. And even though there were 2,800 fewer students in the school system when compared with six years ago, there were 180 extra instructional resource teachers and identified need teachers.

Among other things, the report calls for using something called “small…

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