Inclusion on the agenda as N.S. teachers and government return to bargaining
As Nova Scotia teachers and the provincial government head back to the bargaining table this weekend, the issue of inclusion of special needs students in the classroom is now being spoken of more openly.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union calls properly funded inclusion “a core value of public education,” but some parents say the current system isn’t working.
“I believe that it can work,” says Judith Dardon, a mother who has two special needs children. Her youngest attends a public school with an individual program plan.
“It has a very good program in regards to a learning centre, a resource centre, speech therapy,” says Dardon.
Those resources, along with hands-on parent involvement, makes it possible for Dardon’s daughter to succeed in public school. But Dardon admits the family doesn’t know if she will stay in the public system.
Dardon’s oldest son already attends a private school for children with special needs.
“We thought that he needed a very specific type of education, a teacher or a program who could be designed for him,” Dardon explains.
Tracey Hilliard recently wrote a Facebook post about her son’s experience with inclusion.
“It doesn’t work, nobody’s winning from this. The children are becoming frustrated, the teachers are more than frustrated,” Hilliard says.
Both mothers believe inclusion can work, but right now, the resources aren’t there.
“It can be as simple as having students spend time together at recess or lunchtime on the school grounds; that’s inclusion,” continues Hilliard.
Last week, Education Minister Karen Casey acknowledged she’s been hearing similar concerns from teachers since the labour dispute began.
“When they’re telling me class composition, complexities in the classroom, they’re talking about the broad range of learners in the classroom, the broad range of needs of students in the classroom,” Casey said.
Dardon says the composition of Nova Scotia classrooms needs to work for all students.
In the last round of negotiations, the teachers union asked the government to cap the number of individual program plans at three per classroom, which could necessitate up to three teacher assistants.
Government said at the time that proposal would cost $20 million to implement, and that eventually they’d run out of classroom space and teachers.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie.