Definition of the target groups
In the Maltese educational system children are recognised as having special needs after they have been duly assessed by the Statementing Moderating Panel and Appeals Board (SMP/AB) that is composed of professionals from different fields. Together with parents/guardians and/or student/parent advocates as well as other professionals, written assessments/referrals of students are evaluated by the Board in order to identify the type of support needed by the learner.
Only learners who have been identified as requiring extra support by the SMP/AB are recognised as learners with special educational needs, and in which case an Individualized Educational Programme (IEP) will be formulated for each learner.
In general, a child with special needs is defined as “that minor (who) has special difficulties of a physical, sensory, intellectual or psychological nature” (Special Schools Reform). Broadly, there are seven categories recognised as needing special support. These learners would have been assessed to have one or more of the following:
1. Intellectual disability
2. Autism Spectrum Disorders/Pervasive Developmental Disorder
3. Communication disorder
4. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Hyperkinetic Disorder
5. Severe behavioural difficulties and Conduct Disorder
6. Mental Health and Distress
7. Physical, medical and neurological conditions
8. Sensory difficulties (Hearing and Visual Impairment)
9. Multiple disabilities.
However, some students with special needs attending mainstream schools may also require additional support services that are provided by the National Schools Support Services or in specialised educational setting called Resource Centres and Learning Support Centres. These services include:
• Support from the Autism Spectrum Support Team
• Support from teachers of the hearing and visually impaired
• Support from the Early Intervention Service
• Learning Support Zones / Nurture Groups
• Assessment and/or intervention by the School Psycho-Social Services
• Hospital classes
• Home tuition
• Support from the psychosocial team
• Head of Department (Inclusion) (HoDs Inclusion)
• Multi-Sensory Learning Rooms
• Autism Units
Specific Support Measures
It is one of the key educational policies of Malta to include children with individual education needs within mainstream education and assigned a Learning Support Educator (LSE) on a full-time one-to-one basis, shared same class or on a shared basis depending on the student’s needs. The role of the LSE is to assist students with individual educational needs in the classroom and provide additional support to enhance their learning experience. LSEs are expected to encourage the students they support and be able to maintain their interest and motivation in class. LSEs must work in close collaboration with the class or subject teacher.
Students with individual educational needs, follow the same curriculum as their peers with the necessary adaptations to facilitate access to the curriculum. Each student has an Individualised Educational Programme (IEP), designed specifically for his/her needs. All IEPs are based on and follow the National Curriculum Framework (NCF). Sometimes the curriculum needs to be modified and/or adapted to suit the needs of these learners. In the secondary years the curriculum (Maths, English and Maltese) is delivered at different levels, suited for the different abilities of learners.
Learners may also receive additional time for the learning of a subject and/or may have a reduced number of subjects in their timetable. In addition, students with special educational needs are assisted during examinations and may be given access exam arrangements depending on the nature and severity of their needs as recommended by educational psychologist supporting the learner.
All schools in Malta must by law be accessible to students with mobility problems. All schools must have ramps and specially adapted toilet facilities for wheelchair-bound students.
In 2015, the Learning Outcomes Framework (LOF) project was launched. The Learning Outcomes (LO’s) emanated out of the National Curriculum Framework and aim to be the backbone of learning and assessment for compulsory education programmes. The process of developing and implementing the Learning Outcomes involved consultation and teacher training. The LO’s are being introduced as follows:
Kinder I, Year 3 & Year 7
Kinder II, Year 4 & Year 8
Year 1, Year 5 & Year 9
Year 2, Year 6 & Year 10