Definition of the Target Groups
Several categories of learners who are vulnerable exist, who although not officially recognised as learners requiring special needs’ support, are in fact provided with support measures to help them in their educational experience. These include children from families with socio-economic and personal challenges; immigrant children (accompanied or unaccompanied); and children of asylum seekers or given refugee status; children from families with mental health difficulties and physical and mental illnesses; children who exhibit social and emotional behaviour challenges.
Specific Support Measures
Support measures specific for children from families with socio-economic disadvantages include the provision of guidance and counselling services by qualified school personnel as well as support from other Education Psycho-Social practitioners as offered by the National Schools Support Services. Such learners may also be provided with additional support through Scheme 9 such as photocopies, daily lunches, uniforms and stationery.
In 2021 a means tested Children’s Allowance Supplement was introduced by the Ministry for Social Policy and Children’s Rights. A €50 per child per year is granted to Children’s Allowance beneficiaries who exceed the means testing threshold of €25,409. Beneficiaries not exceeding the means testing threshold will be awarded €70 per child per year. This supplement is granted in addition to the regular Children’s Allowance benefit. Budget 2022 launched a €10,000 fund for vulnerable students in which the government will provide €10,000 per year to heads of State primary and secondary schools to spend on food and other basic resources for vulnerable students coming from disadvantaged family backgrounds.
Another measure is aimed at the integration into mainstream schools of immigrant minor children, the children of asylum seekers or of refugees. Refugees under the age of eighteen who arrive in Malta unaccompanied by adult relatives are considered as learners at risk. Support measures are aimed at eliminating or reducing the educational disadvantage that such students experience due to linguistic, social and cultural barriers. Supporting measures include the following which fall under the responsibility of the Migrant Learners Unit (MLU):
1. Social workers who prepare care plans to help such children integrate in mainstream institutions and to prepare individual transition programmes;
2. Specific language support for such children to learn Maltese and/or English both during the scholastic year and through the Language to Go! Summer courses;
3. The raising of classmates’ awareness of the child’s native language, customs, beliefs and ethnic diversity in order to facilitate the child’s inclusion in class;
4. Liaison with non-educational social welfare institutions to ensure that such children and their families enjoy the basic living requirements.
5. Liaising between all stakeholders involved in the provision of education to migrant children, including the School Leadership Teams, the families and all service providers, through the Community Liaison Workers’ service. (Migrants Learners unit, 2016)
6. Continuous evaluation of such children within the Maltese education system and society at large.
The Migrant Learners’ Unit within the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes seeks to promote the inclusion of newly arrived learners into the education system.