12.1 SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS PROVISION WITHIN MAINSTREAM EDUCATION
•1 Definition of the target group(s)
In the ECEC sector there is no precise definition of the target groups. Although the Law mentions that the ECEC sector should enable inclusion of the children with special needs (Article 168). The Program for Early Learning contains the Principle of equal opportunities and respect for differences among children and principle of multiculturalism, that states that all children regardless of their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic and cultural differences as well as different health and special needs have a right of access to education. The Principle of alignment with age characteristics and principle of individualization state that the personality and individual needs, interests, abilities of all children all children including those with special needs should be respected and nurtured.
Within the School sector the Law for primary and Law for Secondary Education provide the overarching legal provision of inclusiveness. Primary and secondary education are compulsory and free for all children from ages 6 to 18.
Specific definition of the target groups are listed in the Law for Primary education (Article 35) and further elaborated within the Concept for inclusive education. The Concept defines the following target groups (and the Article 35 of the Law lists only the first three):
- Pupils with special needs – pupils that have long lasting physical, mental, intellectual or sensory disorders which in interaction with other societal barriers might hinder their effective inclusion in society on similar grounds as the rest of the population
- Pupils with behavioural or emotional problems or specific learning problems
- Pupils that live in socio-economic, cultural and/or linguistically deprived environment
- Pupils with complex needs – pupils that have complex problems, multiple disorders, complex health issues and need of intensive help and support
- Children/pupils with foreign citizenship, children without citizenship, refugee children, asylum seekers, children in subsidiary care, children with temporary protection in the country
- Children who were excluded from education and are older
- Children/pupils that are vulnerable on other ground and need special care and support in the educational process
The Law for Primary Education also defines the talented and gifted pupils as special target group (Article 34). The pupils that have one or more abilities that are above the level of their peers are listed as talented/gifted. The Article further stipulate that giftedness is usually related to high achievement in science, mathematics and talent is usually tied to achievement in art, sport, music and design.
•2 Specific support measures
The Law on primary education regulates full inclusion of students with special needs in Article 11. According to this article primary education is institutionally set, with adequate personnel and content organized, to support the inclusion of all children in regular primary education. Furthermore, it states that inclusive education is a process that considers different individual needs for development of students, providing equal opportunities for the realization of basic human rights for development and quality education. This means that changes and adjustments of the teaching content, approach, structures and strategies for students with disabilities, are imployed with a common vision that the state has an obligation to provide education for all children. Some affirmative measures in order to overcome discrimination and exclusion of children and adults are applied in primary education such as non-application of the provision for reoonization in the enrollment of students with disabilities, free transportation for students with disabilities etc. The number of students with disabilities in a class is determined by the school inclusive team referred to in Article 16 of this Law, taking care of equal distribution by classes, depending on the type of disability and the type and scope of the necessary adjustments.
The inclusion of all children in regular primary education is defined by the Concept for Inclusive Education, adopted by the Minister at the proposal of the Bureau for Development of Education.
The infrastructure, the individualized support, the curriculum in the primary education are reasonably adapted according to the individual needs of the student. Accessibility to infrastructure and services means taking measures to ensure that students with disabilities have access, on an equal base to the physical environment, transport, information and communication, including information and communication technologies and systems in primary school.
The concept for Inclusive Education envisages that whole school approach is applied, meaning building the capacities of the school itself for the development of an inclusive climate and providing systematic support to the overall educational staff.
Expert bodies make functional assessment of students in compliance to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) of the World Health Organization. Disability in this context is seen as dynamic interaction of the person and the environmental factors and the assessment is made with an aim to integrate different perspectives of functionality through application of the biopsychological model. The functionality assessment is determining the opportunities and needs of the child to enroll preschool institutions, mainstream school as well as reaching the rights in the domain of social, health care and employment according to legal regulations. Based on the functionality assessment of the child, youngster and family, the following measures for support could be enabled in the field of upbringing and education:
- Prioritization for enrolling pre-school institution
- Preschool programs for children with disabilities,
- Education with intensified support, services with educational assistance,
- Services with personal assistance,
- Individualized educational support with professional associate,
- Counseling work with the child or youngster,
- Counseling work with family,
- Use of adjusted teaching aids and tools as well as technological assistance,
- Support of students to use Brae alphabet, individualized movement, personal technological tools, sign language or other alternative forms of communication,
- Overcoming the language barrier where instruction is in different language than the mother tongue language of the child,
- Additional educational support for children in cases of longer absence from teaching due to illness,
- Мandatory training of teachers and professional associates who are directly involved in the educational work in accordance with the inclusive principles, for the use of assistive technology, alternative means of communication,
- Secured transport from the place of residence to the educational institution etc.
To build an inclusive school, interventions are based according to the multi-tiered support. This model includes transformations and interventions in the curriculum and syllabi, teaching strategies, activities and materials, as well as continuous monitoring of the process of implementing interventions on at least 3 levels to support learning:
- Level 1 - general support - decided by the school in cooperation with the student and his / her parents / guardians and there is no need for a formal decision. In addition to the teacher, the support also includes professional associates who keep records of student progress. Learning should be aimed at individualization and differentiation of the teaching process by applying appropriate teaching methods and tools. It is often best to find individual learning style and practice through various learning techniques, strengthen concentration and activate higher thinking processes, as well as strengthen the emotional component. Individual support should be aimed at acquiring skills that reduce initial inequality and provide conditions for encouraging and developing student potential. Professional associates can help the student to develop a positive self-image and strengthen self-confidence, develop speech and communication skills, habits and care for themselves and their own safety, encourage and develop cooperation with others and respect the organization of learning and ways of learning.
- Level 2 – intensified support – secured when the general support is not giving the expected results. School inclusive team is making the evaluation of the needed support provided by the expert bodies to provide functional support. Individual educational plan (IEP) is developed and the team of school associates makes plan for interventions to assist the student as early as possible through interventions developed to aim for learning and improved functionality of the student.
- Level 3 – special support – is provided on the basis of the evaluation of the expert bodies that made functional assessment for the student. Basically, this support is similar to the intensified support, but with increased intensity and multifunctional interventions based on modified curricula for the student.
All three levels of support are provided in mainstream schools in cooperation with parents/guardians in the best interest of the student. There is also an opportunity to provide support for the student in the schools with resource centers and/or centers for learning support in the form defined in the modified curricula.
Inclusive education in mainstream schools is secured through 2 types of inclusive teams: School Inclusive Team (SIT) and Inclusive Team for a Student (ITS). The SIT is formed by the school director and is comprised of 7 members: director, pedagogist or psychologist or social worker, 2 teachers employed in the school, 2 parents/guardians, special educator and rehabilitator. In cases when the school doesn’t have employed some of the professional associates, they are recruited from the resource school or centers for learning support. This team is responsible for inclusive policies and practices on the school level, plans and implements activities that should be utilized in the educational work. The ITS is formed by the director of the school and is comprised by teachers involved in the education of the student, student’s parent/guardian, pedagogist or psychologist or social worker and special educator and rehabilitator. This team can be amended with additional members to support the student such as physician, teaching or personal assistant and any outside of school person that is included in the wellbeing of the student. This team is responsible to implement the recommended support measures from the functional assessment. According to student’s individual potential and needs an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed and followed throughout the school year. IEP is developed in the first 30 days after the enrolment of the student and start of the school year. It includes adaptations in the results from learning, introduction of specific activities and teaching methods that will enable reaching the results.
Assessment of students in the first period (first to third grade) according to the developed IEP is descriptive, while in the second (fourth to sixth grade) and third period (seventh to ninth grade) can be either descriptive either numeric assessment considering the engagement of the student and the results achieved according to the IEP. Students that follow modified teaching program are assessed descriptive considering the individual achievement of the stated results from learning. The manner of assessment of SEN students is adopted by the Minister at the proposal of the Bureau for Development of Education. The manner of monitoring and assessment of student’s progress is adjusted according to student’s cognitive skills, opportunitites and limitations and ways of possible expression. The assessment is adjusted according to the specific needs of the students by applying: written tests in Braille, enlarged letter format, electronic version, audio format, etc., use of assistive technology, longer time for the test, assistance in reading the test questions, observed breaks and flexible curriculum, presence of an educational assistant. When forming the grade, the teacher uses all the completed instruments and collected evidence from the formative assessment such as student papers, student portfolio, samples of works, observed patterns of behavior, checklists, anecdotal notes in order to achieve objectivity in the assessment of the student.