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NDP urges immediate action on inclusive education

NDP education critic Lorraine Michael.
NDP education critic Lorraine Michael.

The NDP is calling on the provincial government to take immediate steps to address inclusion issues in Newfoundland and Labrador’s K-12 school system.

The party sent out a news release urging action on inclusion problems before the 2017-18 school year, two days after the Premier’s Task Force on Improving Educational Outcomes released its report.

The report, called “Now is the Time: The Next Chapter in Education in Newfoundland and Labrador,” made 82 recommendations on how to improve multiple areas of the education system. Premier Dwight Ball and Education Minister Dale Kirby said despite the number of action items, they don’t feel the report is indicative of a failing system. Kirby said while there is an urgency to improve the system, it “doesn’t say the sky is falling.”

NDP urges immediate action on inclusive education

But the NDP, in its release, said the report was highly critical of the education system.

Michael applauded the taskforce’s work. She said she hears from teachers and parents regularly about the issues in the report, especially on the subject of inclusion.

The taskforce wrote in its report that an inclusion philosophy, which was adopted in 2009, was interpreted to mean all students must be in the “regular classroom.”

“This interpretation has served neither students nor teachers well,” the report reads.

Michael said when that inclusion model was introduced, there was no separate policy created for special education to ensure students still received the appropriate supports.

“One of the worst, most misguided inclusion practices has been to force all students into the main classroom all the time, regardless of their needs. The result was that there has been nothing for children who cannot always be in the classroom. They are sent home,” Michael said.

“The situation is absolutely unacceptable. The minister has the power to address this before people go back to school in September, and he must see the urgency of putting resources in place so children with exceptionalities don’t have to endure another year of not having their needs met.”

The province has set the 2018 school year as the target to begin implementing improvements. 
However, both Ball and Kirby said planning and preparation is already underway with the completion of one of the recommendations — the appointment of Eldred Barnes as associate deputy minister. Barnes will oversee the development of an action plan for the implementation of the report’s recommendations.

To read the full report, visit www.ed.gov.nl.ca/edu/task_force/report.pdf.

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With files from Diane Crocker, The Western Star

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