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Special Needs Education Policy Issues and Challenges Deborah Roseveare Israel Accession Seminar 22 -23 Special Needs Education Policy Issues and Challenges Deborah Roseveare Israel Accession Seminar 22 -23 November, 2011

What are special needs? Wide variations across countries on definitions and policy approaches Two What are special needs? Wide variations across countries on definitions and policy approaches Two broad definitions: 1. “students with disabilities and learning difficulties” reflects: – characteristics of the child – medical/psychological/social nature of their difficulties 2. “students with special educational needs” emphasises: – nature of their learning needs – gap to bridge between normal educational provision and tailored educational responses

What are special needs? How many students are receiving special needs education? • Finland: What are special needs? How many students are receiving special needs education? • Finland: more than 30% of children receive special education • England: nearly 20% of children classified as having special needs • Japan: special needs education covers less than 3% of children • Within the US, share of students covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in each state range from just over 10% to around 20%

What are special needs? Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) becoming more significant In United States What are special needs? Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) becoming more significant In United States – estimated prevalence of ASD among 8 year olds increased from almost 0. 7% in 2002 to 0. 9% in 2006 – California: students with ASD 8. 8% of special education enrolments In Japan – 1/3 of children in special schools and 3/4 of children in special classes are ASD – children with autism receiving special services in resource rooms doubled between 2006 and 2009 In England – 8% of all students in state schools receiving special education services under Special Action Plus or a Statement were ASD

What are special needs? In practice, boundaries typically based on some combination: Criteria/processes for What are special needs? In practice, boundaries typically based on some combination: Criteria/processes for identifying the student and assessing his/her education needs Specific funding arrangements for children with special needs Range of learning settings and specific interventions that may be provided

Special needs presents policy challenges Strong commitment in countries to providing education that: • Special needs presents policy challenges Strong commitment in countries to providing education that: • enables all children to realise their full potential • avoids discrimination of students with disabilities and learning difficulties But … Designing policies to achieve these commitments and ensuring that these commitments are fully realised in practice has always been a complex task.

What tensions emerging? special needs education requires additional resources. . . and education budgets What tensions emerging? special needs education requires additional resources. . . and education budgets are under pressure Public spending on special needs: • Almost 17% of K-12 general fund expenditures in California • Around 13% of total spending on schools in Scotland At this point: • Difficult to get comprehensive picture of outlays on special needs within countries • Impossible to develop reliable international statistical comparisons

Funding Models for Special Education Discretionary funding provide separate funds for special education purposes Funding Models for Special Education Discretionary funding provide separate funds for special education purposes Categorical funding allocate additional funding to each student with an identified disability, with the amount based on the child’s degree and type of disability Voucher-based funding provide a direct public payment to parents to cover their child’s public or private school costs Census-based allocate funding on the basis of the number of students with certain weighted characteristics, such as socioeconomic status or the type and degree of disability Actual costs funding allocate funding based on the actual costs involved in providing special education services Source: Mitchell, D. , (2010), Education that Fits: Review of International Trends in the Education of Students with Special Educational Needs, www. educationcounts. govt. nz

What tensions emerging? special needs provisions may be abused by some parents or schools What tensions emerging? special needs provisions may be abused by some parents or schools to: Ø gain a competitive edge over other pupils, or Ø additional resources, or Ø a shift in responsibilities In the United Kingdom • Recent Ofsted review said as many as half of all pupils identified for School Action would not be identified as having special needs if schools focussed on improving teaching and learning for all In Australia • Studies show paediatricians are being pressured to inflate diagnoses of emotional and behavioural so that children get support services

What tensions emerging? resources allocated to children with special needs are not spent on What tensions emerging? resources allocated to children with special needs are not spent on other children, raising equity concerns, especially when budgets under pressure If authorities obliged to provide certain level of services for children with special needs within fixed budgets then less for other children “As principal when a child enrolled in our school with a need for a one-onone adult assistant, I had to cancel the after-school tutoring that served about 60 low-income students who were behind grade level in reading and math” “The school was devastated when a family with three children who needed 100 000 USD worth of services moved into town. Two classroom teachers were laid off to hire the required SPED teachers, this resulted in all 5 th and 6 th graders in the school being adversely impacted. ”

What tensions emerging? Ø children with special needs may not get appropriate support Ø What tensions emerging? Ø children with special needs may not get appropriate support Ø approaches used may not be cost-effective Ø successful outcomes are difficult to define and measure Main contentions 1 What diagnostic tools, services and procedures are needed, who should provide them, who should bear the cost and how diagnostic practices align with legal requirements 2 What interventions are most appropriate, where they should be provided – within, or as a complement to a regular class, in a special class or in a special school – and how the decisions are taken 3 What criteria should be used to define successful intervention and how should educational outcomes be measured for students with special education needs

What tensions emerging? Ø lobby groups and advocacy shape policies and practices Ø parents What tensions emerging? Ø lobby groups and advocacy shape policies and practices Ø parents are sometimes frustrated with processes and outcomes In some countries a general presumption that inclusion is always best – often driven by a rights-based rather than evidence-based approach Evidence on benefits of inclusion for both special needs and other students is relatively limited and somewhat mixed Parents of typically developing children have more positive attitudes towards inclusion than parents of children with disabilities, who often indicated that inclusion was not a good option for their child But some parents express frustration and may become strong advocates for their children’s needs. In some countries, lawsuits have become a way to resolve disputes or obtain particular services

What policy challenges are countries facing? Improving policies for students with special education needs What policy challenges are countries facing? Improving policies for students with special education needs and to help them achieve better educational and social outcomes How to define special needs and special needs education? Does a single definition work both for assisting each child and for the system as a whole? How to ensure all children with special needs are properly Identified and children are not misdiagnosed because of either professional error or to gain access to How to ensure that children extra resources? with special needs get a cost-effective response that improves learning outcomes and wellbeing and also provided as costeffectively as possible?

What policy challenges are countries facing? Improving policies for students with special education needs What policy challenges are countries facing? Improving policies for students with special education needs and to help them achieve better educational and social outcomes How to finance services? How to manage trade-offs between financing additional support for special needs and funding available for other children? How to reconcile parents’ wishes with advice of professionals and with available resources? How to build more evidence into policy making? What data or indicators are most relevant to inform policy decisions?

Thank you! Thank you!