Many P.E.I. schools need more support for special needs students, survey says

·2 min read

A survey conducted by P.E.I.'s Public Schools Branch (PSB) indicates only a few of the 45 schools that took part feel they're able to effectively serve special needs students.

"There (were) only nine schools that identified they have enough support and are adequately meeting the needs of all students," the PSB's researcher Carolyn Duguay said.

The information was shared during a PSB board of directors meeting in mid-February. Student services director Terri MacAdam noted the survey results don't mean the remaining English schoolboard schools are entirely lacking in services.

"There were lots of schools that felt that in certain areas they were doing really well," she said in a follow-up interview with The Guardian.

The survey was part of MacAdam’s and her department's work to identify better evidence- and skills-based models for its schools in areas such as special needs services, French immersion, behavioural resources and school counseling.

P.E.I. has 56 English schools, and Duguay had requested that their principals fill out her survey.

"Most schools have identified that behaviour and mental health are the areas of greatest need," she said.

For special needs services, some of the barriers listed by principals are the physical space of their schools, funding and staffing limitations, time and paperwork, inconsistency between how schools implement services and the current model in general.

"Not all students fit into what we're asking them to fit into," Duguay said.

As well, principals reported it can be difficult getting parental support and engagement, especially at rural schools, she said.

Duguay has researched the models of other province's school boards, such as in Nova Scotia where model changes were just implemented this year. MacAdam said the plan is to finalize a report and recommendation for a more up-to-date model by the end of this year.

The report would hopefully be a benefit for P.E.I. students and families as well as speak to the question her department is constantly asking:

"How can we do things better?" she said. "We want to make sure we have evidence."

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Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian