Nova Scotia spends $974K to cut psychological testing waitlist of 300 students

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McNeil calls 24 per cent salary jump for school board members 'unacceptable'

McNeil calls 24 per cent salary jump for school board members 'unacceptable'

The Nova Scotia government is spending $974,000 to cut the waitlist of 300 public school students who need in-school, psychological-educational assessments.

"So I think we recognize that the need has grown, students presenting themselves with challenges has grown, and so we need to make sure that we have, at the end of this, a staff in place in our school boards that can respond to those recommendations as soon as they come forward," Education Minister Karen Casey told reporters Thursday.

The assessments determine what programming and resources need to be in the classroom for students with learning disabilities, behaviour problems and other complex needs.

"The assessments help to identify the students strengths and their challenges and will lead to improved learning and social development outcomes and will allow them to become engaged in their learning in a more positive way," Casey said during a news conference at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.

Mount Saint Vincent University helps

The government has partnered with Mount Saint Vincent University to have registered psychologists, along with four senior master's students from the university's psychology program carry out the assessments, which will begin within weeks for Grade Primary to 12 students.

Casey later told reporters she hopes to have the waitlist eliminated by September.

Once the waitlist is gone, government will also look at adjusting the 1 to 1,800 ratio of school psychologists to students in order to respond more quickly to referrals.

"And if we have to increase that to accommodate the ongoing referrals we will do that," Casey said.

"I can't tell you how many there will be, I know we'll be working with the school boards as to what their needs are and what we currently have.

"Right now, it's very difficult because school psychologists are trying to address the ongoing referrals and deal with a backlog."

Testing helped student get support

Herbie Berrigan, a business administration student at the Mount, said an assessment he had done in high school helped to identify his learning disability and get the support and tools he needed. He finished high school with honours and that support has continued in university.

"The support system that I get, extra tutoring, longer time in exams, it really helps me to put that focus where I need it to be," Berrigan said Thursday.