OBSERVER: THE special education policy being formulated by the Ministry of Education (MOE) is expected to be ready for implementation in September.
Dr Grace McLean, chief education officer in the MOE, told reporters and editors at last week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange that the special education policy is going through the process to be sent to Cabinet for approval, which is expected in short order.
“There's just one stage of another ministry it has to pass through before it goes on to Cabinet for approval and we expect that this will be done within the next three months or so and be ready for roll-out in September,” she said.
In relation to special needs, Dr McLean said the ministry spends a significant amount of money — close to $250 million annually for special education.
“We purchase spaces in schools which provide the specialised setting, the equipment and material for students with varying levels of special needs, especially for those who have the severe special needs and in some cases the moderate. We place them in the specialised settings,” she said.
She added: “The ministry also has about 35 centres that are part of our establishments where students are also placed. In addition to that, in selected institutions we have what we call a pull-out centre where for those who have some kind of mild special needs, we allow them to be supported in those institutions.”
But she said when the policy comes on stream, more schools will have to ensure they are inclusive to the needs of special education students.
Dr McLean further made an appeal to the public and stakeholders to understand that these children are the vulnerable among us and we must ensure that the duty of care is exercised for them.
“They are not going away, and we don't want them to go away. We want to identify them early and start treating before it becomes chronic. While they are with us we have to find a way to ensure we exercise the duty of care and I'll appeal to persons to report inadequacies and for parents not to hide these children when you realise they will need special care,” she said.
“Where there are inadequacies, bring them to our attention and we will do the necessary investigations and ensure the child is maximising his or her potential.”
Dr McLean added that the ministry has a full special education unit, which parents of special needs children should utilise.
— Kimberley Hibbert
CAPTION: Dr Grace McLean, Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education, Youth and Information