While I don’t have individual percentages for the number of special needs children in Canadian schools, the link that Maria S. (Dodo Can Spell) gave me is a real eye opener. Check out this “Biased BBC“ site, for instance, which is referring to a U.K. report from Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) regarding the claim that one in five U.K. children has a special need.
Now, the key question to ask is whether or not the term “special need” is referring to children at risk, children who are vulnerable for some reason (maybe English is their second language) versus children with a diagnosed disability. If it is the former, then they should NOT be labelled as “special needs” and school boards and school districts should not get extra funding.
Because, what they are, in fact, are just regular children or teens who simply need more time to learn a skill or content, which they can do with a teacher or tutor after school — or dare I say it, simply by being exposed to good teaching.
But, in terms of the refrain: “all we need is more money,” we hear the same claims and arguments in Canada, too. As though money will solve everything. Yet, the exact amount that goes towards special needs is actually quite staggering. For example, the Ontario Liberal government has increased special needs grants to school boards from $14.4 Billion per year (when they came to power in 2003) to this year’s projection of $20.2 Billion. (Note: stay on the Ontario government link for a couple of seconds and the table will come up.)
Now, think about that 20 billion amount times ten provinces and three territories and you begin to see why I say the amount designated towards special needs is staggering. Yet, how come we read that some boards, like the District School Board of Niagara, do not get enough for special education? Are some school boards getting more than others? And, is the amount of money spent on special education the same in every Canadian province and territory?
Clearly, something is not adding up. So, do I think the one in five numbers in the U.K. indicate a scam and is the same thing going on in Canada? I don’t know, but I sure would like to find out. Perhaps a trustee or classroom teacher can answer the following questions, anonymously if necessary: (1) Are children being labelled special needs just so school boards can get more grant money; and (2) once received, is the grant money being designated to help them?
In Ontario at least, I can say for sure that we need a change in government so that we can get answers.