The inability to properly deliver inclusive education is a top concern of teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to a final report on public education in the province.
The report, which followed consultations held online and throughout the province last year, says classroom teachers don't feel they have enough support to properly teach students with special needs, and have more concerns about inclusion of those children than any other topic.
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"While few teachers quarrel with the intent of [the inclusive education] policy, many have grave concerns with its actual implementation as it has been accompanied by far too few resources," the report, written by two Memorial University professors, states.
"The circumstances remain untenable from the perspective of many teachers and other panel members."
Jim Dinn, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association, as well as Federation of School Councils' Director Denise Pike and Kirk Anderson, the dean of Memorial University's Faculty of Education, led a travelling panel that studied the status of public education in the province.
While no representatives from the provincial government or the province's school districts participated, the panel hit 11 communities and received hundreds of online comments.
"There are significant challenges facing the system that need to be addressed, and certainly one of them would be inclusive education," Dinn told CBC News.
Teachers submitted 144 concerns relating to inclusive education, compared to 92 about resources and 69 about teacher workload.
"In a class with students on [standard and inclusive] programming, no matter how much planning a teacher does, it is IMPOSSIBLE for the needs of all of these students to be met adequately," one comment read. While another said the province's "So-called inclusionary practices actually exclude those very students they're supposed to help."
More wrap-around supports, union says
The report suggests the province's current model of inclusive education, which includes a specialized Instructional Resource Teacher to help co-ordinate and deliver inclusive education, is failing.
Those specialized inclusion teachers reported that they were overburdened, and struggling to support the number of students on their workload. One reported having 66 diagnosed students.
"We are lucky to receive IRT support for maybe one or two periods of mathematics or language arts," one teacher wrote.
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The NLTA-led report issued dozens of recommendations. It called for more training programs for parents and teachers, and increased instructional resources teachers, school counselors and educational psychologists in schools.
"There's need for a greater coordination of services," Dinn said. "You're looking at the inclusion of social workers and occupational therapists within the system as well, in some sort of coordinated effort dealing with meeting the needs that teachers in the school system face."
Dinn said he's encouraged that the Department of Education has agreed to meet and talk about the recommendations.