North

Yukon launches review of special education, after auditor general finds flaws

The Yukon government says an independent review of the territory's education system is aimed at improving inclusive and special education.

Educator hired to conduct independent review, make recommendations for improvement

The review follows a report last year from the office of the auditor general that found Yukon had committed to providing more inclusive programming in schools — but hadn't really followed through. (François Gagnon/Radio-Canada)

The Yukon government says an independent review of the territory's education system is aimed at improving inclusive and special education.

It follows an auditor general's report released last year that found significant failings in the territory's education system.

The report found, among other things, that Yukon had earlier committed to providing more inclusive programming in schools — but hadn't really followed through.

"Half of the teachers who responded to our survey felt that they did not have the supports they needed to deliver inclusive education, and two-thirds of those same teachers reported that they lacked sufficient training to do so," the report states.

It describes "inclusive education" as being "based on the belief that all students can learn together in different ways."

On Monday, the government announced that Nikki Yee, an educator and doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, had been hired to conduct an independent review of inclusive and special education and make recommendations to improve the system.

"Hopefully there will be different avenues that people can participate [in], so we can get a broad cross-section of stories from different people," Yee said of her review.

Nikki Yee, an educator and doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, has been hired to conduct the review. (Submitted by Nikki Yee)

She said rural and Indigenous students tend to have different experiences with the education system — and she wants to hear their views as well.

"Just including all of those stories is going to be really important to inform this review," Yee said.

Little follow-up on individual education plans

In its report, the office of the auditor general described how Yukon was failing to consider how or whether it was actually serving students with special needs.

It said individual education plans had been crafted for 41 Yukon students with special needs,over two school years. Of the total 82 plans, only two had the required progress reports, and just five had been reviewed and updated as required. Four of those plans showed that recommended services and supports had been delivered.

"We saw that very few of the 82 had any evidence that the students got the services or support they were supposed to get. Our overall observation for inclusive education is that the department doesn't know if their approach is working," the report says.

The report recommended a "full review of its services and supports for inclusive education." The Yukon government agreed, and promised to begin a review last fall and have recommendations by spring 2020.

Yee said she's just getting started, but aims to have some initial recommendations by June.

"I know the department is very motivated to act," Yee said. 

"But it's important to kind of gather all of the stories and experiences, so that we have a good common understanding of what's going on for kids, and what's going on for people within the system in their support of kids."

With files from Christine Genier

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