Nova Scotia to hire 173 more specialists for students with extra needs
$15M in extra classroom resources coming in September
The Nova Scotia government is once again beefing up services and programs aimed at helping students with extra needs, announcing Thursday it will hire 173 more inclusive education specialists, teachers and other assistants.
But even the minister accountable for the $15 million in spending, Education Minister Zach Churchill, acknowledged this second major infusion of cash would not be enough to solve every student's problems.
"No one said changes would happen overnight," Churchill said at Beechville Lakeside Timberlea Senior Elementary School. "Change is not an event, it is a process."
"But we're making a sincere and urgent effort to help as many classrooms and students and families as possible, and as quickly as possible."
The $15 million was promised in the spring budget. The new positions were announced Thursday and include:
- 18 guidance counsellors.
- 11 autism teacher specialists.
- 11 resource teachers.
- 30 education assistants.
- 32 child and youth care practitioners.
- 13 African-Nova Scotian and Mi'kmaw student-support workers.
- 11 pre-primary inclusion coaches.
- 8 schools-plus facilitators.
- 8 school psychologists and speech language pathologists.
- 3 student-health nurses.
- 4 transition supports for youth in care.
The province's largest school region, the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, will get the most help with 54 new support positions. It is followed by the Cape Breton Victoria Centre for Education, which is getting 24.5 new positions, and the Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education, which is getting 22.
This is the second year of a five-year plan to change inclusive education.
Last year, the provincial government also spent $15 million on new hires aimed at meeting its commitment to the recommendations made by the Commission for Inclusive Education. That funding went towards hiring 191 additional staff provincewide.
Review of inclusion efforts
Churchill also ordered an independent review of the government's efforts to improve inclusion supports. The consultants will be expected to report back publicly within the year.
"We want to know if we're helping our students achieve higher levels of success academically, and if we're helping our students with well-being," Churchill told reporters.
That review was welcomed by Cynthia Carroll, executive director at Autism Nova Scotia, who said it was important to judge whether changes were actually achieving results.
"When you start to infuse funding into a system, like any system we need arm's-length evaluation," she said. "So I was actually pleased to see that there will be a kind of a third-party evaluation to determine that."
Overall, Carroll called the changes to date positive, but her group had also heard from parents who continue to be dissatisfied with the available help for their children.
"What's happening is as we're putting in these new resources, there's so many demands on these positions," she said. "It's then how do you ensure that they are really kind of a value-add in the system and doing in this case what the parents are looking and asking for."