Some en­cour­aged by ed­u­ca­tion re­port but have con­cerns with im­ple­men­ta­tion

Pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment high­lights need for in­clu­sion in school sys­tem

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOSH HEALEY THE BEA­CON

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s ed­u­ca­tion re­port, en­ti­tled “Now is the Time” goes to great lengths to iden­tify the prov­ince’s next steps — from in­clu­sion to men­tal health to indige­nous ed­u­ca­tion, there is a lot of work to be done in schools.

The re­port has been gen­er­ally well re­ceived by stake­hold­ers, al­though there are some con­cerns in terms of im­ple­ment­ing its 82 rec­om­men­da­tions.

The doc­u­ment was pre­pared by the ed­u­ca­tional out­comes task force and cov­ers the prov­ince’s K to 12 ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Tess He­meon, man­ager of com­mu­nity en­gage­ment at the Autism So­ci­ety of New­found­land and Labrador, said she was mostly pleased by the task force’s find­ings.

“There wasn’t any huge sur­prise when we first laid our hands on the re­port,” said He­meon. “Pretty much from the first sen­tence, the re­port is about in­clu­sion and the fact that it’s not work­ing.”

He­meon noted that both ed­u­ca­tors and stu­dents come to the Autism So­ci­ety with is­sues con­cern­ing in­clu­sion. Many of the re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tions, such as the need for small group in­struc­tion, mir­ror what she’s been hear­ing.

Fur­ther­more, He­meon also high­lighted the re­port in­cludes many rec­om­men­da­tions that have al­ready been in­tro­duced in other prov­inces, ef­fec­tively bring­ing New­found­land and Labrador’s school sys­tem on par.

“When we travel to na­tional con­fer­ences and in­ter­act with other autism or­ga­ni­za­tions across Canada, one of the big things that stands out is that our in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is not func­tion­ing the way theirs is,” she said.

Al­though she is en­cour­aged by the re­port, He­meon said the next step is in­vest­ing in the prov­ince’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

James Dinn, pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (NLTA), also spoke to the im­por­tance of the next step.

“What we see in this doc­u­ment is the op­por­tu­nity to start hav­ing dis­cus­sions with gov­ern­ment as to how we go for­ward and how we ad­dress the al­lo­ca­tion piece,” he said.

Dinn, like He­meon, ex­plained the costs of im­ple­ment­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions are an in­vest­ment in the prov­ince’s fu­ture.

“Any­thing that is go­ing to help teach­ers im­prove the out­comes of their stu­dents, we’re for. You get what you pay for in many cases,” said Dinn.

Con­cern­ing the specifics of the re­port, Dinn was en­cour­aged by some el­e­ments, such as the em­pha­sis on pro­fes­sional train­ing for teach­ers, but was also left with ques­tions.

“It still doesn’t ad­dress the fact that no mat­ter how much train­ing you have, it still comes down to a re­sourc­ing is­sue. This is what we’re hear­ing from our teach­ers,” said Dinn. “It has to do with bodies in the class­room.”

The re­port also touched on is­sues fac­ing abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents in the prov­ince.

Among the rec­om­men­da­tions, the re­port out­lined the need to re­vise the cur­ricu­lum to re­flect the his­tory, con­tri­bu­tions and tra­di­tions of abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples. It also touched on the im­por­tance of fur­ther train­ing ed­u­ca­tors in teach­ing abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents.

The Bea­con con­tacted rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Mi’Kmaq First Na­tion Assem­bly of New­found­land and the Qalipu First Na­tion but they were un­able to pro­vide a com­ment at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

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