The Province is providing an extra $1 million to boost its support for special needs students attending specialized independent schools in B.C. The funds are more than doubling the number of designated Special Education Schools (SES) from six to 15, and providing $2,000 to support each qualified student.
Education Minister Mike Bernier made the announcement today joined by the Federation of Independent School Associations, along with students and staff at PALS Autism school, a newly designated SES school that offers year-round educational programs supporting the needs of individuals with moderate to severe Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“All students in our province deserve a learning environment that helps them succeed. Our expanded support for Special Education schools is expanding choice for parents and support for some of our most vulnerable children,” said Bernier. “These schools are offering tailored and specialized learning programs that help bring countless benefits to these children and their families.”
Each of the 15 SES schools is unique, and provides specific and focussed environments for students with special needs to learn vital academic, communication, social and life skills, tailored to their abilities.
Highly specialized programs are designed for students with a wide range of special needs, including but not limited to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, dealing with mental health issues, behavioural challenges and developmental difficulties, as well as at-risk youth.
Inclusive SES schools are connecting students with one-to-one tutoring, and offering additional supports provided by highly trained teachers and specialists such as occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists.
“At-risk students or students with special needs require a much higher level of support than regularly enrolled students,” said Dr. Peter Froese, executive director with the Federation of Independent School Associations. “That is why the 15 special education schools are so grateful to the Ministry of Education for providing a Special Education School grant so that vulnerable students can get the support they desperately need. This partnership between government and Special Education Schools enables vulnerable students to acquire the skills they need to function independently in society when they graduate.”
Programs offered in Special Education Schools often focus on all aspects of the student’s life by building self-confidence and awareness, realizing goals and achievement, and creating individualized, paced learning that matches their abilities and supports their passions.
“The SES designation will surely make a great difference for the students at PALS Autism School,” said PALS Autism school principal Andrea Kasunic. “Parents enrol their children at our year-round school so they can receive a comprehensive education, targeting individual academic, communication, behaviour, daily living, and social goals. Parents can continue to take comfort knowing their children have a place to learn full-time in small groups. Our highly trained staff can continue to apply the science of applied behaviour analysis in their teaching strategies and behavioural interventions. And most importantly, we can continue to communicate daily with families and strive to help them see their child’s progress at school generalize to home and family life. We are feeling very inspired for the future, knowing how much our government supports special education.”
To qualify for special education designation and funding, schools must exclusively enrol students with special needs as well as maintain a 1:6 educator to student ratio.
Even with the expanded funding for SES schools, there is higher-per-pupil funding for students with special needs in the public system. While every public or independent school student with qualifying special needs receives the same special needs supplement, students in the public system are funded at the full per pupil rate. Those in SES schools are funded at the Group 1 independent school rate of 50% plus the new SES funding.
Government funding for students with special needs in the public school system is more than $983 million.
- Special needs categories are established to assist school districts and independent schools in identifying the needs of students, and providing the appropriate education programs. Funding goes to a district or independent school based on the level of special needs:
- Level 1 supplementary funding: $37,700 per student
- Level 2 supplementary funding: $18,850 per student
- Level 3 supplementary funding: $9,500 per student
- For more information on special needs education in B.C., visit: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/administration/legislation-policy/public-schools/k-12-funding-special-needs
- The original six SES schools were previously receiving $2,200 per special needs students in specific categories. The changes mean each of those six schools will see an increase in total funding to support all their students with special needs.
A backgrounder follows.