Today, March 26, the Commission on Inclusive Education released its report, Students First. It is the first time in 20 years that the model of inclusion in our classrooms has been reviewed.
The report is thoughtful, comprehensive and a clear demonstration that the members of the commission were committed to finding an inclusive model that puts students first.
Like the members of the commission, government is fully committed to a student-centred approach to education and an inclusive classroom model that works.
The commission has indicated that we need a needs-based approach for a truly inclusive model. One in which we provide more support and professional development for educators, additional funding for behavior, health and education specialists to assist students and teachers, and the commission has asked us to work with our partners in the education system, as well as within government to unite our system and our approach to ensuring all our students can be successful, no matter what needs our students have.
We accept the broad objectives of the report and now need to move forward with our partners to look at the recommendations, toward implementing changes by September.
Our work began with pre-primary in which early childhood educators are given an opportunity to identify which children, and what supports, are needed in advance of the child’s academic years. We are also implementing recommendations from Dr. Avis Glaze’s Raise the Bar report which provides a blueprint for a stronger system foundation, upon which other changes from the Commission for Inclusive Education and from the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions, can be put into action for the benefit of students.
Both the commission report and Dr. Glaze’s report challenges the education system to unite around a singular goal – to help all our kids be more successful, no matter where they are in the province or what their needs may be.
Government has earmarked $15 million in this year’s budget to build a new model of inclusive education that aligns and unites the many changes currently underway.
Next, we will review the report in greater detail and work with our partners in the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and in government, Special Education Programs and Services Committee, superintendents, principals and the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions to identify next steps.
I want to express my deep gratitude to Dr. Sarah Shea, Monica Williams and Adela NJie for their hard work, professionalism and expertise on such a sensitive and important matter that impacts the lives of our students and their families.