Letters

Chidren are not getting the help they need in school

Editor: I would like to share my thoughts about the debacle the government has created in its dealings with our education system and teachers.

I am an education assistant (EA) and deal every day with all the children being left behind, or left out completely, in the education system. It is shameful. I have cried many times at home and work due to the stress and heartbreak of seeing children struggling daily in this environment. There are too many kids, and too many types of learners in one class.

My heart hurts when I see children that need support but don’t “qualify.” They are left to struggle with bits of help  offered by staff who want to be able to give them everything, but have nothing substantial to give them.

Some kids qualify for assistance but are not a behaviour problem, so they have their hours used for someone who causes trouble or just doesn’t qualify for the help they need.

As an EA, I have worked hard to teach children how to read and behave in a classroom. These are kids that have a chance to have jobs and fuller lives later on in life.  Then I watch as the principal has to make that choice to take away the hours they have, and still need, to give to another in more need. It is awful.

The first child gets a bit of help, starts to make progress, and then gets the rug pulled out from under them. They can “get along” in school — who cares if they stagnate or regress? Who cares if they don’t have friends because they need help understanding how to play the games that others just “get?”

What about the “typical” kids who are having problems understanding a subject?  They don’t count in this system either — they don’t “qualify” for help because they have no special needs.

B.C. can have anywhere from 25 to 30 students (elementary) or 35 (high school) in a classroom.  There is no cap on how many kids with special needs (who require Individual Education Plans, known as IEPs) are allowed in each class.

Special needs help is given in a group for the school — not per child. This means if your child qualifies for 15 hours, another for 20 and yet another for full-time, they could all be put into the classroom with the full-time student and the extra 35 hours may be given to others who need help but maybe haven’t or don’t qualify, under this government’s funding structure.

Special assistance teaching positions (for kids with special needs and behaviour issues) have been combined  or  cut completely. This support, including learning support, ESL, and special education, is now mostly done by one person for a growing number of kids.

Assistance for teachers in class (no matter how many special needs, learning disabilities or behaviour issues are in the classroom) is limited to one education assistant.   This person does not just help assigned students, they help anyone that needs attention in class — if they are able. Some end up with six to eight kids on their job list, while only one, two or three are actually “qualified” to receive help.

Students with behaviour issues such as ADHD, ADD and ODD do not get education assistants, unless lumped in with kids who qualify for hours.  They get childcare worker time, if they qualify. These positions have been cut too.

Kids who learn “typically” and have no special needs will be taught as much as possible, as fast as possible due to the teacher having too many kids in the classroom.

Advanced kids? These children will spend a lot of time being very bored. They will get the same education as the others — just not be able to do anything further than the lessons provided. The teacher does not have the time to put together a special program to challenge their minds.

Yet at a childcare facility, the ratios are amazingly different. A childcare facility can refuse to look after your child if they are disruptive due to behaviour issues or special needs they can’t deal with. A facility cannot look after any special needs children without having proper supervision and care for those children (assistants), or for all other kids.

Public schools and teachers cannot turn anyone away and have to deal with the kids’ problems, with or without assistance. Nor do teachers need to be properly trained to deal with these issues.

In school, a child needs to focus and have the ability to ask questions to learn what they need for use in life and learn how to be safe. If they receive special assistance if necessary to learn, a ratio of 1/25 or 1/30 is considered OK. There is also no limit on how many special needs students are in a class, or whether they have support and assistance.

Cathy Clemis,

Langley

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