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12. special-education-needs-and-student-welfare-–-shared-responsibilities

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12. special-education-needs-and-student-welfare-–-shared-responsibilities

  1. 1. 12. SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS AND STUDENT WELFARE – SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES “Finnish Educators believe that 90 per cent of students can succeed in regular classrooms if they get the emotional, academic or health and medical help they need. Critical emphasis is placed on early intervention.” Pasi Sahlberg In Finland, personalised support for a child at either specific times in their school life, or throughout it, is not considered to be unusual and support is seen as an important entitlement. Inclusion is viewed as a collective responsibility. Teachers have a wide network of professionals with whom they work to identify need and help deliver appropriate support for their pupils. SPECIAL EDUCATION In 2012 (the most recent figure available), intensified or special support was received by 13 per cent of comprehensive school pupils. Support needs are picked up early and quickly and the importance of early intervention is recognised. Children are monitored and assessed during their early childhood education and their child health check at age four aims to pick up any early signs of problems including with their language and mobility skills. At school, a teacher who has concerns about a child would first arrange to talk to one of the school’s special education teachers. These are highly skilled professionals with a Master’s degree in special education. Following discussions and classroom observations, an individual learning plan would be drawn up for the pupil which might involve support from the special education teacher within the main classroom or support outside the classroom on a one-to-one basis or as part of a small group. Further support may be dawn on from within the student welfare team. STUDENTWELFARE Every school in Finland has a student welfare team comprising the Principal, the special education teacher, the school nurse, the school psychologist, student counsellors and classroom teachers. These teams meet weekly to discuss the progress of students who have special needs or who are receiving extra help for other reasons. The student welfare team meets regularly with each class teacher to discuss the progress of students and pick up any problems that might not previously have been identified. Problems can be wide ranging and might include any learning, social, emotional or behavioural issues that are affecting the child. Finnish educators regard such problems as a normal part of childhood, adolescence and wider society and social life and as matters that children should be encouraged to learn to identify for themselves and to feel able to talk about and seek help. Finnish educators see this approach as an important ingredient of both the equity and quality of the Finnish education system.
  2. 2. INCLUSION This emphasis on early intervention and professional support lends itself to a presumption of inclusion that translates into practice in Finland’s schools. There are just eight state-run special schools, serving mainly children with high dependency special needs (three schools for children with physical disabilities, two for visually impaired children and three for children with hearing impairment). A child would attend a special school only if this was the clear preference of her/his parents. Most children with special needs attend mainstream schools. Some are fully integrated in mainstream class, other work in special classes with specialist support and many move between the two. Special needs classes are small and are well supported by specialist teachers and assistants. Children with special needs are expected to follow the full curriculum and are provided with the support they need to do so.