FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Survey: parents of students with special needs concerned about return to school
Families need flexibility and clear communication
New Westminster, B.C., (August 18, 2020) – A recent survey report has reinforced the need to prioritize vulnerable students during the pandemic. Families and students who require extra support responded to the survey and expressed the need for proactive communication, flexibility, student involvement and adequate support from schools and the Ministry of Education.
Over two and a half days, 1102 B.C. parents and guardians of children and youth with disabilities/extra support needs responded to the short survey, which was created in response to the Government of BC’s new announcement of the K-12 Education Restart Plan. 192 students also responded to the survey.
When schools re-opened in June, we saw large gaps as the education system struggled and often failed to meet the needs of families equitably within the new learning environment. Students with extra learning needs fell further behind and many families were driven into crisis.
“When I see that 649 respondents to the survey are considering a different option from public, in person school, I feel concerned that families are feeling forced out,” says Tracy Humphreys, founder and Chair, BCEdAccess Society. “The loss of so many students with disabilities is a loss of great diversity and strength in the public education system.”
“This survey has highlighted the need for flexibility, options and choice for students and families.” says Angela Clancy, Executive Director of the Family Support Institute of British Columbia. “Families need to have confidence in the restart plan. They need regular and fulsome communication from the ministry to ensure their kids will be safe and have access to a robust and supported Inclusive Education.”
“Hopefully the results of this survey, combined with what we learned in June, will help us start the school year right, ensuring that all students have equitable access to a quality education,” says Karla Verschoor, Executive Director of Inclusion BC.
Both parents/guardians and students believe the health and safety of the student is their biggest concern, with 76.2% of guardians having it as their top concern and 67.05% of students as theirs.
Parents and guardians are concerned about:
- Lack of support in school (63.19%)
- Health and safety of at-risk family member (54.02%
- Delay in getting an IEP (48.37%)
- No PPE guidelines (47.71%)
Students are concerned about:
- Health and safety of at-risk family member (56.25%)
- Lack of support (36.36%)
- Exclusion and segregation (35.8%)
- Masks not mandatory (32.29%)
To support the Ministry of Education guidance on ensuring students who require extra supports are prioritized and have the services they need, we make the following recommendations:
- Reach out proactively to find out what families are planning.
- Ensure there is support available to students with disabilities at the same time as supports for all other students attending in person.
- Bring the students with disabilities who will attend in person into the school first, if their family identifies this as a need, if gradual entry is planned.
- Provide clear guidance around educational support that will be provided for students at a higher risk for COVID-19.
- Be prepared for full-time attendance and full participation from the very beginning of s students with disabilities alongside all students.
- Have collaborative conversations with families who do not wish to have their student attend full time, to help them make a choice about the most equitable option.
- Include students in these conversations where possible and appropriate.
- Make available flexible schooling options for students with disabilities, recognizing their specific human right to equitable access to education.
Angela Clancy, Executive Director, Family Support Institute of BC
c: (778) 822-8374
Tracy Humphreys, she/her, founder and Chair, BCEdAccess Society
c: (250) 858-5165
Danielle Kelliher, Director of Communications, Inclusion BC
c: (604) 551-6651
BCEdAccess Society is an entirely volunteer-run organization serving families of students with disabilities and complex learners all over the province of British Columbia.
The Family Support Institute of BC (FSI) is a provincial not for profit society committed to supporting families who have a family member with a disability.
Inclusion BC is a non-profit provincial organization that advocates for the rights and opportunities of people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
BC Parents of Complex Kids is an organic group of 400 families from across BC that all have one or more medically complex children that receive funding through the At Home Program (MCFD-CYSN).