The Québec Ombudsman notes a “disconnect” between education services and students with learning difficulties


According to the report, funding allocation, staffing shortages and unclear responsibilities contribute to insufficient support for students with learning difficulties. (Syda Productions/Shutterstock – image credit)

Quebec’s public education system is not meeting the needs of elementary students with adjustment and learning difficulties, according to a report by the province’s ombudsman released Monday.

In a 58-page report, the ombudsman of Quebec, Marc-André Dowd, makes 11 recommendations to the Ministry of Education, namely to review the funding model for complementary educational services to ensure that it is based on needs students and establish a minimum threshold for the services offered.

The report comes after the Ombudsman noted recurring complaints in the spring of 2018 from school staff and parents reporting long delays and interruptions in educational services for young students with social maladjustments and learning difficulties and the costs associated with use the private sector for assistance.

“At a crucial stage in their development, primary school students are not getting the attention they need from the education system to allow them to reach their full potential,” Dowd said at a news conference on Monday. .

“We are far from the definition of adapted services for students.”

The Education Act stipulates that every resident of Quebec is entitled to free primary education, including special education services, until the age of 18 or 21, for persons with disabilities described by law.

Conducted between 2019 and 2020, the survey collected testimonials through an online questionnaire from 827 school workers offering complementary educational services and 830 parents of children with adjustment and learning difficulties.

Dowd noted that due to the system’s limited funding model, in some cases student-friendly services would end once a child achieved a passing grade.

“Obtaining a pass mark is not a scale for concluding that a child has no or no more adjustment or learning difficulties”, specified the mediator.

Undefined staff roles

Quebec deputy ombudsman Hélène Vallières, who also attended the press conference, told CBC News that the Ministry of Education does not have a clear picture of the extent of complementary services missing in schools. elementary.

“There is a mismatch between the real needs of students and the resources to meet them,” she said.

The knowledge gap is partly due to the “poorly defined” roles of school staff and, therefore, a lack of understanding of their responsibilities, the report says.

Staffing shortages, Vallières said, are an additional problem exacerbated because support for students with special needs is funded on a short-term basis, leading to the creation of precarious jobs.

“There really is a need to do better resource planning…with a long-term perspective to really make sure that the staff you have, you’re able to retain them, and you’ll also be able to give them the right conditions to do its job. ,” she says.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge agrees that the current model for funding special education services is flawed.

He added that a new funding model will take effect in 2023 which “could free up 375,000 hours of bureaucracy for direct student services”.

The Québec Ombudsman asks the Ministère de l’Éducation to provide a plan and timetable for implementing its recommendations, no later than September 1, 2022, and to follow up on the progress made by January 30, 2023 .

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