Students with special needs: Taking action today for their future

School closures during the pandemic led to a disruption of services and increased the needs of students in vulnerable situations. Now that schools have reopened, it is time for the government to invest in supporting students and the school community.

Quebecers are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on children’s educational success. According to a CROP opinion survey1 conducted during the summer of 2020, 66% of respondents said they were worried about the situation. So is the CSQ.

“The closure of schools at the start of the COVID-19 crisis last spring amplified the needs of students in vulnerable situations, from preschool to adult education and vocational training,” said CSQ president Sonia Ethier, adding that the issue was glaring long before the pandemic began. “The needs of these students have not lessened, on the contrary! The majority of students have not attended school for nearly six months!” she adds.

Sonia Ethier

Demanding financial resources

To support students with learning difficulties, the Québec government must provide school teams with increased financial resources.

“Teachers, support personnel and professionals deserve the resources necessary to support students and provide them with the services they are entitled to,” stated Sonia Ethier.

“The school teams now want an ambitious, innovative, and structured response to tackle the inequalities amplified by the crisis,” added the union leader. “Anything short of that will entail social and economic costs for Québec and for our children, including an increase in the dropout rate. Collectively, we can’t let this happen!”

Investing in tomorrow’s success   

More than ever, school teams play a role in student development. Therefore, allocating resources in education today is an investment in tomorrow’s success. In fact, the opinion survey confirms that 92% of the population support additional investments to help students with special needs.

The ministère de l’Éducation must earmark more resources to ensure that students with difficulties are not put in the same groups, according to FSE-CSQ2 president Josée Scalabrini. “This would increase the challenge for teachers over the next years,” she says.

“For those who experienced half-group teaching days in the spring of 2020, it was a resounding pedagogical success,” explained Josée Scalabrini. “The teachers told us that they felt they were able to teach their subject in class and supervise special needs’ students like never before.”

The FSE-CSQ president stated that the success of the students also depends on the teaching staff who cannot constantly be overwhelmed by the task. Teachers need more time to prepare their materials, do their follow-ups, get organized, and just breathe. “It’s critical to take better care of teachers and improve teaching conditions to attract and retain them in the youth sector, vocational training, and adult education,” she says.

Josée Scalabrini

Focusing on real needs

However, the proper resources must be allocated in the right places in order to enhance the skills and expertise of support staff, but mostly for the wellbeing of the children, said FPSS-CSQ3 president Éric Pronovost. “For too long, finances have taken precedence over the real needs of children,” he said. “Solutions implemented are often inadequate and needs remain unmet.”

The FPSS-CSQ president added that it is not uncommon to see management call on someone from a lower paid job class to meet a need that would require someone from a better paid job class who is also better equipped to deal with the situation. For example, an attendant for handicapped students may be recruited to fill the position of a special education technician, even though the two have completely different training. The attendant does not have the skills to meet the specific needs of the student they are accompanying. As a result, it is the child who is penalized.

“This way of doing things must be corrected fast,” said Éric Pronovost.

Éric Pronovost

For equal opportunities    

Implementing a minimum level of services to guarantee vulnerable students equal access to services is essential for the FPPE-CSQ.4 Its president, Jacques Landry, reminds us of the essential role professional staff play in student success: “We are pleased that the schools have reopened and that all students, including several vulnerable youth or those with learning difficulties, are back in class to develop and socialize. On the other hand, there is a significant lack of professional resources to provide everyone with equal opportunities to succeed. We want to be part of the solution and support the school teams, but we are worried about the increasing needs of students in the particular context of the pandemic.”

According to Jacques Landry, the announcements made by the government in recent weeks in no way guarantee the addition of staff required to meet the various needs in the school system. “The time has come to move away from the historical model, in which resources are sought as needed, without prior planning, and to establish thresholds exclusively for professional resources through protected budgetary measures,” he said.

Jacques Landry

A massive campaign to support students   

To emphasize the importance of supporting students of all grade levels, especially those experiencing difficulties, the CSQ has launched a campaign under the theme: Taking action today for their future.

Through this campaign, the CSQ is calling on the government for more resources to support schools. “The Québec government keeps repeating that education is its main priority. It’s time to make it happen. Our message is clear: We must act now!” concluded Sonia Ethier.

The population in favour of several measures to promote educational success  

Among those surveyed as part of the CROP opinion poll conducted during the summer of 2020:

  • 90% believe that primary and secondary students with learning difficulties are more penalized by the pandemic than regular students;
  • 66% are worried or somewhat worried about the impact of the pandemic on children’s academic success;
  • 92% are in favour of allocating additional resources to help primary and secondary school students with learning difficulties;
  • 83% are in favour of reducing group sizes in primary and secondary schools in order to promote learning and increase support for these young students.

1 CROP public opinion survey of 1,000 Quebecers regarding the primary and secondary school sector as well as education within the context of the pandemic. The survey was conducted through a web panel between July 22 and 29, 2020.
2 Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement.
3 Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire.
4 Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation du Québec.


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