EDUCATION Minister Anthony Garcia has described as false a claim by Independent Senator Paul Richards that the Student Support Services had all but shut down. “Totally, completely, unadulteratedly false.”
Richards made the comment while contributing to Senate debate yesterday on a motion to approve regulations on the Children’s Community Residences (Rehabilitation Centres) 2018. He said part five C (2) of the regulations was for special education programmes where the resident has literacy, cognitive or learning challenges.
“Who is going to administer that? I will tell you that as it stands, and I know the official agency is Student Support Services, (but) they cannot meet the needs of the regular education system. They are all but shut down.
“So I don’t know where Student Support Services, who are the Ministry of Education’s executing arm for special education needs, is going to find time to put personnel on the ground to administer special education programmes where residents have literacy, cognitive or learning challenges and one can reasonably assume that many of these residents will have these challenges and be in need of special education interventions.”
“So I don’t know if a special situation needs to be put in place but I think depending on Student Support Services, which is already strapped and from my understanding barely operational, is going to be counterproductive in achieving the goals here.”
Garcia, speaking in a telephone interview, said Student Support Services was operating very well and more than 500 people were attached to that department which comprised guidance officers, social workers and special education officers.
“I am very pleased with the operation and dedication (of the department).” He said the department was sufficiently staffed and there was a difference between needs and wants. “There is always be a desire to have more people. The ideal situation would be to have one officer in each school. But that is not possible. With the resources we have I am satisfied those deployed are doing an excellent job.” Asked why Richards would make such a claim Garcia said “I cannot climb into his mind.”