Ministry blanks 119 students’ special needs for SEA

A SPECIAL needs school and an autism NGO have expressed concern about children who were not granted concessions for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam tomorrow.

SEA teacher at the Strategic Learning and Special Education Institute in Trincity Rhonda Belfon told Newsday yesterday six of their seven students were not granted SEA concessions. She said the affected students had either Autism or Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder.

Belfon said officials from the Student Support Services had requested psycho-educational assessment (which identifies areas of strength and weakness in a student’s learning profile) that was a minimum of two years old, but the parents questioned why this was necessary when assessments had been done previously. She said the parents also expressed concern about the high cost of the assessments which can be about $7,000.

She pointed out that when children were enrolled at Strategic Learning they had to submit a psycho-educational assessment, and some students had been enrolled for as much as seven years. “A child does not grow out of autism.”

She said, at a meeting with principals in El Dorado on Friday, the school was informed by Education Ministry officials that concessions would not be granted and parents were told they could not query the decision. She said with the late notice the school had been preparing the children to write the exam without concessions and the parents were happy they would be able to sit the exam which would not be possible in a mainstream school. She added some of the children were calm while others were anxious.

Autism Spirit co-founder Michelle Foreman recalled at an Education Ministry news conference last week Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan reported of the 430 applications for concessions 284 were approved and 24 of these withdrawn, leaving 119 applications denied.

She said: “There is huge disconnect with what the Education Minister is stating (about special needs students) and what is actually happening in the ministry. Obviously the facts and figures show its is not a fully functioning system. There is something wrong if a special needs child who is attending a special needs school for seven years and five days before the exam are told you have to write this exam just like everybody.”

Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan told Newsday concessions were dealt with on a case by case basis and he could not comment on individual cases without knowing the names of the students. He said the deadline for submission of applications for concessions was last year but the ministry had an issue with late submissions and even up to last evening he received a request. He added there was an appeal process.

Seecharan said the process involved a committee with an external expert visiting a school and doing assessments.

On the issue of the request for a recent psycho-educational evaluation Seecharan said the state of the child may change over time. He added that concessions were not meant to give a student an advantage in the exam.

Concessions for SEA students include extra time and bathroom breaks.


"Ministry blanks 119 students’ special needs for SEA"

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