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Friday 15 November 2019
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More support coming for special-needs students

From left: Education Minister Anthony Garcia; Harrilal Seecharan, chief education officer; and Professor Dennis Conrad, manager of Student Support Services discuss the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination at a media conference at the Ministry of Education, 
Port of Spain, yesterday.
From left: Education Minister Anthony Garcia; Harrilal Seecharan, chief education officer; and Professor Dennis Conrad, manager of Student Support Services discuss the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination at a media conference at the Ministry of Education, Port of Spain, yesterday.

Students who need special concessions for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam must send in their application two years in advance.

That was the instruction given by Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan yesterday at a press conference on the SEA at the Ministry of Education, St Vincent Street, Port of Spain.

For the 2019 SEA the ministry received 431 applications for concessions, of which 298 were granted, 68 applications withdrawn and 71 denied. Seecharan said applications were denied because they had no supporting documentation, outdated psycho-education reports or no information given on the student.

He said concessions were granted on a case-by-case basis and required visits to students’ schools and discussions with parents.

“It is a lengthy process. Applications cannot be done the day before the exam,” he said.

The deadline for concessions for the 2019 exam was November 2017, he said, ideally before the student is in standard four. The ministry extended the deadline to March 2018, but up to November 2018 it had only received something over 30 applications.

Seecharan said the request for concessions for 2020 should have been in by now but the ministry had extended the deadline to June 2019. So far, it has 254 applications.

“We need to have these applications to make the provisions for the school. It cannot be that the requests for concessions come in for the last minute,” he said.

The ministry is now working on a process to have students with special needs screened and diagnosed early so they can receive proper help in their learning development, he said, and the ministry is working towards expanding its Diagnostic Assessment and Intervention Unit.

“In our education policy document, which was recently approved by Cabinet, one of the areas we identified within the area of special needs is the early diagnosis and assessment,” he said, adding, “It is one of the areas we identified for strengthening. We want to make a point where, as we move through primary school and ECCE (early child care education), we can identify those students using a multi-layered approach.”

Seecharan said the mnistry would look at training and other requirements from next term.

The psycho-education test can cost parents thousands of dollars. Seecharan said within the budget of the Student Support Services, the ministry was working towards supporting parents whose children needed the psycho-education assessment and towards a more equitable education system for all students.

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