More Specialised Support for Students with Special Needs
From 2012, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will provide more specialised support to students with dyslexia in the mainstream schools. MOE will also improve the accessibility to Special Education (SPED) schools, through professional advice and financial support.
Enhancing Support for Children with Special Needs in Mainstream Schools
MOE will be piloting a new school-based dyslexia remediation in 20 primary schools islandwide in 2012 and 2013, at a cost of $3.6million. This is in addition to current provisions of (a) at least 1 Allied Educator (Learning and Behavioural Support) per primary school, and (b) MOE-funded support programmes for children with dyslexia conducted by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS).
Primary 3 students who have been identified for support through a systematic screening process for dyslexia carried out in their respective schools will be involved in the pilot. It aims to help these students read at the same level as their peers by the end of Primary 4, through remediation conducted in small groups of students by Allied Educators (Learning & Behavioural Support) or AEDs (LBS). If the pilot is successful, MOE will consider expanding the support in phases to other schools.
The AEDs (LBS) will work with teachers to align the remediation programme with the regular English Language classes. The AEDs (LBS) and the teachers will also help parents understand their child’s needs and how specialised remediation could support these needs. See Annex A for the list of pilot schools.
Since 2005, MOE has increased schools’ capacity to identify and support students with mild special needs (including dyslexia, mild autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) through the deployment of AEDs (LBS), and training of Teachers in Special Needs (TSNs). Additionally, students with dyslexia who need more intensive support are referred to the MOE-funded remediation classes conducted by the DAS. However, many of the younger students in the lower primary have found it difficult to travel to the DAS centres outside school hours for the specialised remediation, hence the need to pilot school-based dyslexia remediation.
Improving Accessibility to Special Education (SPED) Schools
Timely access to appropriate educational intervention is important for students with special needs. MOE has therefore invested in improving accessibility through increasing capacity of SPED schools and smoothening the application and enrolment process to SPED schools.
MOE will work towards enabling more students with special needs to benefit from the more specialised programme in SPED schools and reduce the waiting time for enrolment into an appropriate SPED school. MOE has invested $150 million upgrading the infrastructure of SPED schools in the past decade, and will continue to invest in increasing capacity. Metta School, which caters to students with mild intellectual disability, will be able to take in another 150 students from 2013 after its new extension block is completed. With the refurbishment of the former Chong Boon Primary School, Pathlight School will have the capacity to take in an additional 100 students at the start of 2012 and to provide an additional 200 places by the end of 2013.
To smoothen the application and enrolment process into SPED schools, MOE will set up a Multi-Agency Advisory Panel. The panel will comprise specialists and professionals from MOE, the Ministry of Health, the National Council of Social Services and the different SPED schools. The Panel will develop a standard application process for all 20 SPED schools and help facilitate admission for children with less straightforward learning profiles into the appropriate SPED school. With the standard application process, parents would not have to make multiple applications to different SPED schools. MOE will implement these processes in October 2012.
As announced in Budget 2012, the household income ceiling for the SPED Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) will be raised from $1,500 to $2,500. Larger families with per capita income of $625 or less will also be eligible for the revised SPED FAS. About 1,500 SPED students are expected to benefit from the enhanced FAS, up from 600 students who benefit from the existing FAS. Students on the SPED FAS will receive a full waiver of school fees, free textbooks and uniforms and a 75% waiver of examination fees.
Each SPED school will also receive annual grants for the next three years, to provide additional assistance to students in need such as transport subsidy. These measures will help SPED schools provide better support to students from low-income families.