We hope that you will engage with the Commission, and read the Interim Report from beginning to end. To provide you with a sense of what it contains, here is a summary – but we invite you to read the whole report in English or French.
Inclusive education revolves around students – their strengths, challenges and potential as learners. Although there are different approaches to inclusive education, they share a common commitment to the participation, learning and success of all students within welcoming and supportive school communities. The key components of inclusive education, from funding and specialized supports, to teacher training and interagency collaboration, must be responsive to the diverse academic, social and behavioural needs of students. This is a major challenge given the increasing frequency, severity and complexity of student needs. When key components of inclusive education fail to keep pace with these changes, gaps emerge between student needs and the capacity of schools to meet them. This is where we find ourselves with inclusive education in Nova Scotia today: we have reached a turning point.
Several reviews have identified progress and challenges with the model of inclusive education that we have had for the past few decades. The most recent review in 2014 identified widespread support for the principle of inclusive education. However, the review also found that neither students with special needs nor their peers appear to be well served by the existing model, and the implementation of this model is not working. As a result, adjustments or revisions will not suffice. Instead, we need to work together to redefine and redesign inclusive education in the best interest of all Nova Scotia students. This is our goal as a Commission.
Our work has just begun – we do not yet have a complete sense of the current successes or problems with our existing model of inclusive education; something we expect to gain more insight on through the public consultations. Past reviews and our experiences to date have identified concerns about the well-being, learning, outcomes, and the growing diverse needs of students in today’s classroom. While there are unquestionably countless success stories under the current model, students have had mixed experiences with inclusive education and many parents have expressed concern that their children’s needs are not being satisfactorily met. In addition, educators have reported that the current system does not optimally provide them with the knowledge, skills, tools, time, instructional settings, and/or integrated services and supports that they require to address the diverse needs of all students.
In the months to come, we look forward to engaging with students, parents, educators and other Nova Scotians and hearing their suggestions for moving forward. To be clear: we are not looking backward to past practices, or standing still within existing limitations, but working toward a new model of inclusive education that meets the needs of all students in a feasible and sustainable way. The interim recommendations contained in this report are designed to create a solid evidence base to inform and guide all aspects of this important work on behalf of the children and youth of Nova Scotia.