Special schools struggling to keep up with soaring demand for places

Photo: Depositphotos.com
Photo: Depositphotos.com

Special schools in Amsterdam are experiencing a rush for places because mainstream schools lack the resources to help children with additional needs.

Applications for transfers to special education increased by 20% last year, Joost van Cam, director of the Samenwerkingverband, the body that handles requests for places and funding, in Amsterdam and Diemen told Het Parool.

‘Usually we see a drip-feed of children over the course of the school year and at the end of the year it’s a bit of a squeeze to find places. But now we’re already at the level in September where we’d normally be at the end of the year,’ he said.

Thijs Roovers, a member of the executive board at the General Education Union, said the pressure on special schools was the result of years of bad planning.

The Suitable Education (Passend Onderwijs) Act, introduced 10 years ago, was designed to ensure that children with additional needs were given appropriate support in mainstream schools where possible.

Emergency solutions

But in a survey in 2020, 70% of teachers said they had trouble arranging the right support in the classroom for children with learning or behavioural difficulties.

‘We’re missing a vision for the long term for the most important thing in our society: the schools, the institutions where the basis is formed,’ Roovers said. ‘We’re constantly coming up with emergency solutions.

‘What really needs to happen is for us to think about how we can offer children good quality education in 10 or 15 years’ time.’

‘Inclusive education, where children get the help they need at their own school, isn’t working as it stands,’ Van Cam said. ‘The current means force us to find a different way of looking at children’s performances.

‘We need to lower the bar and forget about pressure to perform in education, given the current reality of children having developmental delays.’

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