Education Ministry to Open More Centres for Children with Special Needs

Photo: Garwin Davis Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, addressing Friday’s (February 12) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing and groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of an infant academy for children with learning disabilities and other special needs, at the Sir Clifford Campbell Primary School in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, by charitable organization, the Rockhouse Foundation.

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Education will be establishing three additional diagnostics and therapeutic centres across the island to assist children at the early childhood level, who have learning disabilities and other special needs.
  • The policy is expected to be approved by the end of 2015/16 financial year, he further stated.
  • Rev. Thwaites said the curriculum will be distributed after stakeholder consultations are concluded, adding that a training schedule for 150 teachers and teachers’ aides is being developed.

The Ministry of Education will be establishing three additional diagnostics and therapeutic centres across the island to assist children at the early childhood level, who have learning disabilities and other special needs.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, says these facilities will be located at Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville, Manchester; Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Montego Bay, St. James; and the College of Arts, Science and Education (CASE) in Port Antonio, Portland.

These, he informs, will be in addition to a similar facility being operated by the Voluntary Organization for the Upliftment of Children in Kingston.

They will be complemented by an infant academy to be built at the Sir Clifford Campbell Primary School, in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, by the Negril-based charitable organization, the Rockhouse Foundation.

The Minister was speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the academy at Sir Clifford Campbell Primary School, on Friday, February 12.

Meanwhile, Rev. Thwaites has welcomed development of the academy, which is slated to be opened at the start of the 2016/17 academic year, in September.

“This new infant academy will become part of a suite of special needs facilities established by the administration. The Ministry is very pleased to partner with Rockhouse Foundation, the charitable arm of RockHouse Hotel, in establishing this well needed facility in Westmoreland, he said, while pointing out that the Foundation has contributed more than $300 million to early childhood education in western Jamaica over the past 10 years.

Rev. Thwaites also advised that the Ministry has developed a policy on Special Education which is being shared with stakeholders in regional consultations.

In noting that young people with special needs comprise between 15 and 20 per cent of the school population, he explained that the policy will ensure access, equity and quality in the provision of programmes and services for children and youth with special needs.

The policy is expected to be approved by the end of 2015/16 financial year, he further stated.

“The Ministry of Education is committed to ensuring that students with special needs and learning challenges receive the opportunity to fulfil their potential. They, too, must get a chance to add value to their lives,” Rev. Thwaites underscored.

He said the Ministry continues to facilitate these youngsters this in several ways. These, he pointed out, include the provision of Braille, large print, readers, writers and prompters.

Additionally, Rev. Thwaites said each year, the Ministry facilitates students with special needs to write the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), pointing out that just under 300 were afforded this opportunity last year.

Rev. Thwaites also advised that the Ministry, in partnership with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), has developed a functional curriculum for Children with Moderate to Severe/Profound Intellectual Disabilities.

This, he explained, will reflect the national standard curriculum and provide appropriate learning experiences to address the diverse needs of learners.

Rev. Thwaites said the curriculum will be distributed after stakeholder consultations are concluded, adding that a training schedule for 150 teachers and teachers’ aides is being developed.

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