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The lack of resources and the Covid put a strain on the inclusive school in Catalonia

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Inclusive school has not just begun. There are many obstacles that prevent the progress marked by Decree 150 approved by the Generalitat five years ago: the lack of resources, the advent of Covid, the lack of teacher training, the successive changes of its political leaders.. Entities and families of the students with disabilities are demanding a crash plan and major change to the system so that a classroom can easily accommodate students of all types of profiles. “If a child can be cared for in a special education center, this can also be the case in an ordinary center, which changes many things,” summarizes Noemí Santiveri, spokeswoman for the including school platform.

After years of struggle by families and institutions associated with students with special needs, the Inclusive Schools Decree came to light in 2017. It is a model based on two pillars: every type of student should preferably be regularly enrolled in a center and this enrollment in special education is granted “exceptionally” only to severely disabled students with prior family consent. The decree was accompanied by an economic report that provided $142 million over four years to hire 450 teachers and 400 special education teachers, 210 speech therapists, 80 social workers and integrators, and 27 physical therapists.

“After almost five years since the decree was passed, almost nothing has been implemented. There is no belief in the department that the path is inclusive, there is no leadership. There aren’t enough resources, there are only mushrooms, holes are covered up,” Santiveri estimates.

Instead, the Ministry defends that 82% of the investment (117.5 million) has been carried out, to which must be added 122 million in personnel linked to inclusiveness but not foreseen in the decree. However, Director-General for Inclusive Education Laia Asso acknowledges that the two-year budget extension and the pandemic, which has sucked up much spending, have had an impact. “Small progress has been made on inclusion issues, but not at the pace originally planned.”

But the list of deficits in the application of the Inclusion Decree is long. The Síndic de Greuges was responsible for compiling the 2021 Inclusive Education in Catalonia report, starting with the lack of resources. It is true that these have increased significantly during this time. For example, the centers’ intensive groups, known as SIEIs, reached 895 in the 2020-21 academic year, double the number five years ago. The department has also announced 290 teachers and 78 other educational support professionals for the next course related to inclusion. And the hours of the Vetlladores, one of the key players in mentoring these students, will increase from 40,465 hours in the 2020-21 academic year to 55,000 in September. However, it is also true that the number of students with special needs is increasing: from 30,463 in the 2016/17 academic year to 39,596 last year.

The Catalan Ombudsman highlights that the lack of specialists in ordinary centers together with the collapse of the EAPs (the teams that assess students’ needs) means that many families are being forced into a special education centre. This is what happened to Rat Basterretxea, with a 9-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism. “My son was looked after very well in normal school, but leaving him here was doomed for him. My son communicates with Picts and at school they don’t understand any other forms of communication,” explains this mother painfully, as she is a fervent supporter of the inclusive model. In fact, three years ago he founded the Suma entity in Castellar del Vallès, which organizes activities with an inclusive profile and raises funds to hire guardians for the schools in the community. “The inclusive decree is not implemented well, and that harms the families, because it is not inclusion, but exclusion,” complains the mother.

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There are other obstacles, more political in nature, such as changes in senior positions in the department: since its adoption, the decree has had four different officials (Asso was appointed three weeks ago), an instability the sector sees as “a problem”. ” . There is also a lack of implementation of the orders linked to the decree, such as the one that must regulate the new model of special education centers, called CEEPSIR, intended to become providers of staff and resources of ordinary centers.

Families and institutions are demanding a shock plan consisting of increased resources and teacher training. “Teachers are afraid of inclusive schools because they don’t have the resources,” adds Santiveri. And a radical change of concept. “The system is designed for individual attention, but staff cannot be in 10 classrooms. This is a flop. The system must be changed, the whole class must be inclusive and the teaching and materials must be adapted to all types of students,” Basterretxea. To deal with the future of the decree, the Inclusive School Board was created, which will meet in October. And the department has commissioned an assessment. “We hope to have indicators to develop a resource distribution map,” concludes Asso.

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