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    • Thirty special education centres are to be established in the 2015/16 academic year as the Government continues to put measures in place to provide for children with special needs.
    • Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, made the disclosure while addressing the Jamaica Inclusive Education Conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St. James on Thursday (October 29).
    • Rev. Thwaites said the vision of the Ministry is to ensure that by 2016, facilities are in place to offer care and assistance to all children, who need special support.

    Thirty special education centres are to be established in the 2015/16 academic year as the Government continues to put measures in place to provide for children with special needs.

    Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, made the disclosure while addressing the Jamaica Inclusive Education Conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St. James on Thursday (October 29).

    He informed that 20 “pull-out centres” have already been established to treat with children, who need special services, and six mobile clinics are being enabled to support students in remote schools.

    He noted further that 250 additional special education teachers are to be trained in order to better equip them to support students. He pointed out that all trainee teachers must receive special education training, which is a change from the previous policy where such training was optional.

    Rev. Thwaites said the Government is committed to ensuring that the nation’s special needs children are able to participate fully in the education process.

    “There is about 20 per cent of all of our children, who fall at some level of the spectrum of physical or mental challenges and this requires focus. We want to redress this as quickly as possible,” he said.

    He informed that special emphasis is being placed on children deemed to be on the “borderline” of the physically and mentally challenged spectrum.

    “The number of children, who are assessed as being borderline, worries us as those who are confirmed ion the spectrum of challenge. This obviously means this is no longer a peripheral element of education policy, but something that has to be brought centre stage,” he pointed out.

    The Education Minister also cited work being done in the training of professionals to work with special needs children at the Mico Care Centre in Kingston and the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Montego Bay.

     

    Diagnostic and therapy clinics for pre-school children have been opened at the VOUCH Centre in Kingston; Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville; and at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland.

    Rev. Thwaites said the vision of the Ministry is to ensure that by 2016, facilities are in place to offer care and assistance to all children, who need special support.

    He said the Ministry has been focusing on making improvements at the early childhood level, resulting in the “twinning” of that area to special education, which makes it easier to diagnose children at an early stage.

    “It is, for me, one of the most important policy priorities of our Administration. We are of the view that each child, regardless of their abilities, has a right to optimal achievement and we believe it makes eminent sense to diagnose a child’s special needs as early as possible so that there is enough time to apply appropriate treatment,” Minister Thwaites said.