Special education schools buckling under pressure; Class sizes, waiting lists swell
Dozens of special education schools in the Netherlands are struggling with too many pupils. Classes are too large and more and more kids have to wait at home for a spot for them, according to a study by Reporter Radio, NOS reports.
The intention behind the Appropriate Education Act, implemented in 2014, was that children with a physical disability or behavioral problems remain in mainstream schools as much as possible. This meant that special education schools were scaled down. But teachers in mainstream schools have great difficulty giving sufficient attention to all students in their class, aggravated by the teacher shortage. So the number of pupils referred to special education schools picked up again in the past years.
There were extremely many new applications this year, Wim Ludeke of the national expertise center for special education LECSO said to NOS. "Not every regular school is able to deal with complex students. All of them are now referred to special education, while we scaled that down."
Ludeke does not have figures for the entire country. "But inquiry with seven large school boards, all with dozens of schools under them, shows that this is a major problem in many places", he said to the broadcaster. "I know a school with room for 130 pupils, where 35 pupils have registered in a three-month period. They are all classified as problem cases and must therefore be placed immediately, because otherwise they will stay home. But there is simply no space."
Special education schools try to take in as many pupils as possible, to prevent them ending up staying at home. Classes with more than 20 pupils are becoming the norm, instead of the exception, according to Ludeke. "That seems a lot to a normal primary school teacher, but in special primary education there are only eight to 12 students in a class."