Overcrowded special education classes leading to unsafe situations

Kids raising their hands in class
Kids raising their hands in classPhoto: luminastock/DepositPhotos

The influx of pupils in special education is so large that schools are struggling to cope. The classes are overcrowded and that can lead to unsafe situations, according to a study by NPO Radio 1 program Reporter Radio and De Telegraaf, NOS reports.

Special education (SO) is for children who need extra guidance because of physical, sensory or mental disabilities. Special primary education (SBO) is intended for pupils who have difficulty learning or have behavioral problems. In SBO there is a maximum of 16 pupils per class. In SO classes are supposed to be 12 pupils or less.

18 percent of schools in SO are already dealing with waiting lists, as are 14 percent in SBO. Almost 30 percent expect a waiting list soon. Some schools are therefore extending their class sizes, so that children don't end up staying at home.  But that is not without risks, the researchers found.

Adding a new student to a class can change the dynamics, the director of a school in Groningen explained. "It made the children very restless." One child started beating and pounding objects, another ended up quietly crying in a corner, he said. "In retrospect we should not have done it, but otherwise this student would have sat at home."

SBO schools also say that they sometimes get pupils who actually belong in SO - children who need extra guidance because of disabilities end up in schools for children who have difficulty learning. That can also be dangerous, because SO teachers are not trained to help and cope with such students. 

Expertise center LECSO is aware that these problems exist. "It is an observation that we are concerned about", chairman Wim Ludeke said to NOS. According to him, the teacher shortage plays a major role - it is difficult to find good and qualified staff. 

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