According to professionals from the area, students more often leave mainstream education because there is insufficient help and support. These are children with, for example, a mild behavioral disorder, problems at home or giftedness. With an accumulation of problems, they increasingly turn to special education.
“The schools are doing their best to bring the care for children up to standard, which is not easy with the teacher shortage,” says Johan van Triest, chairman of the Sector Council for Special Education. Yet he sees more and more children falling between two chairs in mainstream education. “Children whose problems only get bigger. You take children with you when the holidays come.”
There are various reasons for the dropout in general education, for example teacher shortages and large classes. As a result, masters and teachers simply have little time to listen to a child.
If such a student threatens to derail, there are too few support staff and behavior therapists available at the school, says Carry Roozemond, director of Ingrado (the national association for compulsory education officers). Due to the lack of help, the child’s problems pile up. And if the problems are too complicated, the child is left out of regular education.
“When are we going to take good care of each other in this country again?”
Not that the schools themselves have to offer all kinds of care and support, but assistance around schools often does not arrive on time, Van Triest sees. “Think of the long waiting lists for youth care. It takes so much effort to even get help as a child. When are we going to take good care of each other in this country again?”
“We see students with mild behavioral problems who don’t fit into mainstream education because they can’t receive therapy,” says Roozemond. “We know together how to guide such a child, but there is no help to be had.”
A child’s physical limitations are also more likely to become a problem due to the current shortage. Ingrado helps school participants find additional money for specific students, Roozemond says. “That’s the last thing you should do to the parents.”
“The municipalities can, for example, help with health money. But often they no longer have money for extra support at school,” says Roozemond. And if the money for a nurse is not available, a child who constantly needs oxygen can no longer attend regular education.
The government wants to keep students in mainstream education
- The Appropriate Education Act has been in force in the Netherlands since 2014. The purpose of this act is to ensure that students who need extra attention are given a place in mainstream education that matches their abilities and qualities, so that they do not must be in special education.
Children with accumulation of problems for special education
The result is that there has been a steady growth in the intake of students to cluster 4 schools for two years, the Sectoral Council for Special Education informs. Cluster 4 in special education is for pupils with serious behavioral or psychiatric problems.
Van Triest: “We see, among other things, a group of children who would never have had to go to special education if their problems had been dealt with earlier. Their problems have become very serious over time.”
In addition, there are children who really need the specialized help of special education. “They’re being pumped around for far too long in the easy care system of regular education,” says Van Triest. He also sees that students and their parents no longer want to leave special education when the weather improves. “They finally get our time and attention.”
No waiting lists, but not a good place for everyone
However, student progress has not yet led to waiting lists in special education. Van Triest: “We are doing everything we can to prevent this.” According to him, his colleagues transfer a lot of knowledge to educational staff in general education, so that the children can stay there longer. “Although there are still cases that actually need heavier oversight.”
Roozeboom certainly receives signals from the school corridors that there are currently students who have not yet found a suitable school. “They don’t yet know which school they can go to after the summer holidays.”
Minister Dennis Wiersma (Education, Culture and Science) announced in mid-July that he would offer extra support to vulnerable students. Among other things, he will make it clearer what help is available to students and parents. Roozeboom agrees with the proposed plans, but believes it will be a long time before they come into effect. “It is of little use for children and their parents, who are now in a pinch.”