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***(Finland) 20% SPED; "number of children [with] special learning support is growing"

Feb 24, 2019, YLE News: Savings behind decline in special needs classes, says teachers’ union Spending cuts rather than inclusion and equality are behind the move to place special needs learners in regular classrooms, the OAJ charged. Increasing numbers of children in need of special teaching support are being taught in large mainstream classes, says the teachers’ union OAJ. In 2017 just under one-fifth of all primary school students received varying levels of special support in school. The numbers reflect a doubling in the number of children who receive special support in school over the past two decades. Researchers have attributed the phenomenon to different reasons. On the one hand growing inequality and a plethora of distractions in society have resulting in children having difficulty concentrating. At the same time learning difficulties are being detected, diagnosed and documented more readily than before. Whatever the reason, a growing number of primary school students are being placed in regular large classrooms instead of smaller groups intended for children who need special support. Aalto University researchers said that a reduction in the number of special needs classes and the move to transfer special needs students to larger mainstream groups has added to the problem of students needing special support in class. In some cases, they said, teachers may have classes of up to 50 students, one-third of whom may need special support. … The move to locate special needs children in larger groups has been a deliberate choice by education officials and is part of a drive toward an “inclusion”-based approach to education. The principle proposed that everyone has the right to be taught in a regular class environment and that being placed in a special class should be an exception. … However the truth may be quite different, said the teachers’ union OAJ. It attributes the new guideline to money. It noted that at the same time that the number of children requiring special learning support is growing, many municipalities are struggling with financial difficulties. Special education costly It is costly to upkeep special education schools and special needs classes and that creates pressure to transfer such students to larger general classes. This is being done in the name of inclusion, but the motive is also the desire to cut spending, said OAJ specialist Päivi Lyhykäinen….
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