Unit 2: Roles and Responsibilities
This unit is designed to enable SEAC members to:
- gain an overall understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each of the partners in special education;
- become aware of specific areas of responsibility the ministry, school boards, and the staff of school boards have in providing programs and services to students with special needs.
The Education Act and its regulations set out the duties and responsibilities of the Minister of Education, school boards, school board supervisory officers, principals, teachers, parents, and students.
In Ontario, the development and delivery of special education programs and services is a shared responsibility. The Ministry of Education, the district school boards and school authorities, school administrators and teachers, parents, and students all have very clear roles and responsibilities. It is important that those involved in special education understand their roles and responsibilities as well as those of their partners.
As outlined in Unit 1, the focus on special education intensified dramatically with the passage of Bill 82, which became law as An Act to Amend the Education Act in 1980. This law radically transformed the way in which special education programs and services were delivered to students in Ontario's publicly funded schools.
To support this new direction, the Education Act was significantly revised, a large number of new regulations were put in place, and new policies were written and implemented. These regulations and policies defined terms, outlined procedures, and identified the roles and responsibilities of those individuals, organizations, and institutions involved in the development and delivery of special education within the province's school system.
The Ministry of Education
The Minister of Education represents the interests of the Ministry of Education at cabinet and oversees the development of education legislation, regulation, and policy. The ministry administers the provincial statutes and regulations that concern education.
The ministry's roles and responsibilities within elementary and secondary education focus on four key areas:
- legislation, regulation, and policy development
- school system management, including setting policies and guidelines for school trustees, directors of education, principals, and other school board officials
- programs and curriculum, including setting requirements for the student diploma and certificates, and the approval of textbooks and other learning materials
With reference to special education, the ministry:
- sets out, through the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda, the legal obligations of school boards regarding the provision of special education programs and services;
- prescribes the categories and definitions of exceptionality;
- requires school boards to provide appropriate special education programs and services for their students with special needs;
- establishes the funding for special education through the structure of the funding model. The model consists of the Foundation Grant, the Special Education Grant, and other special purpose grants;
- requires school boards to report on their expenditures for special education;
- sets province wide standards for curriculum and reporting of achievement;
- requires school boards to maintain special education plans, review them annually, and submit amendments to the ministry;
- requires school boards to establish Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs);
- establishes special education tribunals to hear disputes between parents and school boards regarding the identification and placement of exceptional pupils;
- establishes a provincial Advisory Council on Special Education to advise the Minister of Education on matters related to special education programs and services;
- operates Provincial Schools that provide alternative education programs for deaf, blind, and deaf blind students, and Demonstration Schools for students who have severe learning disabilities.
Another important function of the ministry is the monitoring of school board activities through its district offices. As Ministry of Education representatives, district office staff are responsible for maintaining a liaison with school boards, private schools, and education programs in care and treatment facilities.
The ministry's Field Services Branch coordinates the activities of its six regional offices, located throughout Ontario. The major functions of the regional offices are:
- supporting school boards in the implementation of education programs;
- monitoring education programs and policies in elementary and secondary schools;
- clarifying ministry policies and education programs for the elementary/secondary schools community and for parents;
- facilitating field input in the development of ministry policies;
- reporting on the effectiveness of the school system;
- providing field intelligence to the ministry's policy, financial, and operations branches.
District School Boards and School Authorities
Ontario's school boards operate the province's publicly funded schools. The boards administer the funding they receive from the province for their schools.
Ontario's 72 district school boards are made up of 31 English language public boards, 29 English language Catholic boards, 4 French language public boards, and 8 French language Catholic boards. A small number of Ontario schools are operated by school authorities. These schools are primarily in hospitals and treatment facilities, and in remote and sparsely populated regions.
School boards are responsible for:
- determining the number, size, and location of schools;
- building, equipping, and furnishing schools;
- providing education programs and services that meet the needs of the school community, including students’ needs for special education;
- preparing an annual budget;
- supervising the operation of schools and their teaching programs;
- developing policy for safe arrival programs for elementary schools;
- establishing a school council at each school;
- hiring teachers and other staff;
- helping teachers improve their teaching practices;
- ensuring that the textbooks and other learning materials used in schools are on the list of approved materials provided by the Ministry of Education;
- enforcing student attendance in accordance with the Education Act;
- ensuring that schools abide by the Education Act, regulations made under the Act, and ministry policy documents, including policy/program memoranda.
The responsibilities of school boards and school authorities that are specific to special education include:
- providing appropriately qualified staff to provide programs and services for the exceptional pupils of the board;
- providing appropriate professional development for staff;
- obtaining the appropriate funding and reporting on the expenditures for special education;
- developing and maintaining a special education plan that is amended from time to time to meet the current needs of the students with special needs enrolled in the board;
- reviewing the plan annually and submitting amendments to the Minister of Education;
- providing statistical reports to the ministry as required and as requested;
- preparing a parent guide to provide parents with information about special education programs, services, and procedures;
- establishing one or more Identification, Placement, and Review Committees (IPRCs) to identify exceptional pupils and determine appropriate placements for them;
- establishing a Special Education Advisory Committee.
Special Education Advisory Committee
The Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of each board:
- makes recommendations to the board with respect to any matter affecting the establishment, development, and delivery of special education programs and services for exceptional pupils of the board;
- participates in the board's annual review of its special education plan;
- participates in the board's annual budget process as it relates to special education;
- reviews the financial statements of the board as they relate to special education;
- provides information to parents, as requested.
Note: Unit 3 focuses on the roles and responsibilities of SEACs and on the responsibilities of school boards with respect to SEACs.
It is in the schools and classrooms that programs and services are delivered. The efforts of school administrators, classroom and special education teachers, and students and parents, all working together, are what lead to student success.
Principals are responsible for the organization and management of individual schools, including any budget assigned to the school by the school board. They are also responsible for the quality of instruction at their school and for student discipline. One or more vice-principals may also be assigned to the school to help the principal with his or her work.
Each principal is responsible for:
- enrolling and placing students;
- administering the school's budget;
- maintaining student records;
- ensuring report cards are sent to parents;
- developing a school safe arrival program with the help of the school council, parents, and the community in elementary schools;
- ensuring student supervision and school discipline;
- determining the organization of the school and ensuring ongoing maintenance of the school buildings;
- assigning teachers to classes, and assisting and supervising them;
- making recommendations to the school board on the appointment, promotion, demotion, and dismissal of teachers;
- selecting, with the help of teachers, approved textbooks from the Ministry of Education Trillium List, and requesting school board approval for additional learning materials;
- carrying out duties according to board policy and as outlined in the Education Act, regulations made under the Act, and ministry policy documents, including policy/program memoranda;
- communicating Ministry of Education and school board expectations to staff.
The principal's specific responsibilities with respect to special education include:
- communicating board policies and procedures about special education to staff, students, and parents;
- ensuring that appropriately qualified staff are assigned to teach special education classes;
- ensuring that the identification and placement of exceptional pupils, through an IPRC, is done according to the procedures outlined in the Education Act, regulations, and board policies;
- consulting with parents and school board staff to determine the most appropriate program for students with special needs;
- ensuring the development, implementation, and review of a student's Individual Education Plan (IEP), including a transition plan, is carried out according to provincial requirements;
- ensuring that parents are consulted in the development of their child's IEP and that they are provided with a copy of the IEP;
- ensuring the delivery of the program and services as set out in the IEP;
- ensuring that necessary assessments are requested and that parental consent is obtained.
Teachers are responsible for:
- preparing lesson plans and teaching classes;
- carrying out duties as outlined in the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda;
- encouraging students in their studies and evaluating their work and progress;
- supervising student behaviour and maintaining classroom discipline;
- demonstrating good citizenship and respect for all groups of people;
- acting as teacher advisers for students in Grades 7 to 11 (e.g., helping students complete their annual education plans, and monitoring their school performance and progress towards career goals).
For more information about the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession see the website for the Ontario College of Teachers.
Teachers’ specific responsibilities with respect to special education include:
- following board policies and procedures regarding special education;
- maintaining up to date knowledge of special education practices;
- where appropriate, working with special education staff and parents to develop IEPs for students with special needs;
- providing the program for an exceptional pupil in the regular class, as outlined in his or her IEP;
- communicating the student's progress to parents;
- working with other school board staff to review and update the student's IEP.
Special Education Teachers
In addition to the responsibilities listed above under "Teachers", special education teachers:
- hold qualifications, in accordance with subsections 19(14) and 19(19) of Regulation 298, to teach special education;
- provide programs for exceptional pupils, as outlined in their IEPs, in a regular class, or in an alternative setting, such as a special education class, for all or part of the day;
- monitor the student's progress with reference to his or her IEP and modify the program as necessary;
- advise regular classroom teachers on strategies and accommodations;
- assist in providing educational assessments for exceptional pupils.
Parents/guardians are responsible for:
- ensuring that their children attend school. Generally speaking, attendance is compulsory between the ages of six and eighteen;
- becoming familiar with and informed about board policies and procedures in areas that affect their children;
- participating in IPRCs, parent teacher conferences, and other relevant school activities;
- participating in the development of the IEP;
- becoming acquainted with the school staff working with the student;
- supporting the student at home;
- working with the school principal and teachers to solve problems.
Students are responsible for:
- attending classes and fulfilling all evaluation and assessment requirements;
- exercising self discipline and behaving courteously towards both their teachers and fellow students;
- complying with the requirements in the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda;
- complying with board policies and procedures;
- participating in IPRCs, IEP development, transition planning, parent teacher conferences, and other activities, as appropriate.
The Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE)
The Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education advises the Minister of Education on any matter related to the establishment and provision of special education programs and services for students with special needs, including the identification and provision of early intervention programs
In particular, the Council:
- responds to proposals or positions of the Ministry of Education or other ministries, as submitted to the Council from time to time;
- identifies concerns in the delivery of special education programs and services for students with special needs and provides information, advice, and recommendations for ministry consideration;
- submits an annual report that includes the following:
- the Council's priorities and a plan for achieving them;
- an analysis of the achievement of the previous year's priorities;
- recommendations to the minister
- meets up to three times a year for a maximum of 4 ½ days per year allowing for three meetings of 1 ½ days each.
The current membership consists of 20 voting and 4 non-voting members. Members represent either an exceptionality (e.g., developmental disabilities or giftedness) or a profession (e.g., teachers or social workers). Two members are cross-appointed to represent the Catholic Community and two others the French Language Community. There is also a representative for Students/Youth, and a member to represent the Aboriginal Community. All MACSE members have a responsibility to liase with their respective communities for the purpose of informing council business. The four non-voting members represent the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. All Council members are appointed by the Minister of Education.
The Council meets each year in February, June, and October. The Council also has a number of active subcommittees that explore specific issues and bring recommendations to the Council meetings.
Inquiries concerning the Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education or requests for copies of Council meeting minutes should be addressed to email@example.com, Secretary to the Council.
The Provincial Parent Board
Good schools become even better schools when there is a strong connection with parents. To make parent involvement easier, the Ontario government is establishing a new Provincial Parent Board to help parents get involved in the education systems.
In October 2006, the ministry announced it would invest $1 million provincewide to support projects that help create a more welcoming environment for parents who face barriers to becoming involved in their children's education or school. More than 2,800 applications for projects were received. In response to the number and quality of applications, the government is dramatically increasing its investment to more than $2.5 million.
Nearly 1,400 projects will be funded across the province, including:
- workshops for parents, offered by the local school;
- resources and support for parents;
- multicultural school events, with parents invited to participate; and
- materials that are translated into the languages that local parents use so information is easier to understand.
Other initiatives that are helping to create a welcoming environment for parents in the education system include:
- creating the Parent Engagement Office in January 2006 to support provincial efforts to facilitate effective parent involvement in the school system;
- launching the parent section of the Ministry of Education website to give parents access to useful news and resources including "Involving Parents in the School: Tips for School Councils"; and
- establishing Parent Involvement Committees at school boards to give parents a direct link to the Director of Education and trustees.
The grants are part of an original $5.2 million investment in activities to help parents get involved. This investment also includes providing $500 per school council and $5,000 plus 17 cents per student to support Parent Involvement Committees in school boards.
More information about this can be found here.
School councils advise principals and, where appropriate, school boards on issues affecting the education programs in and the operation of individual schools. Their membership reflects both the school and the community, and must include parents and guardians of students, the principal, a teacher, a student representative (secondary school councils), a non teaching staff member, and members from the community at large. Parents and guardians must make up the majority of council members.
School councils may advise the principal or the school board on:
- school year calendars;
- codes of student behaviour;
- curriculum priorities;
- programs and strategies to improve school performance on provincial and school board tests;
- safe arrival programs in elementary schools;
- communications to parents and communications to the community;
- community use of the school, and community programs and services provided at the school through school community partnerships;
- the selection of principals.
Summary of Roles and Responsibilities
Each of the roles and responsibilities of the education partners are clearly outlined in legislation, regulations, and a variety of policy documents. All of the partners are dependent on the others to fulfil their responsibility. Over the past twenty years, Ontario has made significant progress in the provision of special education programs and services to its schools. This achievement can only be maintained with the full participation of all the partners.