Unit 4: Legislation, Regulations, and Policy Documents Related to Special Education
This unit is designed to enable SEAC members to:
- have an awareness and understanding of legislation, regulations, and policy related to special education programs and services in Ontario's publicly funded schools;
- have a knowledge of how to access electronic copies of key legislation, regulations, and policy and resource documents.
Note: References to specific legislation, regulations, and policies are intended to make the reader aware of these requirements. Readers wishing to use these provisions should refer to the original legislation, regulations, and policies for actual wording and for context.
The Education Act
The Education Act provides the overall framework for the identification and placement of exceptional pupils, and for the provision of special education programs and services for these pupils. It defines the terms, provides the authority to the Minister to establish regulations as required, and gives the Ministry direction in the writing of policy and program memoranda, documents, and guidelines to the school boards and school authorities.
Legislated Responsibilities of the Minister
The responsibilities of the Minister are set out in subsection 8(3) of the Education Act. This subsection uses the terms special education program, special educationservice and exceptional pupil Subsection 1(1) of the Act includes definitions of these terms.
According to subsection 8(3), the Minister "shall ensure that all exceptional children in Ontario have available to them ... appropriate special education programs and services ... and shall provide for the parents or guardians to appeal the appropriateness of the special education placement ...". Regulation 181/98 provides for an appeal of a committee decision about whether a pupil is exceptional or not. Subsection 8(3) of the Act also states that the Minister shall require boards to:
- implement early and ongoing identification procedures;
- employ the definitions of exceptionalities provided by the Ministry.
Mandated Special Education Entities
Subsection 10(a) of the Education Act gives the Minister the authority to appoint a Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE).
The Council advises the Minister on any matter related to the establishment and provision of special education programs and services for exceptional students, including the identification and provision of early intervention programs for students with special needs. 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 exceptional pupils and provides information, advice, and recommendations for ministry consideration.
Section 13 of the Act outlines the requirements concerning Provincial Schools, which provide education to students who are blind and/or deaf, and Demonstration Schools, which provide education to students with severe learning disabilities. These schools provide alternatives to programs and services offered by school boards for students with profound sight and/or hearing loss, or severe learning disabilities.
This section of the Act mandates:
- the creation and continuation of these schools;
- the creation of regulations to govern the operation of these schools.
Section 57 of the Act requires the establishment of one or more special education tribunals to hear disputes between parents and school boards regarding the identification and/or placement of exceptional pupils. A tribunal is called when the parents have exhausted, at the school board level, all rights of appeal under Regulation 181/98.
Subsection 57.1(1) of the Act:
- requires each school board and school authority to establish a SEAC;
- provides authority for the Minister to make regulations governing SEACs.
Legislated Responsibilities of School Boards
Subsection 170(1) of the Act requires every board to provide, or to enter into an agreement with another board to provide, special education programs and special education services for its exceptional pupils in accordance with the regulations.
Under subsection 11(1) of the Education Act, "subject to the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, the Minister may make regulations in respect of schools or classes" established under the Act "with respect to all schools supported in whole or in part by public money".
Ministry regulations and parts of other government regulations that are specifically related to special education programs and services are outlined below.
Regulation 181/98, Identification and Placement of Exceptional Pupils
This regulation governs the identification and placement of exceptional pupils, the IPRC review and appeal procedures, and the role of parent(s)/guardian(s) in these processes.
The regulation requires school boards to create and maintain an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each exceptional pupil and to create and maintain, as part of the IEP, a transition plan for each exceptional pupil (except for those identified solely as gifted) who are 14 years of age or older.
Regulation 181/98 also requires school boards to publish a parent guide to special education.
In two recent Deputy memoranda to school boards (Oct. 12 and Nov. 30, 2006), the Ministry asked boards to examine their IPRC practices when both the board and the parent agree that the student’s placement will be in the regular classroom. The Ministry continues to expect that IPRCs will be held when parents request them or when a self-contained or partially integrated placement is the likely destination for the student.
The Ministry wants to ensure that administrative processes used by boards are actually leading to improved outcomes for students. It also wants to ensure that these processes are not acting as barriers for students to receive timely and effective special education programs and services.
Regulation 258 amends Regulation 298 by adding a provision section 32, related to Sign Language. It permits a teacher employed in a provincial school or in a publicly funded elementary or secondary school to use American Sign Language (ASL) and Langues des Signes Québécoise (LSQ) as languages of instruction in the classroom and in communications with regard to discipline and management of the school, where it is practical to do so and having regard to the pupil’s understanding of ASL or LSQ.
The Ministry of Education supports the ongoing participation of parents in decisions about how their children will be educated, including whether or not a child will use ASL/LSQ or another method of communication. The ministry acknowledges the challenges that school boards may face in offering ASL/LSQ as languages of instruction and that labour market realities may impose challenges in hiring/retaining qualified staff. The intent of the regulation is to encourage school boards to make all reasonable efforts to offer ASL/LSQ as languages of instruction.
Regulation 296, Ontario Schools for the Blind and the Deaf
Regulation 296 sets out operating procedures for Ontario's schools for the blind and the deaf, and also describes the duties of teachers, residence counsellors, parents, and superintendents at these schools.
These schools are operated under section 13 of the Education Act.
Regulation 298, Operation of Schools B General
With regard to special education, Regulation 298 contains sections pertaining to the following:
- the authority of a school board to reduce the length of the school day for exceptional pupils (subsection 3(3));
- the qualifications for special education teachers (section 19);
- the provision of special education programs for pre school children who are deaf or hard of hearing (section 30);
- the maximum class sizes for various types pf special education classes (section 31).
Regulation 306, Special Education Programs and Services
Regulation 306 concerned with special education programs and services. It requires that each school board and school authority:
- develop and maintain a plan for the provision of special education programs and services for exceptional pupils and to submit annually to the Ministry any amendments that have been made to its plan;
- submit to the Ministry, every second year, a report on special education programs and services in a form to be specified by the Ministry.
The regulation also gives the Minister authority to direct a school board to amend its special education plan.
Regulation 464/97, Special Education Advisory Committees
Regulation 464/97 sets out requirements for school boards with respect to SEACs and outlines their role, membership, and scope of activities. The regulation requires a school board to:
- include on its SEAC up to 12 representatives of local parent associations which "further the interests and well-being of one or more groups of exceptional children or adults";
- consult with the SEAC concerning the board's annual review of its special education plan (under Regulation 306) and its annual budget process;
- provide the SEAC with the opportunity to review the board's annual financial statements;
- provide an opportunity for the committee to be heard before making a decision on any recommendation from the SEAC.
The regulation also requires SEACs to meet at least ten times in each school year. The regulation also applies, with some differences, to school authorities.
Legislative Grant Regulations
These regulations, revised and re issued annually, set out the conditions and procedures for the allocation of funds by the Ministry to school boards.
The grant regulations provide for:
- special education funding to school boards and school authorities in accordance with objectively established levels of need of the exceptional pupils served by the board;
- special equipment to support access to instruction by exceptional pupils;
- special purpose grants for, among others, learning opportunities, transportation, pupil accommodation, and early learning;
- the provision of educational services by school boards in care, treatment, and correctional facilities.
For more detailed information about funding, please see Unit 5.
The Ministry's policy expectations for school boards are generally published in one of the following two forms:
- shorter policy statements that tend to be published as numbered policy/program memoranda
- longer policy statements that tend to be published in bound booklet form and are referred to by the Ministry as policy documents
Numbered Policy/Program Memoranda (PPMs)
Numbered policy/program memoranda are developed to assist school boards in the delivery of ministry policies and procedures.
With specific reference to the delivery of special education programs and services, PPMs have been issued on the following subjects:
- Policy/Program Memorandum No. 1, Ontario Schools for the Blind and Deaf as Resource Centres (PPM 1)
This memorandum advises that the Provincial Schools for the blind and deaf are mandated to provide resource services to school boards. It also identifies what services are available to school boards without charge. These services include audiological services, psychological services, educational consultation, professional development, learning materials, and media. A list of Provincial Schools is also provided.
- Policy/Program Memorandum No. 8, Learning Disabilities (PPM 8)
This memorandum gives definitions of learning disabilities, and provides information on identification processes, programming, and resources available to school boards.
- Policy/Program Memorandum No. 11, Early Identification of Children's Learning Needs
This memorandum sets out the requirements for procedures for early identification of children's learning needs. It lists some of the principles of early identification and gives information about resources to assist in the early identification process.
- Policy/Program Memorandum No. 59, Psychological Testing and Assessment of Pupils (PPM 59)
This memorandum, which focuses on psychological testing and assessment of students, provides the principles on which school boards should base decisions regarding the use of such services.
- Policy/Program Memorandum No. 76C, Alternative Educational Programs and Services for Deaf, Blind, and Deaf Blind Exceptional Pupils (PPM 76C)
This memorandum outlines the educational programs and services offered by school boards that are an alternative to the Provincial Schools for blind, deaf, and deaf blind students. It also articulates the philosophies underlying these services.
- Policy/Program Memorandum No. 81, Provision of Health Support in School Settings (PPM 81)
This memorandum focuses on the provision of health support services in school settings and the roles of the individual personnel and organizations involved. This memorandum is supplemented by Interministerial Guidelines for the Provision of Speech and Language Services and A Model for the Provision of Speech and Language Services.
- Policy/Program Memorandum No. 85, Educational Programs for Pupils in Government Approved Care and/or Treatment Facilities (PPM 85)
This memorandum is concerned with education programs for pupils in government-approved care and/or treatment facilities.
- Policy/Program Memorandum No. 127, Provincial Secondary School Literacy Test in English-Language Secondary Schools B Accommodations, Deferrals, and Exemptions (PPM 127)
This memorandum concerns the provision of accommodations, deferrals, and exemptions for students taking the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT).
- Policy/Program Memoranda No.140 Incorporating Methods of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Into Programs For Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
The purpose of this memorandum is to provide direction to school boards to support their use of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) as an effective instructional approach in the education of many students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This memorandum establishes a policy framework to support incorporation of ABA methods into school boards’ practices. The use of ABA instructional approaches may also be effective for students with other special education needs.
In addition, a memo was sent to Directors of Education, School Authorities and Provincial schools indicating that hard copies of the report of the Ministers’ Autism Spectrum Disorders Reference Group, Making a Difference for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Ontario Schools: From Evidence to Action will be distributed to board personnel and all members of Special Education Advisory Committees (SEAC). Copies of the memo and the report will also be provided to all schools in the province.
The Ministry developed a resource guide, Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders for teachers, teacher assistants, administrators and other staff on effective educational practices for students with ASD.
Policy Documents on Special Education
Various ministry policy documents contain policy statements affecting special education and exceptional pupils. These documents can be found in under the category Special Education Policy Documents on the Ministry’s website.
Resource Documents Linked to Special Education
The Ministry of Education sets curriculum and achievement standards for all publicly funded schools in Ontario. These documents that set out curriculum and achievement standards can be found under the following link on the Ministry’s website. This section contains detailed subject descriptions for Kindergarten to Grade 12. The achievement charts show what teachers look for when assessing children's work. "Exemplars" are samples of actual student work with notes explaining how marks were arrived at.
Under Policy & Resource Documents you will find the policies and strategies underpinning the curriculum, the Trillium List of approved textbooks, and publications that support the efforts of teachers, such as Curriculum Update, a newsletter providing news and information to Ontario's educators.
Every child has the right to be literate and to have opportunities to reach their full potential. The government of Ontario has made improvement in publicly funded education the cornerstone of its mandate. This commitment begins with improved student learning and achievement in literacy and numeracy. The first step in realizing this goal requires that every student in Ontario develop reading, writing, mathematics and comprehension skills at a higher level by the age of 12. Progress will be measured by ensuring that by 2008, 75 percent of 12 year old students will have met or surpassed the provincial standard.
The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat has identified nine strategies for facilitating student success. One of the key strategies in relation to special education is strategy number six namely: Mobilize the system to provide equity in student outcome. Students in Ontario classrooms have diverse needs. It is therefore imperative that the teaching and learning in Ontario schools be differentiated as well as relevant, inclusive and directly responsive to student readiness, interests and learning profiles. The following link is a webcast on Differentiated Instruction.
Each student is an individual with unique interests, goals and strengths. And each should be given the same opportunity to succeed in high school. That's why the government has launched the $1.3 billion Student Success Strategy to reach every student. Ontario is transforming the high school experience through this strategy. It gives students more ways to accumulate credits to graduate, while improving the quality of a high school education in this province. The strategy will also help Ontario reach the government's graduation target of 85 per cent by 2010-11. At the heart of the Student Success initiative are six innovative new programs that allow students to customize their high school experience around learning that's relevant to them.
Our purpose is to provide educators in grades 7-12 with practical teaching strategies, tools, resources and professional development opportunities to improve student achievement and increase program options and flexibility so that all young people are supported in achieving success in secondary education. This virtual collection will grow over time as teacher leaders throughout Ontario continue to develop additional resources of proven practices for improving literacy and mathematical literacy and creating clearer pathways to work, apprenticeships and postsecondary education. You can find these Student Success resources at the following link.
The Ontario government is committed to improving publicly funded education and achieving positive outcomes for all students. We believe that safe schools are a prerequisite for student success and academic achievement, and we are committed to providing all students with the supports they need to learn, grow and achieve. That's why the Ministry of Education has a Safe Schools Strategy that allows our children to learn in a safe and secure environment.