Ontario's Education Act sets out the rules and regulations governing special education programs and services in the province's public schools. These programs and services are designed for students who have been identified as having exceptionalities and require additional support in their education.
The Act requires school boards to provide special education programs and services to students who are formally identified as "exceptional pupils." Under the Act, an exceptional pupil is a student who has been identified by a committee as having behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities that require them to have a special education program.
School board committees who identify and place students in special education programs are called identification, placement and review committees (IPRCs). These committees are responsible for deciding whether a student is exceptional and in need of a special education program, and for determining the appropriate placement for the student.
In addition to the Education Act, there are a number of regulations that relate to special education. Regulation 181/98: Identification and Placement of Exceptional Pupils sets out the rules for the identification and placement of students in special education programs and for IPRCs. Regulation 306: Special Education Programs and Services defines the requirement for each school board to maintain a plan on how they will deliver special education programs and services.
Policy/Program Memoranda (PPMs) also provide guidance on special education. For example, PPM 8: Identification of and Program Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities outlines the process for identifying students with learning disabilities and developing appropriate programs and services for them. PPM 11: Early Identification of Children's Learning Needs emphasizes the importance of early identification of learning needs and provides guidance on how to support students in the early years of their education.
Special education programs and services must be provided free of charge to parents who live in Ontario. Parents also have the right to appeal decisions on special education identification or placement through the Ontario Special Education Tribunal.
Special education teachers must have specific qualifications and special education classes have maximum class sizes. The Provincial Schools for the Blind and Deaf are operated according to specific rules and regulations outlined in Regulation 296: Ontario Schools for the Blind and Deaf.
The Ministry of Education provides funding for special education programs and services, as well as resources and support to school boards to help them deliver effective special education programs. The Ministry's Special Education Quality Assurance Office (SEQAO) monitors and supports the implementation of special education programs and services, and the Ministry's Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) provides advice on special education policy and programs.
The Education Act and its related regulations and policies provide a framework for the delivery of special education programs and services in Ontario. These programs and services are designed to support students with exceptionalities and ensure that they have access to the support and resources they need to succeed in their education. Special education teachers, school board committees, and the Ministry of Education all play a role in providing these programs and services, and in ensuring that they are delivered in a way that is fair and effective for all students.