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Initial identification of special educational needs - Cyprus

The policy for special education in Cyprus is expressed within the Special Education Law 113(I) of 1999, the Regulations for the Early Detection of children with Special Needs 185(1)/2001 and the Regulations for the Training and Education of children with Special Needs 186(1)/2001. These last two regulate the implementation of the new Law as from September 2001.

Through the core articles of the Law for Special Education, the State recognizes that all pupils have a right to an education appropriate to their needs. The State attempts to provide a legal framework where those with special educational requirements can receive, in the least restrictive environment, an education which meets their individual needs. It attempts to ensure through ongoing re-assessment that the pupil’s educational programme develops along with the pupil and that every effort for the least segregated educational setting is made.

Whilst special education has its’ own legal framework, special and mainstream education are part of one school system with common administrative procedures. According to the Law for Special Education and Training of 1999, pupils, to whom special education and training has been determined, attend ordinary schools, special units or special schools with appropriate infrastructure, adopted to their needs and to their individual program, which is setup by the Liaison Officers, in co-operation with the teachers and parents of the pupil.  The same officials supervise the pupil’s progress. 

The majority of pupils with special needs attend mainstream schools and follow the normal curriculum which may be adjusted to suit their particular needs. Whenever a specialist teacher is part of the pupil’s education, they must co-operate and interact with the classroom teacher in the development and delivery of an individualized education program for the pupil. During the development of the pupil’s Individual Education Plan (I.E.P.) staff are expected to make every effort to ensure that the pupil is fully involved in all school and class activities. The education team developing the I.E.P will often determine the goals and what instructional methodology will be implemented for the pupil. This team consists of the class teacher, the specialist teacher and any other specialists involved in the pupils´ case.  The parents of the pupil are also present and involved during the programming of the IEP. 

The IEP is a result of the cumulative record of the pupil (which includes reports from the previous class teacher, reports from specialists, the parents´ views), as well as from initial assessment and is an on-going procedure.  At the end of the school year a summative end-of-year assessment report is conducted. The IEP includes the entire education of the pupil and is based on the cognitive and emotional needs of the pupil, as well as his/her needs for self-caring, communication and socialization. Special education includes not only academic subjects but also areas of self-help skills, social skills, pre-vocational, vocational training and anything that may assist the person in his/her holistic development.

The IEP gives a detailed analysis of general goals for each subject.  Each goal is subdivided into specific targets and ways of achieving them.  The teacher must report on the IEP giving dates of assessment and at the end of each semester must evaluate the targets regarding the pupil’s progress.  At the end of the year the teacher must give a final report, as part of the IEP, regarding the overall progress and the pupil’s status.  When a pupil requires individual assistance outside of his/her classroom, this is arranged so as not to restrict their access to all subjects of the curriculum.

Liaison officers of special education or special needs advisers offer guidance both in special schools as well as in mainstream schools.  These advisers work under the guidance of the inspector of special education, offering advice and support to specialist teachers, co-operating with teachers and administrators in ordinary schools and with other professionals. After assessment and diagnosis is made, special needs advisers visit both special as well as ordinary schools and offer advice and suggestions to school staff, parents and children.

Assessment of Children with Special Educational Needs

A pupil is considered to have special educational needs if he/she has significant  difficulty in learning compared with the majority of children of a similar age or if a disability prevents or impedes him/her from using the standard educational facilities and resources available in mainstream schools. (Law 113 of 1999).  

In this case, according to the Law for Education and Training of children with Special Educational Needs 113(I)1999,  the pupil is referred to a District Committee for Special Education and Training which will assess the pupil and evaluate its needs.  The Committee will conduct a full multidisciplinary team assessment and will also operate to provide all the necessary measures in terms of curriculum adaptation, technical and staff support for the effective education of the children within a mainstream setting. 

Through the core articles of the Law for Special Education and Training 113(I)1999, the State undertakes the early detection of children with special needs from the age of three.

Any person, especially a parent, director of a nursery, kindergarten, elementary school, secondary school or any other member of the educational staff, doctor, psychologist, social worker, are responsible for informing the District Committee responsible for special education, of each case that comes to his/her attention regarding a pupil who may have special needs.

The District Committee then has the duty to efficiently assess the needs of any pupil considered to have special needs, regardless of which school the child attends or where they live and to provide all the necessary measures in terms of curriculum adaptation, technical and staff support for the effective education of the pupil within a mainstream setting.

This assessment is conducted by a multidisciplinary team, including a pupil psychologist, an educational psychologist, a specialist teacher, a doctor, a speech therapist and any other specialist, the case may need.The District Committee decides that a pupil is in need of special education and training or facilities.  It also decides whether special education and training shall be provided in mainstream classroom, in a special unit in mainstream schools or in a special school.

The parents of the pupil to be assessed have the right to attend during the assessment and to participate alone or with a professional of their choice, they are furthermore obligated to give any information concerning their child which will help the assessing procedure.  After the evaluation, parents are informed of the decisions concerning their child, taken by the Committee, and have the right of appeal to a Central Committee for special education and training.

Every two years, or earlier if required, a re-assessment takes place in order to assess the pupil’s progress, the educational program and further needs, if any. 

Pupils in elementary schools are graded for internal purposes only. Those with special needs will be graded by their peers though their individual needs will be considered.

The government mainly provides funding for special needs.  The State is obliged to equip special schools or mainstream schools where special education is provided, with all the required equipment and staff, according to the provisions of the Law.  The number of the staff and the budgets for each school depend on the number of pupils and the provisions at the school. 

The Law for Special Education has led towards the segregation of special needs education from general education. Teachers do not have a clear view of Special Needs and the implementation of the Law for Special Needs has led teachers to move the responsibility for pupils with special needs to others, the specialists.  That is why many referrals were made to District Committees to assess pupils that teachers could not, or would not, handle. 

In order to face this situation, the Ministry of Education of Cyprus, as from September 2004, has put into action the Mechanism for Detection and Support of Pupils with learning difficulties, emotional and other problems.  Through the Mechanism, the school, in co-operation with the family of the pupil, must start the procedure for helping the pupil within the school and at home, before referring it to the District Committee for assessment. If the school after following the procedure still cannot deal with the problem, the pupil is then referred to the Committee. This Mechanism facilitates and promotes in-school support for pupils and families before any official special education is carried out. The Mechanism defines a two-month procedure in which teachers and parents, as partners, support the pupil and try to help in overcoming difficulties.  At least two teacher-parent consultation meetings should take place during the two months.  Records of these meetings are kept, describing the goals set and the activities undertaken by each partner.  Due to this Mechanism it is expected that teachers and schools will take more responsibility for pupils with special needs.

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