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Innovative assessment tools and methods - Cyprus

The Mechanism for Identification and Support of Pupils with Learning and Emotional Difficulties (2004)

The Mechanism is an innovation introduced by the Ministry of Education and Culture during the school year 2004-2005 as a response to the observed over-referral by schools to the District Committees for Special Education and Training soon after Law 113(I)/1999 was put into effect.  Teachers and other school staff readily responded to the law’s mandate that:

any person, especially every parent, head teacher....or other member of teaching staff, doctor, psychologist, and social worker must inform the District Committee without delay of the case of any pupil that may come to their attention or knowledge as probably having special needs. (p. 342).   

It gradually became obvious that a lot of the time pupils were being referred for problems that could have been tackled within the school unit by their own teachers in the context of an inclusive school, in a mixed-ability classroom setting.  As the assessment procedures prescribed by law are not without cost (financial, time and, for the pupils themselves and their families, mostly emotional) and did not benefit those pupils who, after assessment bythe District Committee for Special Education and Training were not deemed as having special needs, it became apparent that referral procedures would need to be internally regulated.  The guiding principle of such regulation was the empowerment of class teachers and their school units to assume responsibility for the learning and development of all their pupils within a multi-cultural, inclusive setting.  

The Mechanism comprises of a set of procedures that are intended to regulate the actions of the school unit with regard to pupils with learning or other difficulties. It is based on the idea that “during schooling, it is possible that a pupil may have difficulties, either in learning or in its personal/ social adjustment. Most pupils will overcome their difficulties with the help and support that they are given within the school unit by their teachers in co-operation with their parents and, sometimes - where needed - with the educational psychologists. A small proportion of pupils’ have difficulties that are more complex and/or persistent and are often associated with learning or other disorders. These pupils may need more special attention and help in co-operation with professionals on the basis of an individualized education plan. The needs of such pupils are provided for by Law 113(I)/1999 on the Education and Training of children with Special Needs” (p. 1). 

The procedures set out by the Mechanism place emphasis on the role of the school unit in the identification and support of pupils’ difficulties and especially on the co-operation between the class teacher, the pupil and the parents, in keeping with a “triangular partnership model of assessment” as described by Wolfendale (2004) .  The Mechanism prescribes at least two teacher-parent consultation meetings within a two month period, before the partners decide to ask the help of outside professionals/services. During this time, information is exchanged, areas of strength and weaknesses are highlighted and targets are set. A record of meetings and decisions taken is kept, including descriptions of activities undertaken by each partner. These are kept in a file for the individual pupil in which samples of his/her work are also kept. . Each partner undertakes responsibilities, activities and tasks that will help the pupil develop strengths and improve weaknesses.   This collaboration does not end if the parties involved decide to seek help from outside professionals but continues on with the expansion of the partnership to include these professionals (e.g. educational psychologist, speech therapist and others as needed). 

The Mechanism requires that at least two consultation meetings and co-operation between parents, teachers and outside professionals are conducted within a further two-month period before it is decided among them to refer the pupil to the District Committee for Special Education and Training.   

Good practice is reflected in the following:

  • a process for the assessment and support of children over time is institutionalized; 
  • the  processes of assessment, target setting, support and monitoring of progress through feedback are institutionally linked;
  • the leading responsibility  in the process is delegated to the school unit and particularly to the class teacher;
  • the partnership between teachers and parents is also institutionalized; 
  • best practice is reflected in the involvement of the child itself in the process. 

It must be underlined that the Mechanism will be under review after having been piloted for one year during 2004-2005.   In an in-service evaluation conducted by the EPS among its staff (2005), EPs expressed the view that one of the factors that may impact negatively on the proper implementation of the Mechanism is the inadequate preparation and poor self-confidence of class teachers in assuming a leading role in the process. 

Source:

  • Wolfendale, S. (2004) «Getting the balance right: towards partnership in assessing children’s development and educational achievement” Department of Education and Skills Discussion Paper for TeacherNet – Working with Parents.
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