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People involved in assessment - Cyprus

Pupils “suspected” of having special educational needs are referred to the District Committees for Special Education and Training for assessment and recommendations regarding their education.  District Committees are made up of public servants appointed by the Minister of Education and Culture as follows:

  • A Principal Education Officer
  • A representative of the appropriate Level of Education (e.g. pre-primary, primary etc.)
  • A special teacher
  • An educational psychologist
  • A clinical psychologist
  • A social worker
  • A speech therapist  

The District Committee conducts multi-disciplinary assessment through the appointment of a team of professionals as appropriate. Such teams usually consist of the class teacher, a special education teacher and an educational psychologist with the addition of a speech pathologist, doctor, social worker or other professional as needed.  Each member of the multi-disciplinary team is required to carry out their own diagnostic assessment and to submit a written report with recommendations to the District Committee. It is worth noting that members of the team are not required by law to meet with each other as a team. 

Role of parents

The law does not stipulate parental permission to refer but the District Committee is required to inform them of its decision to conduct multi-disciplinary assessment and of their rights and obligations emanating from the law.  The parents are required to “respond within thirty days of the receipt of notification” and to co-operate for the assessment of their pupil. They “are entitled to be present during assessment and to participate on their own or with a professional of their own choice, to offer opinions or to submit evidence or recommendations pertaining to the assessment.”  (1999, p. 342).  It is stated that, parents “are under obligation to provide any information that may assist in the task of assessment” (p. 343). 

Once assessment is completed, parents are informed of the decision of the District Committee, which is required to submit to them a detailed report with the results of the assessment and their recommendations as to the Individual Education Plan (IEP) of the pupil. In case of disagreement, parents have a right to appeal, first to the District Committee itself and, if not satisfied, to the Central Committee. 

Role of class teachers

As members of multi-disciplinary assessment teams, teachers are asked to complete an Educational Assessment Report which asks for descriptive information on the following areas: Pupil’s history; sensory-motor development, cognitive development and school performance (reading skills, mathematical skills, communication skills, writing skills); social development (personal adjustment, behaviour, social relationships). Teachers complete their report with their recommendations as to whether the pupil should receive special educational provisions and what kind.

Teachers have a great degree of autonomy as to the methods and instruments to employ for the assessment of pupils and they will usually employ the means that they use when assessing all pupils in their class. Teachers are also required to participate and contribute to the development and implementation of the pupil’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). They do this through collaboration with the parents, special teacher and/or speech therapist, the educational psychologist and other professionals as needed and with the help and coordination of the Special Education Coordinator (SENCO).  The involvement of the pupil at any stage of the drafting of the IEP is not required.

Role of educational psychologists

Educational Psychologists (EPs) are employees of the Educational Psychology Service (EPS) of the Ministry of Education and Culture.  They are represented on the District and Central Committees for Special Education and Training and have a strong say in decision-making.  They are appointed as members of multi-disciplinary assessment teams in most cases that are referred to the District Committee. Often they will know the pupils referred and quite often they will have referred them themselves. This is because the EPS accepts referrals directly from schools, from parents and from other sources and many times EPs will have worked with pupils long before a formal referral to the District Committee is made. This is especially the case since the introduction of the Mechanism for Detection of Learning and Emotional Difficulties (2004). 

Although not required by the relevant Law (1999), professional ethics dictate that the permission and co-operation of parents is sought before the process of psycho-educational assessment is initiated. EPs work mainly within the school environment where they will meet separately and together with head teachers, class teachers, parents, pupils and other persons involved.  They will obtain information on the pupil’s medical, developmental and educational history and they will interview, test and work with the pupil, its parents, teachers and others concerned. 

The methods they use include: observation, interviews, psychometric measurement, questionnaires, exercises, projective and other techniques, multi-disciplinary team meetings etc.  EPs observe the pupil in many contexts, in and out of class, in organized and free play, alone and with peers or significant others, in school and at the EPS offices. 

Although EPs are required to work within the confines of the medico-psychometric model prescribed by the Law and to complete their assessment with recommendations within two months, they try to follow as far as this is possible an approach that takes into account the pupil’s adaptation in the particular school/ family /social context, looking not only for weaknesses but also for strengths that will help the pupil adapt and develop his/her potentialities. This is a rather longer-term approach as EPs are interested to see how the pupil responds to various interventions (involving also the teachers, parents and others in the environment) before they are confident to make recommendations as to needs.

In this context, good practice is reflected in EPs following a contextual / environmental / systemic adaptation model of assessment and intervention rather than a strict medico-psychometric model. This approach entails examining the interaction between the child and his/her environment and observing his/her responses to changing conditions over time. This means becoming involved, alongside teachers, parents and children themselves, in an ongoing process of assessment both before as well as after the child has been referred to the District Committee plus all the way through the drafting and implementation of the IEP. It also means supporting class teachers in assuming an active, leading role in the drafting and implementation of the IEP and in assuming responsibility for the progress of the pupil within his/her class. (At present, the observed tendency is for the class teachers to assume a more passive role and for the special education teachers to assume a more active role in the implementation of the IEP, something that tends to undermine inclusive policies and practices).

Best practice is reflected in the EPS following a preventative rather than interventionist approach in schools through systematically pursuing and developing a partnering role with the school. Through pro-active, systematic and direct communication and co-operation with key partners within the school community, EPs offer guidance and support to the school in facilitating and promoting learning and development of all their pupils in all areas: factual knowledge, problem solving, creativity, personal and social skills, self esteem and self confidence.

In order to be able to do this more effectively, the EPS organizes its activities around two main areas:  that of responding to individual referrals and the area of activities that involve whole classes or whole school units with the aim of improving learning, promoting inclusion, building up resilience and resistance to non-adaptive modes of responding in pupils . One example is the Program for the Development of Self-Esteem in Primary School Pupils which is in its 5th year of application.

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