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Descriptions of the legal system for assessment - Netherlands

Assessment of pupils with learning difficulties and mild mental impairments

In 1990, a government policy document, Together to School Again (the so-called WSNS policy) made a fresh start in integrating students with special needs. Under this policy, all primary schools and the special schools for learning disabled and mild mentally retarded pupils have been grouped into regional clusters. The new legislation made the special schools for learning disabled and mild mentally retarded pupils, part of the regular school system. Each cluster consists of one or more special schools working with 25 primary schools on average. This has resulted in a nation-wide network in which every regular elementary and each of the special schools for pupils with learning difficulties and/or mild mental impairments is part of a regional cluster (Meijer, 2004).
Each of the about 250 school clusters is funded equally, based on the total enrolment in primary education. About half of the funding available for meeting the needs of learning disabled and mildly mentally retarded pupils has gradually been taken away from the schools for pupils with learning difficulties and/or mild mental impairments and placed at the disposal of the regional clusters. School clusters can decide to maintain special provision in the former special schools. They can also decide to transfer parts of that provision to the mainstream schools in the cluster in one form or another. The key factor is that regular schools participate in decision-making concerning the structure of special education provision. The new funding system is intended to stimulate inclusion, as it enables schools to take the special services to the pupils instead of transferring pupils to these services.
Under the WSNS policy assessing pupils with learning difficulties and mild mental impairments is basically the responsibility of the class teacher. If the pupil’s special needs are difficult to meet, the teacher can be supported by the school’s special needs co-ordinator or by support teachers from the regional school support service. A next step would be to refer the pupil for assessment to a regionally operating assessment team (PCL: Permanente Commissie Leerlingzorg). The Law on elementary education (Ministerie van OCW, 1988) prescribes that every school cluster has a PCL (article 23.1). The Law further prescribes that the PCL has at least three members (23.2), asks relevant pupil data from the referring school (23.3) and discusses complaints with a regionally operating board deciding on placement in supported secondary education tracks (RVC) (23.5). A PCL generally comprises a psychologist, physician, social worker and experienced special needs teachers. It assesses pupils in order to decide on the support needed. The referring school is obliged to make an education report (article 43) informing the PCL on the reasons for referral and the actions that have been carried out to solve the problems in educating the pupil concerned. The PCL decides formally about referring pupils to the special schools for elementary education (the former special schools for learning disabled and mild mentally retarded pupils). The decision to refer does not automatically imply placement. The decision to place a child is the responsibility of the special school for elementary education.
Parents’ permission is required for an assessment by the PCL. The initiative to do this is usually taken by the regular class teacher in consultation with the school principal, school support service and parents.
 
Sources:

  • Meijer, C.J.W. (2004). WSNS welbeschouwd. Antwerpen: Garant.
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