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Týden: School inclusion project collapsing

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Prague, July 31 (CTK) – The inclusion of disabled children in regular schools is collapsing in the Czech Republic since the state has no money for assistants and special aids and the Education Ministry fails to push through a key change in the respective directive, the weekly Tyden out on Monday wrote.

Both Finance Minister Ivan Pilny (ANO) and Ombudsman Anna Sabatova have raised serious objections to the directive.

Inclusion has been working at primary schools for almost a year, which means that children with some health disability or a social or psychological handicap attend regular classes with healthy children.

However, the practice has revealed many mistakes in the inclusion legislation. Apart from insufficient finances for aids for disabled students, there are no clear methodological instructions to handle them, Tyden writes.

Education Minister Stanislav Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD), the original author of the inclusion plan, would like to remove the shortcomings by the beginning of a new school year within a 70-page amendment to the directive mending the imperfect legislation, which his predecessor Katerina Valachova (CSSD) pushed through.

However, Stech will hardly succeed now when the situation in the coalition government of the CSSD, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) is tense.

Other ministers and institutions have sent him many comments on the directive that the Education Ministry is not likely to process by the October general election. This worries school directors who are eagerly awaiting the directive that would ease their work, Tyden writes.

Sabatova, for instance, took an uncompromising stance and recommended to sweep the directive from the table.

“The amendment strongly infringes on the rights of children with special educational needs and the mere organisation of the special school sector. The proposal prefers the interests of school providers, advisory centres and special schools to the child’ best interests,” Sabatova wrote.

She says she minds the amendment not being in harmony with the EU law and enabling children without a mental disability attending a school for mentally impaired children.

“This applies, for instance, to Roma children who were diagnosed with various learning and behaviour disorders, which opens the path to further discrimination against them,” Sabatova added.

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksova (CSSD) criticised the fact that educational-psychological advisory centres would get more time, four instead of three months, to diagnose a child’s disability and issue a possible recommendation. Marksova disagreed with the school sector’s argument saying the advisory centre were overburdened and did not manage their work.

Pilny sent absolutely crucial comments, rejecting Stech demands that the finances allocated to the school inclusion plan be considerably increased, for instance, by four billion crowns in 2018 instead of 1.5 billion. “The expenditures must be reviewed since their level is beyond the state budget possibilities,” the Finance Ministry said.

Stech still hopes he will manage to incorporate the comments into the new wording of the amendment, thwart them or ignore them in some cases, such as the argument of the lack of funding.

“The support level is set in the directive on the education of students with special educational needs and talented children. The state is obliged to secure the money,” Tyden cites Stech as saying.

He said he was willing to discuss the other issues.

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