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More students are attending special education due to lack of resources and staff in schools

More and more students are leaving mainstream schools for special education because they are not getting the resources and support they need. Pupils with behavioral or psychiatric problems, in particular, are increasingly showing up in special education institutions over the past two years, according to Nu.nl.

Experts say children who need more support — whether it’s because of family life, behavioral issues or giftedness — often don’t get it in mainstream school. This can be attributed to a number of reasons, including a shortage of teachers and too few therapists and support staff in schools, sources told Nu.nl.

“Think of the long waiting lists for youth support,” Johan van Triest, chairman of the Special Education Sector Council, told Nu.nl. “It takes so much effort to get help as a child. When are we going to take good care of each other again in this country?”

Some children who are diverted to special education would never have had a problem if their issues had been addressed sooner, Van Triest said. During the coronavirus pandemic closures, which have temporarily prevented children in the Netherlands from attending school in person, education professionals have expressed concern that ‘vulnerable’ pupils need of “safety and structure” of the physical school.

For some children, however, special education is the option with better long-term resources. Van Triest observed that many parents are reluctant to send their children back to mainstream education, even when they no longer need to attend special education, because “they are finally getting our time and attention”.

However, the appropriate education law is supposed to ensure that these students can access additional attention and resources in mainstream education, so that they do not need to change schools. Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dennis Wiersma also aims to help pupils with special needs through additional allowances for teachers with vulnerable pupils.

Ultimately, however, the main issue is staff, said Ingrado manager Carry Roozemond. “We see students with mild behavioral issues that don’t fit into mainstream education because they can’t get therapy,” she said. “We know together how to guide such a child, but there is no help available.”