Chapter 8 Catering for Student Diversity
8.3 Additional Support for Kindergarten Students with Special Needs
The Committee also recommends that the KGs receiving the additional resources may be invited to share experiences with other KGs.
8.2.12 The Committee is of the view that teachers’ professional knowledge and pedagogical skills in catering for the learning differences of NCS students should be further enhanced. In this connection, the Committee recommends that the Government consider measures to enhance the provision of quality and targeted teacher training programmes on the learning of the Chinese language among NCS students. Besides, the Committee recommends that school-based professional support service should be strengthened to help KGs build up the expertise in facilitating NCS students’ learning of the Chinese language for a smooth transition to primary schools. The experience gained should also be shared with other KGs through various professional development activities for teachers. Moreover, effective learning and teaching strategies as well as resources could be developed, and good practices be compiled for dissemination to all KGs.
8.2.13 The Committee considers that more studies on the needs of NCS students in learning the Chinese language could be conducted to develop appropriate strategies to be deployed to support NCS students. The Committee also recommends that KGs admitting NCS students should be encouraged to make use of existing means and resources (e.g. Language Fund, QEF) to cater for the needs of these students.
8.2.14 The Committee realises that support of different nature for EMs is being provided by different government departments and community sectors and recommends that there should be more publicity of the various support services to reach out to more EMs.
(HA), Social Welfare Department (SWD) and EDB. Specifically, DH and HA arrange assessment, treatment and referral of rehabilitation services for children with developmental disorders. SWD provides pre-school rehabilitation services for children with disabilities from birth to the age of six and helps their families meet their special needs. EDB provides training for KG teachers to enhance their capacity in catering for student diversity. DH, HA, SWD and EDB have jointly launched the Comprehensive Child Development Service (CCDS) in phases since 2005, which enables KG teachers to make referral of pre-school children with parental consent directly to DH’s MCHCs for initial assessment.
8.3.2 MCHCs of DH conduct health and developmental surveillance in partnership with parents to facilitate early detection of developmental problems. A teacher resource kit37 has been developed by DH in collaboration with EDB and SWD to equip pre-primary teachers, among others, so that they can identify children with developmental problems for due referral for initial assessment at MCHCs. Training for KG teachers in this regard is also organised by EDB in collaboration with DH.
Children with suspected developmental concerns identified at MCHCs are referred to the Child Assessment Service (CAS) under DH or HA for follow-up and assessment.
In the past three years (2012 – 2014), nearly all new cases were seen within three weeks and assessments for 83% - 90% of newly registered cases were completed within 6 months at the CAS under DH. Upon completion of the assessment, children’s assessment summaries will be provided to parents, and diagnosed cases will be referred to appropriate training and special needs support services for their long-term follow-up.
8.3.3 Pre-school children (from birth to six) assessed to have special needs are provided with rehabilitation services by SWD with a view to enhancing their physical, psychological and social developments, thereby improving their opportunities for participating in ordinary schools and daily life activities and helping their families meet their special needs. The services are provided mainly through Early Education and Training Centre38 (EETC), Integrated Programme39 at KG-cum-CCCs and Special
37The Pre-primary Children Development and Behaviour Management – Teacher Resource Kit
38EETC provides early education and training programmes for children from birth to six with disabilities or children at risk of becoming disabled, where particular emphasis is placed on the caring and training role to be played by the parent(s)/guardian(s)/family member(s).
39Integrated Programme provides training and care to mildly disabled pre-schoolers aged two to six in ordinary
Child Care Centre40 (SCCC). In March 2015, there were a total of 6 626 subvented pre-school rehabilitation places, including 1 775 SCCC, 2 991 EETC and 1 860 IP places, yet there were about 7 000 applications on the waiting list for subvented pre-school rehabilitation services, with about 90% aged two or above and the remaining 10%
being under two. The average waiting time for such services ranged from 13 to 19.6 months in 2014-15. To increase the provision, the Government will provide about 1 470 additional pre-school rehabilitation places within its current term. For children with disabilities waiting for subvented rehabilitation services, low-income families may apply for training subsidy to obtain outside services. SWD will also increase the number of social workers in the subvented Parents/Relatives Resource Centres to improve parents’ ability to take care of their children with special needs in 2015-16.
8.3.4 KG teachers are equipped with the basic knowledge and skills in identifying children with special needs and catering for individual needs through the existing recognised teacher education/training programmes as mentioned in paragraph 8.2.2.
Besides, PDPs are provided by EDB in collaboration with DH to enhance teachers’
ability to identify students with developmental problems at an early stage, using the tools and resources developed in the teacher resource kit as mentioned in paragraph 8.3.2, which has been distributed to all pre-primary institutions. PDPs and school-based support services are also provided by EDB to strengthen teachers’
capacity in formulating appropriate teaching strategies to meet the developmental needs of children and to handle individual differences.
8.3.5 The government departments concerned also provide parents with parenting programmes, talks, workshops and booklets to enhance their awareness and understanding of child development. Where necessary, counselling and training are provided to empower them in helping their children overcome difficulties.
KG-cum-CCCs (which are FACs receiving subsidies from SWD) with a view to facilitating their future integration into the mainstream education as well as the society.
40SCCC provides intensive pre-school training for children aged two to six with moderate to severe grade of disability who cannot benefit from IP in KG-cum-CCCs.
The Stakeholders’ Views and Committee’s Deliberations
8.3.6 As announced in the 2015 Policy Address, DH will strengthen the manpower of the multi-disciplinary healthcare teams of the Child Assessment Centres to provide early assessment and professional diagnosis. In the past three years (2012 - 2014), assessments for 83% - 90% of newly registered cases were completed within 6 months. Stakeholders were of the general view that the waiting time for assessment should be shortened.
8.3.7 The Committee notes that some parents have reservation about transferring their children’s information to the concerned KG upon professional diagnosis from DH.
This might result in a delay in diagnosis and intervention. There were views that the Government should pay attention to the issue in order to ensure timely support for the students with special needs.
8.3.8 Some stakeholders suggested arranging universal screening for all students at KG stage for the purpose of early identification and intervention. However, others had doubts about the effectiveness and the reliability of such screening. They were of the view that as KG children progress rapidly in their early years and their pace of development may vary, it is natural that some children may excel in certain areas but have deficiencies in other areas. In most cases, it may not be advisable to label a young child with some delay in development as having special needs. Instead of conducting universal screening at KG stage, it was generally agreed that it would be more cost-effective to equip parents and KG teachers with the knowledge to monitor the children throughout the course of their development, and to further promote the identification mechanism so that they could seek help when required. In addition to bringing their children to attend the routine developmental surveillance conducted in MCHCs, parents of pre-school children can also approach MCHCs any time if they have concern on their children's development.
8.3.9 Currently, the number of children put on the waiting list for pre-school rehabilitation services after assessment outnumbers the number of rehabilitation places. Notwithstanding that efforts have been made by the Government to provide additional pre-school rehabilitation places, stakeholders were of the general view that there was a need for the provision of more places and to explore other feasible
measures to meet service demand. In this connection, there were suggestions for extending IP to KGs instead of just restricting such programmes to FACs. Besides, there were views that the present service mode should be reviewed and enhanced, with a view to providing better support for the students with special needs, their parents/carers as well as the KGs where they are studying. There were also suggestions to explore enhancing the services of Parents/Relatives Resource Centres to further support disabled children on the waiting list of subvented pre-school rehabilitation services and their parents/carers.
8.3.10 Some stakeholders considered that teachers’ capacity in catering for students’ special needs should be further enhanced by providing them with specific training programmes. There were views that additional teaching staff could help KGs cater for students with special needs. That notwithstanding, in consideration of the professional capacity of KG teachers, the sector was of the general view that the school-based support of allied health professionals was essential to help KGs play a complementary role of supporting their students with special needs. With regard to the suggestion of providing additional grant for KGs to procure support services for their students with special needs, there was reservation on KGs’ expertise to procure suitable service for the students, not to mention monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of the procured services. The availability of sufficient quality service providers in the market was also in doubt.
8.3.11 Stakeholders generally shared the view that parents, who also play a key role in catering for children’s special needs, should be well supported by different sectors in the community.
The Committee’s Recommendations
8.3.12 The Committee recognises that the Government has all along been committed to providing early identification and early support for children with special needs through the collaborative efforts of various government departments. In view of the importance of early assessment, the Committee recommends that the waiting time for assessment should be further shortened. That notwithstanding, it understands the constraints in increasing the number of specialists to make a significant improvement in the short and medium term.
8.3.13 The Committee considers that support for KG students with special needs should be enhanced through further increasing the number of places for rehabilitation services. In this regard, the Committee is aware that the Government is pro-actively seeking suitable sites for providing rehabilitation services. In addition, the Labour and Welfare Bureau, in cooperation with the NGOs, is in the process of implementing a Special Scheme on Privately Owned Sites for Welfare Uses whereby NGOs will redevelop the sites under their ownership to provide more welfare services including, among others, EETC and SCCC places. The Committee recommends that in the short and medium term, due resources should also be allocated to Parents/Relatives Resource Centres to further support those disabled children on the waiting list of subvented pre-school rehabilitation services and their parents/carers.
To facilitate easy accessibility to the services of Parents/Relatives Resource Centres, the establishment of these centres in each district could be explored. The Committee opines that in the long run, the service mode should be enhanced with a view to rendering holistic support for KG students with special needs, their parents/carers and the KGs they are attending. The Committee also considers that the support of a multidisciplinary team (comprising allied health professionals) for KGs is essential to cater for the students in need of additional support. In this connection, the Committee is pleased to see that the Government will try out a new service mode of rehabilitation services whereby operators of subvented pre-school rehabilitation services will provide on-site rehabilitation services to children studying in KGs or KG-cum-CCCs under a scheme supported by the Lotteries Fund. The Committee notes that the Government has sought views from relevant stakeholders before launching such scheme. Besides, the Committee considers that the desirability and feasibility of extending IP to KGs should be examined in the light of the outcome of the scheme.
8.3.14 The Committee also suggests that training places for allied health professionals (e.g. occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech therapist and clinical/educational psychologist) should be increased for more supply in the long run.
8.3.15 To further empower teachers to cater for learner diversity, the Committee recommends that more structured in-service training programme(s) be offered to KG teachers. With regard to training targets, the Committee is of the view that for a
start, at least one teacher in each KG should receive such training. Moreover, the proposed overall teacher-to-pupil ratio should take into account the need for additional teaching staff so that KGs would have more capacity to cater for the diverse needs of their students and to arrange for their teachers to attend training programmes, as well as organising school-based professional development activities in this regard. The Committee also recommends that the Government consider measures to enhance the provision of quality and targeted teacher training programmes on catering for learner diversity.
8.3.16 The Committee opines that while quite comprehensive support for parents has been provided by the government departments concerned, different community sectors should work together to raise parents’ awareness on children’s development and acceptance of children’s special needs through more publicity about the support services available.
8.3.17 The Committee recommends that the Government should set up a cross-Bureau/Department platform with government representatives and involving various stakeholders to give advice on the development of initiatives to cater for KG children with special needs.
Chapter 9 School Governance, Accountability and Quality Assurance