Inclusive Education: Equal Education & WCED inputs

Education (WCPP)

03 November 2022
Chairperson: Ms D Baartman (DA)
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Meeting Summary


Ina virtual meeting, the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) presented its 20-Year-Review on the Regulatory Framework for Inclusive Education and its Implementation in South Africa. The EELC report provided an analysis of the extent to which implementation of the regulatory framework has taken place over 20 years. The EELC reviewed the regulatory framework for inclusive education, of which the 2001 White Paper 6 on Special Needs Education: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System formed the foundation. The report proposed recommendations for regulatory reform to ensure that the right to an inclusive, equitable, quality education for all, as enshrined in the Constitution and reflected in international commitments, is enforced, promoted and protected.

Committee members were concerned by the lack of data on learners with disabilities at schools and those who are out of school. They emphasised the role of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in improving data collection efforts. Members asked for details on learners with disabilities on the waiting list per district. Members said that there should be an engagement with DBE on the EELC recommendations.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) presented on Inclusive Education and on the Guidelines for Resourcing Inclusive Education. It spoke about Teaching for All training which places the teacher as a critical change agent in developing an inclusive and equitable education system. The Department emphasised the importance of Quality Education for All.

Members were concerned by the progress in achieving inclusive education. They requested that WCED submit a bi-annual report on the White Paper on Inclusive Education implementation progress. Members asked about the WCED costing it submitted to HEDCOM Finance Sub-Committee and the timeline for completion of overall costing. Members were impressed by the electronic system pilot project at the Red Cross Children's Hospital and asked about the user experience of the doctors participating in the project and the number of learners supported by the pilot project.

Meeting report

EELC 20-Year-Review on Inclusive Education in South Africa
Ms Robyn Beere, Deputy Director, EELC, and Mr Yolisa Piliso, Candidate Attorney, said that EELC conducted a year-long comprehensive review of the regulatory framework that governs inclusive education in South Africa. They assessed the various laws and policy commitments and the extent of implementation. They also looked at what is required to accelerate inclusive education.

The report reviewed White Paper 6 on Special Needs Education: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System of 2001 as the primary policy document. White Paper 6 envisaged the phased conversion of special schools to resource centres (SSRC). The SSRC will provide professional support to neighbourhood schools and be integrated into district-based support teams.

In 2021 DBE reported 142 out of 435 public special schools had been converted. There needed to be more available data to assess the functioning of SSRC adequately. There were also reports of poorly resourced special schools.

EELC recommendations for improvements included:
- Urgent priority is given to the upgrading of poorly resourced and dilapidated special schools
- Prioritise the conversion of all special schools into resource centres
- Adequate monitoring of the functioning of resource centres
- Moratorium on the building of new special schools.

The presentation highlighted a critical pillar is the establishment of full-service schools—it noted that the White Paper 6 target of 500 schools is too low to achieve systemic transformation. The Auditor General audit report for 2018/19 informed of poor results across all indicators.
Recommendation to remedy this:
- The term "Full-Service School" should be abandoned in favour of all ordinary schools becoming inclusive schools.

The EELC reported that teaching training should be addressed in pre- and in-service training programmes. Some gains were made, but targets were not met and were criticised as insufficient for skills development.
Recommendations to remedy this:
- Compulsory pre- and in- service training on inclusive pedagogy
- Induction of new teachers
- Monitoring skills acquisition aligned to inclusive teaching standards

EELC reported on challenges with admissions policies and practices. There are various admissions policies and practices in South Africa. Access to schools is the fundamental requirement for realising the right to education. There needs to be more clarity and consistency in existing policies. There are specific challenges with the following terms:
- special education needs
- reasonable practicability
- discriminatory admission practices
- failure to reasonably accommodate at ordinary schools.

Recommendations to remedy this:
- Clarity across policies
- Clarity on admission to particular schools.

Teacher training should be addressed in both pre- and in-service training programmes. Some gains were made, but the targets still need to be met. There is criticism as it is insufficient for skills development.
Recommendations to remedy this included:
- Compulsory pre- and in-service training on inclusive pedagogy
- Induction of new teachers
- Monitoring skills acquisition aligned to inclusive teaching standards.

EELC reported on the importance of the role of District Based Support Team (DBST). DBE reports that all districts have established a DBST. However, there are implementation challenges with:
- Leadership and composition
- Resourcing
- Multi-disciplinary skills and knowledge.

Recommendations to remedy this included:
- District Director must be held accountable for leadership and management of DBST
- Adequate funding of DBST
- Monitoring and accountability mechanisms to assess composition and functioning.

School-Based Support Teams (SBST) have been established in South Africa which are equally as crucial to DBST. A high percentage of schools report having established an SBST. The 2018/19 Auditor General audit report found that "78% of School-Based Support Teams at full-service schools audited were not established and did not adequately function to ensure that inclusive education is planned, implemented, recorded and reported. SBST challenges included:
- Composition
- Role and purpose
- Skills and knowledge
- Frequency and agenda of meetings
- Managing workload
- Support from DBST
- Monitoring and accountability.

Recommendations to remedy this:
- More than one SBST in large schools.
- Guidance in the regulatory framework.
- Reduced teaching time for SBST Coordinator to be provided for and costed.
- Time commitment of SBST members to be taken into consideration.
- Regular comprehensive training for SBST members.
- Regular, detailed monitoring and reporting on SBST functioning.

The presentation addressed mobilising children who were out of school. White Paper 6 is vague on how to achieve this goal. There need to be better data collection efforts to plan and monitor the achievement of this goal. Recommendations to remedy this included:
- Adequate time bound and costed plan to mobilise and place out-of-school learners
- Accurate disaggregated data be made available.

EELC reported a need for adequate funding for inclusive education. There is no transparent budget allocation for expanding inclusive education but a continued prioritisation of special schools in funding allocations. An analysis of spending over the last 20 years reveals that the budget allocated to Programme 4 has remained virtually unchanged. The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) only passed norms and standards as guidelines: Guidelines for Resourcing Inclusive Education. Recommendations to remedy this included:
- Funding reforms must urgently be finalised.
- Budgeting and reporting on expenditure for special schools must be separate from funding for inclusive education which is for ordinary schools to function as inclusive schools
- Funding for reasonable accommodation in ordinary schools must be provided.
- Support structures must be funded immediately, not by 2030.
- Fiscal space must be found. More phasing-in is not the appropriate solution.

EELC provided recommendations for the regulatory framework going forward. It stated that there should not be a review of White Paper 6 as it is policy and has no force of law. Instead, there should be clear legal entitlements. Stand-alone legislation or amendments to the South African Schools Act (SASA) should exist. There should also be regulations as follows:
- SIAS (Policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support) should be elevated to the status of regulations
- SBST, DBST and SSRC should be regulated
- Special School hostels should be regulated.

There should also be accountability in implementation. Thus provisions should be aligned across all laws and policies about inclusive education. There should be robust monitoring and accountability mechanisms included.

Funding is critical. Thus budgets should be costed and allocated.

The Chairperson asked EELC to clarify the reasoning for the recommendation on the moratorium of the building of new special schools.

She said the recommendations should be posed to the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

She asked if the 2018/19 Auditor General Report on the School-Based Support Teams (SBST) was a national report.

Mr M Kama (ANC) thanked EELC for their presentation and excellent work. He asked when the 20 Year Review Report was compiled. He asked if the Western Cape Standing Committee on Education was the first to be engaged on the report and if WCED and DBE had been engaged on the report? On admission policy, he asked if EELC believes there should be a uniform admission policy to ensure inclusive education and guarantee that all children have equal access to education in public and independent schools. It was concerning that data on children with disabilities that were out of school was not available and the Department should clarify what they are doing about this as it is mandated by law to ensure that every child has access to education without discrimination.

Mr K Sayed (ANC) asked for a breakdown of the average 22 learners per district on the waiting list. He asked what causes those learners to be on the waiting list. Long-term work is required for the funding model for inclusive education. Does EELC have recommendations for the Department to use as a temporary approach for a funding model to ensure EELC proposals are implemented?

EELC responses
Ms Robyn Beere, EELC Deputy Director, replied to the Chairperson that special school issues are complex. She referred to the previous model of parallel education, where children with disabilities were segregated and educated in separate schools. There was a considerable appreciation and understanding that this was not necessarily in the children's best interests. The policies changed and progressed towards an inclusive education system. Inclusive education ensures that children are placed primarily in an ordinary school. Placement in special schools should be a last resort. However, there is an acknowledgement that for some learners, placement in special schools is in their best interests. Learners with high-level support needs, multiple and complex disabilities, and low-functioning autism should be placed in special schools. There are 500 special needs schools in South Africa. The building of new special schools would continue to perpetuate that all children with disabilities should attend special schools.

The EELC commended WCED for conducting sifting processes at special schools in the Western Cape. This ensured that learners with disabilities who could be placed in ordinary schools were placed accordingly. However, EELC expressed concern that there are special schools that continue to accommodate learners with physical disabilities who have no intellectual disabilities and can meet the grade requirements. Such children should not be in special schools but should be accommodated in ordinary schools. An audit of the placement at special schools is required.

The EELC believed there is no need to build new special schools, as special schools are built and maintained at a tremendous cost. If all the funding is channelled to special schools, there will be no fiscal space for funding to be allocated to ordinary schools. There should instead be an increased allocation of funding to ordinary schools to ensure more inclusiveness of learners with disabilities. Instead of building new special schools, there should be more significant efforts to ensure that existing special schools are well-funded and staffed. Therefore, EELC supported a moratorium on building new special schools. Instead, there should be more emphasis on supporting learners with disabilities in ordinary schools. Learners with disabilities should be placed in special schools only if necessary. EELC recognised that there are exceptions. In some districts and provinces, there are no special schools. For example in the Northern Cape, there are ten special schools in Kimberley and none in the rest of the province.

The Auditor General in its DBE 2018/19 audit report examined the School Based Support Team (SBST) only in specific full-service schools that were audited. EELC was concerned by audit finding that "78% of SBST at full-service schools audited were not established and did not adequately function to ensure that inclusive education is planned, implemented, recorded and reported".

Ms Beere replied that the EELC report was compiled in 2021. The Executive Summary was released in December 2021 and the final report was released in March 2022. The report was compiled and released to coincide with the end of the 20-Year Implementation Plan of the Education White Paper 6 on Special Needs Education: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System. White Paper 6 provided a 20-year plan to achieve the goals of inclusive education. The EELC report was based on a review of the plan.

The EELC has engaged with the WCED Inclusive Education Programme and the Directorate: Inclusive and Specialised Education Support on the EELC report. The DG provided feedback to the EELC last week, which included responses from numerous WCED directorates to the EELC recommendations. The DG invited the EELC to engage further on the recommendations.

The EELC hopes to engage with the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) across multiple directorates to grapple with the recommendations seriously. The EELC emphasised that the report was not adversarial. The purpose of the research and the report was to generate well-rounded recommendations for constructive and collective debate and engagement among multiple stakeholders, including Parliament, DBE and civil society.

The EELC requested that there should be a uniform admission policy. It noted that there are some inconsistencies. All children should be guaranteed equal access to education. Some provisions of the SA Schools Act such as SASA sections 5 and 12(4), deal with learners with special education needs accessing ordinary schools. However, more than these provisions are required and require reform.

The EELC agreed that providing data on children with disabilities and children out of school is critical. For example, if 300 000 learners as opposed to 20 000 learners, are out of school, considerable planning, budgeting, and logistical arrangements are required to ensure those learners are placed in school. International monitoring bodies, such as the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Child, and the African Union, have called on the South African government to produce adequate disaggregated data. This has yet to be achieved and requires improvement.

Ms Beere replied that the causes for the waiting list are varied. In some cases, the child is in an ordinary school and the school recommends that the child be placed in a particular school which is full. The child remains in the ordinary school until there is an opening. In other cases, the child is out of school, the particular school is full, and the child is placed on the waiting list. It is disappointing that child in the second scenario is not provided with alternatives. Nationally, some learners are out of school for years. Some children between the ages of 10 to 12 years have not been in school at all. It is a violation of a child's right to education, and it must be rectified. The solution is not to place a child on the waiting list indefinitely. That child has an immediate right to education. The default mode of placing all children with disabilities in special schools is not practical. The EELC welcomed the WCED presentation on Inclusive Education and this is the solution required.

On the funding model for inclusive education, the EELC called on all stakeholders to consider this matter. It was disappointed when the funding norms were not passed by the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) as norms but as guidelines. The implications of this was that no money was made available. Subsequently, there was no enforceability. The best way forward is to apply pressure for funding norms. There are also other ways to be more innovative within the fiscal space. The EELC report contains a chapter on creating fiscal space in the short term for immediate funding while long-term funding models are considered. The report provides an analysis of the diverse types of available funding models. It also provides norms and standards for resources for inclusive education.

The Chairperson noted that the Budget Committee for the past two to three fiscal years, has in its negotiating mandate on the Division of Revenue Bill, recommended to National Treasury that they include special needs education within the national budget as well as within the provincial equitable share formula. Depending on the disability, funding is provided per learner in the respective schools.

She thanked EELC and said the Committee appreciated the additional information on education-related topics. It wants to ensure that the children in the Western Cape have quality education. The Committee wants to ensure it can deal with the topics such as inclusive education.

WCED response
Mr Sigamoney Naicker, WCED Chief Director: Inclusive Education and Special Programmes, replied that introduction of inclusive education in South Africa through White Paper 6 constituted a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift in social sciences involves shifts in assumptions, theory, morals, practices and tools. What that means for the education system is systemic reform. That is why the Department does not only discuss inclusive education in the Directorate or the Chief Directorate but across all its branches. WCED realised this was a complicated task as pointed out by EELC.

Mr Naicker referred to the international environment and the developments in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. In Canada, there are positive reports of inclusive education. However, they also experience challenges. A quarter of the population in the Western Cape earns R2 500 per month. That has implications for education, the curriculum, and the level of education. One of the ways to deal with this is to implement inclusive education. Therefore, international research is critical. In the US and UK, they struggled with working-class issues related to education for 150 years. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), the evaluating body in the UK, adopted a culture of capital in curriculum development in 2019. The notion of cultural capital was advanced a 100 years ago by French sociologist and public intellectual, Pierre Bourdieu. It is a challenge and a complexity also experienced by other countries. In the context of the international environment, there has been considerable progress in the Western Cape.

WCED engaged universities on inclusive education. The universities are required to produce updated knowledge relevant to the current context. The university narrative should be about producing knowledge about schools, education, teaching and learning for the benefit of the Department. Further, WCED engaged with the British Council, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and a wide range of universities in the Western Cape to fast-track overall engagement with universities. WCED is aware of the context in the Western Cape and applies it mind to that context. Education cannot be separated from the realities confronting the ordinary person in Western Cape society.

Inclusive Education: WCED briefing
The Department highlighted critical aspects of White Paper 6. There was a shift from the focus only on "Special Needs" (within child/deficit) to focus on "Barriers to Learning and Development" (systems change/social rights model). Another feature is the Continuum of Provision – from Mainstream/Ordinary Schools with Support (Low-Intensity Support) to Full-Service (Medium Intensity) to Special Schools (High-Intensity Support). In the short to medium term, actions intended to provide models and clarity on capital, material, and human resource development requirements for system-wide application.

White Paper 6 envisaged that:
- All schools would over time become inclusive centres of learning, care and support.
- There would be specialised support services throughout the system ranging from low or moderate to elevated levels of provision.
- The scope of personnel would range from full-time staff to coordinate support at the school, teaching assistants and visits by outreach teams from districts or special school resource centres.
- Full-service schools would be ordinary schools resourced at a moderate level of support to cater for learners with additional support needs or disabilities.
- The first full-service schools would be flagship schools and models of inclusion good practice to be emulated by other ordinary schools.

WCED stated that inclusive education in South Africa is not something which has to happen in addition to education reform but one of the means through which social and education transformation can be achieved.

The presentation noted the DBE September 2022 oversight visit on implementing inclusive education. DBE visited two districts, one rural and one metro. The expansion of inclusive education intends to support learners who experience barriers to learning in ordinary public schools. The expansion starts with those schools identified for conversion into full-service schools and to strengthen the outreach of special schools. Special schools identified to be transformed into resource centres will offer support programmes to the identified full-service schools and learners with moderate support needs in other ordinary public schools. The outcome of the DBE provincial visits was to inform the expansion.

The proposals in the Guidelines for Resourcing Inclusive Education (2018) incorporate Public Special Schools and Public Ordinary Schools (Full-Service Schools). They include Compensation of Employees (CoE) and the Non-Personnel Non-Capital (NPNC), in the form of school transfers. Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) were requested to do costing for the HEDCOM Sub-Committee on Finance meeting in September 2022. The costed guidelines would be subject to the sector's approval process.

WCED spoke about the Teaching for All training. This programme adopts a broad social justice and human rights-based approach and places the teacher as a critical change agent in developing an inclusive and equitable education system. There are four units in the programme's module:
- Inclusive Education
- Learner Diversity
- Inclusive School Communities
- Inclusive Teaching and Learning.

WCED emphasised the importance of Quality Education for All. Covid-19 has forced the world to review and reset. Inclusive Education in South Africa is not something which has to happen in addition to education reform, but one of the means through which social and education transformation can be achieved in the 'new normal'.

Mr Sayed thanked the Department for the presentation but noted concern that it was submitted late. Members needed more time to engage appropriately with the presentation. If there are technical issues, the Department should find a quick solution.

He asked how far the Department is in achieving the vision of inclusive education. What support is provided to ordinary public schools admitting learners with special needs? Do they meet the norms and standards for these learners?

Mr Sayed asked for more details about the schools identified for conversion into full-service schools. What resources are they currently receiving?

The Chairperson referred to the request for costing by PEDs for the HEDCOM Sub-Committee on Finance meeting in September. The costed guidelines will be subject to the sector's approval process. She asked that WCED sends its costing to the Committee. She asked if there is a timeline that WCED can expect the sector to complete the engagement.

She requested that WCED send the Committee a written bi-annual report on White Paper 6 implementation progress. A written briefing document would be necessary only every six months.

The Chairperson referred to the electronic system pilot project at the Red Cross Children's Hospital. She asked if the doctors provided written recommendations that learners should be placed in special schools and have specialised skills available. If so, how many doctors are currently in the pilot? How many learners are currently supported by the pilot? When does WCED plan to roll out the pilot to the other schools? Could the Committee have a copy of the list of doctors participating in the pilot if in line with the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act? It would be helpful for the Committee to ask the doctors about their user experience of the electronic system and what improvements are required.

She noted that the mandatory teacher training module is planned for implementation in 2023. She asked if there was a specific timeframe for implementation.

WCED response
Mr Naicker noted and appreciated Mr Sayed's request for timely document submission to the Committee.

Ms Berenice Daniels, WCED Director: Specialised Education, replied that currently six doctors are using the electronic system pilot project. She will request the project coordinator, Dr Mark Richards, to provide the names of the doctors and their comments on the user experience.

She noted that previously learners were referred to doctors for placement at a particular school. Not all learners with a diagnosis of a disability should go to a school. Recently, electronic referrals have been sent to the district's inclusive and specialised learner and educator support component. To determine if the learner should be in a full-service or ordinary school. WCED will provide the Committee with the numbers referred.

Ms Daniels said that the expected roll-out of the plan is the end of 2022. Dr Richards is currently on sabbatical. Upon his return, a review will be conducted to assess if any changes are required to the electronic document. The project will be first implemented in major hospitals such as Tygerberg Hospital. After that, referrals will be conducted on a provincial basis.

Each province provided a costing of the guidelines for an inclusive education system. She would request guidance from finance colleagues on the next steps.

Ms Daniels responded to Mr Sayed on the details of the schools and said that WCED had identified one school per circuit. WCED will provide the names of the schools. The schools are receiving a package of services. WCED conducts education surveys to determine the resource and capacity needs of the schools.

She said the Teaching for All training course would be converted into an online course by the eLearning Directorate. The schools registered for the course. Schools attended the online support session every two weeks. WCED plans to expand the course to the next pool of 64 schools in 2023. The main aim is to make the in-service version of the Teaching for All training available to all schools as soon as possible.

On the mandatory teacher training module, she clarified that it refers to teachers in training. Many universities are offering Teaching for All. She believes it will be mandatory for students who want to qualify as teachers in the future. Either the teachers in training must complete the stand-alone Teaching for All course or the courses offered by universities which infuse appropriate university courses with the Teaching for All course.

On support to ordinary schools, WCED provides learning support to teachers. WCED was allocated an additional 86 posts for this purpose in 2022, which will increase support for ordinary public schools. Recruitment will be completed shortly.

Mr Sayed asked what the infrastructure plans are to ensure that schools are physically accessible to special needs learners. Are there measures to deal with discriminatory practices such as bullying in the context of inclusive education?

Ms Daniels replied that all new schools are built to be accessible. The building regulations require all public buildings including schools to be accessible. There are challenges with older buildings. However, WCED has embarked on improving accessibility by fixing two schools per district annually. It is also available on-demand for urgent cases.

WCED requested a representative group of staff to conduct training at full-service schools to address the issue of bullying and discrimination. This is part of the package provided to full-service schools. Every district has a generic positive behaviour budget for learner programmes. The budget allocates funding for capacity building to teach learners about issues such as bullying.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee was introduced to the Harmony Project when they visited two schools. The project deals with positive values and systems of discipline. The Committee on Cluster Oversight resolved to invite them to the Committee to learn about the best practices. One of the schools, Pinelands North, was recognised as one of the top three for overcoming adversity. The Committee needs to work on their schedule for further engagement and improvements.

The Chairperson thanked the EELC and Department for the briefings.

Committee resolutions
The Committee requested:
- WCED bi-annual report on White Paper 6 implementation progress and outcomes
- WCED costing to the HEDCOM Sub-Committee on Finance and timeline for completion
- Six doctors comments on the user experience of the electronic system pilot
- Number of learners currently supported by the electronic system pilot, when will the rollout be implemented per school and per circuit
- WCED to engage with DBE on EELC recommendations which relate to the national mandate
- recommend to the Budget Committee to reiterate inclusion of inclusive education in the upcoming division of revenue adjustment negotiating mandate
- EELC to provide a breakdown of the 22 learners on the waiting list per district

The Committee will have online meetings instead of hybrid meetings during the week of the bi-elections.

The meeting was adjourned.


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