The National Commission Persons with Disability’s thinking about special education needs provision is enshrined in its National Policy Document on Special Education in Malta was first published in 1993. The publication of this document followed extensive consultation with all major stake holders in the field.
KNPD’s National Policy is based upon sixteen main principals. Briefly, then these principals affirm:
Extracts from central documents
The National Commission’s sixteen-point policy document was revised and reprinted in 1996. In order to further bring it up to date with current international thinking, a number of central documents were consulted. The following are extracts of direct relevance to the issue the role of special schools in an inclusive education environment.
The Salamanca Statement
1. The changing role of special schools
"... special schools can represent a valuable resource for the development of inclusive schools. The staff of these special institutions possess the expertise needed for early screening and identification of children with disabilities. Special schools can also serve as training and resource centres for staff in regular schools. Finally, special schools or units within inclusive schools --- may continue to provide the most suitable education for the relatively small number of children with disabilities who cannot be adequately served in regular classrooms or schools. Investment in existing special schools should be geared to their new and expanded role of providing professional support to regular schools in meeting special educational needs. An important contribution to ordinary schools, which the staff of special schools can make, is the matching of curricular content and method to the individual needs of pupils."
(Salamanca Statement, 1994: p. 12, para. 9)
2. ‘Mainstreaming’ children with disabilities
"The practice of ‘mainstreaming’ children with disabilities should be an integral part of national plans for achieving education for all. Even in those exceptional cases where children are placed in special schools, their education need not be entirely segregated. Part-time attendance at regular schools should be encouraged. Necessary provision should also be made for ensuring inclusion of youth and adults with special needs in secondary and higher education as well as in training programmes. Special attention should be given to ensuring equality of access and opportunity for girls and women with disabilities."
(Salamanca Statement, 1994: p. 18, para. 19)
3. Development of inclusive schools: a key government policy
"The development of inclusive schools as the most effective means for achieving education for all must be recognised as a key government policy and accorded a privileged place on the nation’s development agenda. It is only in this way that adequate resources can be obtained. Changes in policies and priorities cannot be effective unless adequate resource requirements are met. Political commitment, at both the national and community level, is needed both to obtain additional resources and to redeploy existing ones. While communities must play a key role in developing inclusive schools, government encouragement and support is also essential in devising effective and affordable solution."
(Salamanca Statement, 1994: p. 41, para. 70)
4. Support services for teachers in an ‘inclusive’ situation
The Salamanca Statement recognises the demands being made upon teachers in an ‘inclusive’ situation and with this in mind, it lays great emphases on the need to provide adequate resources to be allocated for:
(a) the training of mainstream teachers (at university level, in-service training and by self-instruction techniques),
(b) for the provision of resource centres and
(c) for special education teachers or resources teachers
(d) external support by resource personnel for teachers in ‘inclusive’ classrooms (these include: advisory teachers, educational psychologists, speech and occupational therapists, etc.).
(Salamanca Statement, 1994)
5. Malta: a signatory of the Salamanca Statement
5.1 "The Framework for Action was adopted by acclamation after discussion and amendment in the Closing Session of the Conference on 10th June, 1994."
(Salamanca Statement, 1994: p. 47, para. 85)
5.2 Malta is a signatory of the Salamanca Statement, through its representative at the Conference: Ms. Pauline Sammut, Head, Guardian Angel Special School, Hamrun.
5.3 If Malta decides to adopt a special educational policy which differs substantially from the Salamanca Statement, our country would be duty bound to officially withdraw its already stated support for the principles and plan of action adopted by the Salamanca Statement.
Diocesan Statement on Children's Special Educational Needs
1. "In her mission of education, the Church has a special responsibility towards those children who have physical disabilities, learning difficulties and emotional and behavioural problems. Because our schools exist to serve all within the Catholic Community every baptised child has an equal right to a place. "
2. "Integration means educating all children and young people through learning together in mainstream nurseries, schools or colleges with appropriate networks of support. To our Catholic community the requirement to integrate is not an optional extra but a challenge for which we must be willing to travel the extra mile of effort and sacrifice. The question is not "Can you do it ?" but "How shall we do it ?""
3. "Inclusion is much more than "integration". Integration accepted disabled children into schools without fundamentally changing the schools. Inclusion requires fundamental changes. It requires that local schools have adequate staffing and resources so that every child can participate in the life of the school."
CSIE Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education
The process of inclusive education should be supported through:
(Extracted from: CSIE Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education)
1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations)
2. The World Declaration on Education for All (United Nations)
3. The Standard Rules on Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (A/RES/48/96), United Nations Resolution adopted by the General Assembly at its 48th session on 20 December 1993).
4. The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education (World Conference on Special Needs Education: Access and Quality, Salamanca, Spain, 7-10 June, 1994).
5. Diocesan Statement of Children's Special Educational Needs, April 1994. Westminster Diocese Education Service, Schools Administration Department. Director and Diocesan Schools Commissioner, Vaughan House, 46, Francis Street, London SWIP 1QN - United Kingdom. Tel : 071-798 9005. Fax : 071-798 9013. 1996.
6. What is inclusion? CSIE Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education, Bristol, UK - 1996. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Bezzina, F. (ed.): Special Education in Malta: National Policy, Kummissjoni Nazzjonali Persuni b'Diúabilità, 1993.