3. Laws, Plans, Policies and Programmes
6. Teachers and Support Personnel
There is no evidence of an official definition of inclusive education in Montserrat.
Special Education Needs
Article 81 of the 2008 Education Act refers to the determination of special education needs. The act provides that the principal, in consultation with professional staff and parents or, where a child is not in attendance at a school, the director, in consultation with professional staff and parents, shall determine: 1) whether a student has special education needs and, if so, 2) what special education programme is appropriate to meet the needs of that student.
Special education programmes are provided for students of compulsory school age who ‘by virtue of intellectual, communicative, behavioral, physical or multiple exceptionalities are in need of special education’.
The Minister of Education regulates the operation of public schools, assisted private schools and private education institutions in the country.
Article 20 of the 2008 Education Act determines that parents are free to choose the education they want for their children. They may choose home schooling, private schooling or public schooling.
Chapter 4 of the Education Act refers to the ‘Categories of Schools and Sages of Education’. It provides that the minister may, as resources permit, include as part of the public education system:
- Education to meet the requirements of pupils who are gifted or have an exceptional ability
- Special education in accordance with the provisions of the act
- Adult and continuing education
- Distance education.
Article 78 of the Education Act decrees: ‘A parent of a student may provide, at home, a home education programme for the student if the parent complies with this section and if the programme meets the goals and objectives outlined in section 3(3) of this Act.’ The parent has the obligation of register the student with the director of education prior to the commencement of the home education programme.
Special education programmes are delivered in the least restrictive and most enabling environment to the extent that resources allow to students of compulsory school age who ‘by virtue of intellectual, communicative, behavioral, physical or multiple exceptionalities are in need of special education’.
According to UNICEF’s 2016 Situation Analysis of Children in Montserrat, children who have low levels of disabilities and/or learning problems might be included in the same classes as other children and both primary schools have a trained special education teacher. Primary and secondary schools also have learning support units that work with children with special needs or children who are considered at risk of academic failure. The report outlines, ‘A number of assessments were conducted for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, cerebral palsy, and Williams syndrome. 95 students throughout the system were identified as having special needs’.
The Montserrat Constitution Order of 2010 establishes provisions to protect the right to education. Article 12 of the act decrees that every child of appropriate age shall be entitled to receive free primary and secondary education. Parents and legal guardians may opt to have their child educated in a private school at their own expense. Minimum education standards will be guaranteed.
The Constitution Order also includes provisions against discrimination. It decrees that no one should be treated in a discriminatory manner on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
The Education Act regulates the administration of the education system of Montserrat and its education institutions and establishes the rights and responsibilities of students and parents. Article 28 prohibits discrimination in the education system, stating, ‘no person who is eligible for admission to a public educational institution or an assisted private school as a student shall be refused admission on any discriminatory grounds including race, place or origin, political opinions, colour, creed, sex, or subject to the provisions of this Act, mental or physical handicap.’
Montserrat’s 2008–20 Sustainable Development Plan guided the country’s policy development. The plan focused on five strategic goals: economic management, human development, environmental management and disaster mitigation, governance and population. One of its medium-term objectives was to develop and implement policies and programmes to enhance the well-being of vulnerable populations. A strong component of the plan consisted in creating and enforcing policies and legislation to ensure effective environmental and disaster management, education and participation in decision making.
As regards education, the plan sought to increase access to and improve the quality of formal and informal education and to improve education infrastructure, the curriculum and teacher training.
UNICEF’s 2016 Situation Analysis of Children in Montserrat identified five vulnerable populations in the country:
- Families with low or no salaries and/or in poor living conditions
- Children living in single-parent households, mainly those headed by women
- Children from migrant families
- Children in need of foster care
- Children with disabilities and/or special needs.
Montserrat is a protocol member of the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The 2012–21 OECS education strategy guides the education directions and priorities of its members and provides a framework for Member States to align their national strategies and plans. The strategy recognizes that there has been significant progress in some OECS States in implementing universal early childhood education and achieving universal primary and secondary education enrolment, but key areas of concern remain. These include the fact that inequality has become more obvious and in some areas the most disadvantaged economically and socially may not be enjoying the benefits of the education system; inadequacies in access at the pre-primary and tertiary levels; and the fact that gender disparities in performance are evident at all levels.
In 2018, the country adopted the Cochabamba Agreements and committed to developing a roadmap for the implementation of SDG 4 and moving towards quality, inclusive, equitable education.
Inclusive education was not promoted in the 2012–20 draft education development plan.
According to the 2008 Education Act, the minister of education is responsible for the referral of children who have been identified by the director of education as having learning difficulties to appropriate medical, education and social services or other agencies where they exist for remedial treatment or assistance. Article 37 of the act provides that a student shall be excused from school attendance if he/she ‘is suffering from a physical or mental disability that, in the opinion of a registered medical practitioner, makes the student incapable of being educated by ordinary methods or instruction’.
Special education is regulated under Article 80 of the Education Act. The act provides that a special education programme may take the form of an individual education plan in that the plan is tailored to the specific or individual needs of the student. The student who is suspected of having special education needs will be referred to the director for a determination of the assessments that may be required to be performed upon written consent of the parent. Where possible, the assessment shall be multidisciplinary. The parent and the student shall be consulted ‘prior to the determination of and during the implementation of the special education programme’. The parents shall be provided with information concerning the right of appeal to the Education Appeal Tribunal.
The 2011 National Policy Framework on Early Childhood Education includes provisions for children with disabilities and special needs. The policy seeks to provide opportunities for these children, as well as children living in at-risk situations such as conditions of poverty, abuse and HIV/AIDS. The policy foresees the inclusion of children with special education needs in the regular programme of early childhood centres as much as possible.
According to UNICEF, the situation of children with disabilities ‘is practically unknown‘ in the country:
‘Children who have low levels of disabilities and/or learning problems might be included in the same classes as other children; nevertheless, it is unknown whether, in terms of content, they are able to keep up with other students in class or if they stay behind. Special classes are available at secondary level, but they are limited in size and in specialized staff.’
The Education Act determines that the minister should develop an understanding of the principle of gender equality in the education system.
According to UNICEF’s Situation Analysis of Children in Montserrat, ‘Women are still not visible on Montserrat’s national agenda, and there continue to be differences between girls and boys due to failures in the socio-economic system.’ Girls outperform boys in primary and secondary exams and there are more women than men in post-secondary and tertiary education.
The 2008–20 Sustainable Development Plan sought to implement initiatives to ensure the optimum health and quality of life of persons living with HIV/AIDS, including the development of a National HIV/AIDS policy, which would include education-related polices.
Montserrat has not yet developed a gender policy.
According to UNICEF, poverty is at the core of most problems affecting children: UNICEF reported that 45% of the population under 15 was poor resulting from economic causes fueled by lack of opportunities. Montserrat lacks a consolidated social policy scheme for vulnerable families and/or children that could address the causes and consequences of poverty.
According to UNICEF, there are suggestions that Spanish-speaking children in particular do not have full access to education due to language constraints, such as the absence of appropriate teachers and efforts to teach English as a second language. This places children of migrant parents as one of the groups at risk of marginalization in the country.
As an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, Montserrat does not ratify international conventions or treaties such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Ministry of Education of Education, Health, Social Services and Sports oversees the management, provision and quality of education in Montserrat. The minister of education may delegate any function, duty or responsibility conferred in the Education Act to the Permanent Secretary and the Director of Education. The director of education officer shall ensure that schools and other education institutions are administered in a proper and efficient manner. He or she is expected to provide an education programme consistent with the requirements of the act for every compulsory school-age person who resides in Montserrat.
According to the Education Act, the minister may establish a Council on Special Education to advise on guidelines for the implementation of the special education provisions under this act.
Infrastructure and services
Several natural disasters – Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and the eruptions of the Soufriere Hills Volcano in 1995 and 1997 – produced significant damage in the infrastructure of the country, including schools.
Montserrat’s 2008–20 Sustainable Development Plan sought to improve education infrastructure to respond to the growing student population.
In its assessment of the situation of children in Montserrat in 2016, UNICEF reported, ‘The infrastructure of the only secondary school was considered by interviewees as a major problem that affects students’ well-being.’
According to the Education Act, a home education programme needs to be based on the national curriculum. Chapter 8 of the act regulates the curriculum and assessment of students. It decrees that the minister shall establish a national curriculum for public schools and assisted private schools and may revise it whenever it considers it necessary. The national curriculum should take into consideration the different abilities of students.
According to the Education Act, the minister of education is responsible for making provisions for the professional training of teachers for the entire education system and laying down standards applicable to their recruitment. There are no provisions in the act for pre-service or in-service teacher training for inclusive education.
Montserrat’s 2008–20 Sustainable Development Plan encouraged the employment of appropriate measures to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of qualified teachers and maintain minimum standards for teaching.
UNICEF’s 2016 Situation Analysis of Children in Montserrat refers to lack of teacher training as one of the biggest challenges for education in Montserrat. Concerning disability, the report states, ‘According to the Ministry of Education, special education needs programmes are available in both primary public schools. Each school has a trained special education teacher with the skill and experience to work with students.’
There is no evidence of monitoring and reporting mechanisms developed by Montserrat to measure progress towards inclusive education.