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Education ministry looking to change laws over assistants for special needs students (updated)

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The education ministry on Monday said it is working on amending the legislative framework over the appointment of assistants for special needs students after the House education committee last week that called on the government to resolve recurring issues.

A statement released by the ministry, however, said the appointment of additional assistants is not directly regulated by the government, but by policies that require certain procedures to be amended.

Last week, the House education committee head Pavlos Mylonas sounded the alarm that there are not enough assistants for students with special needs.

He cited figures provided by the education ministry saying that there are currently 1,100 assistants working in schools this year of whom 813 will work at primary schools and 298 at secondary and technical schools. However, he said parents have lodged around 2,300 requests for special assistants.

Mylonas said that around €3 million is needed to cover the gap this year, which “unfortunately, the education ministry cannot meet”.

On Monday, a delegation of parents of students with special needs staged a protest in front of the Presidential Palace and the education ministry headquarters demanding the appointment of extra assistants.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, president of the Cyprus ADHD Association (Depy) Marina Georgiou said the reason behind the protest is linked to the “unjustified understaffing of assistants for students with special needs, which violates the rights of children and the laws regulating special education provisions.

“Each special needs student’s situation has to be properly evaluated to determine whether he needs an assistant, for how many hours and what is required of him or her.

“This, unfortunately, does not happen and the consequences fall on our children with special needs,” Georgiou said.

She added that all the concerns were clearly voiced during the protests and that the school boards support the parents’ demands.

The education ministry said it is currently in the process of listening to ideas and suggestions from parents and school boards to review and amend the legislative framework on the topic.

“We are working with parents and education experts and there will soon be another briefing with the House education committee,” a statement said.

“Moreover, the Council of Ministers has decided to set up a special advisory board in cooperation with the health ministry to possibly revise the parameters needed to determine which students need special assistance.

“The important issues concerning the further improvement of special needs services for students is duly noted by the government, which will allocate extra resources to solve the situation,” the statement concluded.

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