Thursday, April 12th 2018 was a significant and historic day for the Department of Education as the country was introduced to the first ever Special Education Newsmagazine called “Inclusion”. The magazine was developed to inform the country of the trends, development and achievements in Special Education in the TCI. The launch of this magazine was a special feature of the Policy Initiative “No Child Left Behind”. At the launch, the Education Officer for Special Needs Mr. Jasmin Walkin gave an overview of the assessment of Special Education Programs conducted throughout the government schools in the Turks & Caicos Islands and how the information gained inspired him to collaborate with the Special Education Teachers to develop a National Strategy to begin to meet the needs of Students with Special Needs.
Mr. Walkin explained to those in attendance; “This policy initiative is derived from TCI Special Education Policy document. However, it is a list of specific targets my team and I will seek to meet during a twelve-month period March 2018 - February 2019. The targets outlined in “No Child Left Behind” Policy Initiative are directed towards a massive Special Education public relations campaign, establishing a system of reliable data collection, referrals and intervention, professional development and collaboration, capacity building, and finally; promoting ‘best practices’ in regard to Special Education models throughout our schools.”
Some of the specific targets of “No Child Left Behind” Policy Initiative are:
- Establishment of Special Education Assessment & Intervention Team (SEAIT) - National Steering Committee to supervise, develop, and support the work of School Based Assessment Teams, design intervention and monitor its implementation.
- Appoint Special Education Programme Coordinators to assist with the implementation of TCI Special Education Policy, programme management, evaluation, student assessment and staff development.
- Establish a system for consistent Special Education Screening and Assessments that leads to intervention (SEAIT Objective)
- Establish a smooth system of assessment, screening, referrals, and intervention in collaboration with Ministry of Health and their external agencies - which provides the ministry with support for Special Needs assessments
- Establish Culture of Capacity Building among Special Education Teachers (SET)
- Implement a PR campaign encouraging parents to have their children assessed and to pressure parents who have not accepted the prognosis of their Special Needs child to allow intervention where it is possible.
- As part of the PR Campaign: Collaborate with Special Education Teachers to establish quarterly Special Education Magazine, as well as establish partnership with media houses, conduct interviews about Special Education Policy initiatives and updates.
Mr. Walkin was pleased to inform those in attendance that many of the targets outlined in the policy initiative had already been realized and introduced the country to the Special Education Program Coordinators: Ms. Te-Ann Astwood for Zone 1, Mrs. Lashaunda Skippings for Zone 2, and Ms. Edith Gray for Secondary Schools and expressed his confidence in their work and driven spirit in bringing innovation to Special Education.
Additionally, the Education Officer was grateful for the progress being made by the SEAIT National Steering Committee and was pleased to introduce three of its key members to the media: Ms. Tiffany Ivey (Chairperson), Ms. Denise Duncan (Secretary) and Dr. Anya Malcolm-Gibbs a Clinical Psychologist representing the Ministry of Health. Other members of the SEAIT Committee also include Ms. Sriya Smalling, Mrs. Sherryl Patterson and Mrs. Levenia Bishop.
Mr. Walkin further stated: “The work of SEAIT National Steering Committee is volunteer work and the members should be commended for the sacrifices they are making to meet the needs of Special Education Students in the TCI.
Also present at the Launch was the Minister of Education Hon. Karen Malcom. In her remarks she stated; “I remember giving remarks at the First Special Education Teachers Conference in February of this year and sensed from then that it was just the beginning. Then, the Special Education Assessment & Intervention Team National Steering Committee was established and was tasked with developing a system of screening, assessment and intervention for Special Needs students. The new developments in Special Education in TCI did not stop there. The Education Officer then informed us that the first ever Special Education News magazine was being developed in support of the targets outlined in the “No Child Left Behind Policy Initiative”.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased and very excited to be here at the Launch of this Special Education Policy Initiative and to say congratulations to the department of education, the director, the education officer Mr. Jasmin Walkin, his Special Education leaders and teachers for the progress they have made and pledge my ministry’s support in regards to seeing these targets successfully implemented. And in the words of the Education Officer, I am excited to be a part of the “New Era in Special Education”.
With the successful and historic launch of the Special Education Magazine “Inclusion” now behind them, the Education Officer has defined the next chapter in the development of Special Education in the TCI as the “New Era in Special Education” and informed the country that this launch was just the beginning; citing the pop phrase “We got big things poppin”.