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Quebec not doing enough for special-needs students in elementary schools: ombudsman

Quebec's ombudsman has found that students with special needs are not getting enough of the additional services they need. Getty Images

Elementary school students with learning difficulties in Quebec do not receive all the services to which they are entitled under the Education Act, the province’s ombudsman has found.

Quebec Ombudsman Marc-André Dowd released his findings Monday. He conducted an investigation after being “made aware” of the difficulty of accessing these services for certain students in public schools.

His 60-page report was presented Monday morning at a news conference at the provincial legislature. It contains 11 recommendations.

Read more: Quebec schools get failing grade for treatment of students with special needs

Dowd specifically criticizes the fact that educational institutions do not have enough staff to meet the needs of all students.

“As a result, they must make choices that may hinder access to the right services at the right time,” the report notes.

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The offer of complementary educational services — such as speech therapy and special education — is limited due to a lack of available funding, according to the report.

The report says the situation is of “great concern” since services are offered based on “what’s possible.” As a result, some students are not making the progress they could be.

Quebec’s Education Act guarantees each student the right to receive free teaching services and complementary educational services.

Read more: Quebec Human Rights Commission rules in favour of student with learning disability against EMSB

More than 86,000 elementary school students currently have adjustment or learning difficulties. That represents one in seven students.

“At a critical stage in their development, elementary school students are not getting the attention they need from the school system to support their success,” Dowd said.

“While they ‘wait their turn’ for services to which the law entitles them, these students in difficulty do not make the expected progress and their delays persist, slowing down their school career.”

with files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise

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