• Sweden edition
 

Healthy pupil forced to endure special school

Published: 12 Aug 2009 08:15 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 Aug 2009 08:15 GMT+02:00

A pupil in Hässleholm in southern Sweden spent seven years in a special school despite not having an intellectual disability. The pupil's parents tried to get their son moved to a regular school but were refused.

The pupil was placed in a special school on the basis of a psychological test carried out a year and a half before the decision was taken, local newspaper Kristianstadsbladet reports.

Last year, when he joined an independent special school, an examination was conducted which showed that he was not suffering from any mental disability.

The Swedish National Agency for School Inspection (Skolinspektionen) has now criticized the local municipality for not carrying out any form of educational, medical or social examination before the child began special school.

The pupil's possibilities for attending a regular school while receiving some form of support were not examined either.

"We understand that the basis was, to say the least, thin. An error has occurred here that has seriously affected the pupil's life," Staffan Opitz at the agency told the newspaper.

When it became clear that the pupil was not suffering from any mental disability he started to attend a regular school. He passed the national tests with acceptable grades and was accepted into a high school in the autumn of 2008.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

10:35 August 12, 2009 by Puffin
This is very common
10:48 August 12, 2009 by Keith #5083
Let's assume,for the sake of argument,that the original mistake was 'well intentioned'! To base any pupil's continued schooling on such inadequate criteria is - well,criminal!! In 7 years no re-examinations? In 7 years no right of appeal? How many other psychologists has this pupil seen during the 7 year period? Any?

The way to make it 'uncommon' Puffin, is to force those responsible out of their jobs and the Kommune to pay at least 1million Kr a year to this child in compensation!!!
11:08 August 12, 2009 by Puffin
Many kommuns prefer to use a särskola (for children with development delays) as a dumping ground for children with other types of disability who they think cost too much to support in the ordinary school system - some small kommuns are very cynical in this respect.

There is an additional problem that särskola children are exempted from the standard national testing system - after all they have been declared to have a developmental delay so are not expected to reach this level and don't take the tests.

Prior to being placed in a särskola there is meant to be a medical, psychological and social evaluation of the need for a särskola education - and the final decision is made by the local councillors that sit on the education committee - in some small kommuns the committees are made up of pensioners with little understanding of the law or medical diagnoses.

Vellinge has a particularly bad reputation for declaring those with dyslexia as having a developmental delay:

- for example there was the case of the twins - covered earlier this year on Uppdrag Granskning - who were placed in a särskola on dodgy grounds - they have REALLY had their lives destroyed as one wnted to be a woodwork teacher but you cannot get in to University if your grades are from a Särskola

http://svt.se/2.85384/1.1040131/gick_sarsk...mp;lpos=extra_0

http://sydsvenskan.se/omkretsen/trelleborg...i-sarskola.html

Then there is the case of Niklas with dyslexia

http://svtplay.se/v/1521058/sydnytt/felakt...erad_i_sarskola

However a särskola can offer the normal grundskola curriculum if they want to - not all children who attend lessons in a särskola have to follow the särskola curriculum. Often it is the särskola who is able to give much better support to highly intenlligent pupils with - for example - Aspergers syndrome that they cannot get in the mainstream school system
11:13 August 12, 2009 by Maman
Its a big mistake.So lets conclude that this innocent student deserves a big compensation
11:28 August 12, 2009 by Puffin
Not sure that you can get compensation for this in Sweden - there is no big litigation/ compensation culture here - usually you can only get compensation in cases involving discrimination (religion, gender, disability, ethniticity, and sexual orientation) or where schools have not taken reasonable to prevent bullying.

Attending a särskola is not compuslory - but is voluntary in Sweden - it cannot be done without parental consent - so I am a little unclear why the parents did not simply withdraw their consent if they had so many objections.

The särskola must have done something right as it says in the newspaper articles that the boy transferred to a mainstream school and within a year passed all of the national mainstream tests and was admitted to a national programme for gymnasiet - so it is not fully clear what his actually losses are educationally - there may be some social losses

In many cases the standard of education is much higher in särskolas
15:23 August 12, 2009 by Keith #5083
Thx , Puffin,for all the data in helping us to understand the possible scenarios here. However,there IS a fundamental error in the system. As a former School Governor and supply teacher I find it incomprehensible that any pupil can be placed in a 'special school' (no matter how good or bad it is) on the basis of ONE psychological test! The article does say 'a' (namely,ONE) test.

The later positioning into a 'normal' school may have as much to do with extra parental help/schooling as it has to do with the performance of the 'special school'. In itself the entrance into 'mainstream' does not necessarily imply he was assisted at the special school. Indeed, it begs the question that if he was so 'normal' why none of the staff/teachers at the special school did not raise the issue - or did they and were squashed on the basis of ONE, ONE, psychological test.
16:12 August 12, 2009 by Puffin
It is not normal practice to place a child in a special school on the basis on one test - not sure exactly how was done here. However normally in the first instance support is given in mainstream

Normally support would be given in the classroom - for example schools in Sweden usually have access to a special pedagogue who goes into different classes and gives those in need of special support 1:1 lessons for an hour or two each week - or additional staffing might be placed in the group such as a teaching assistant or even an extra teacher to support the SEN child

- for a general level of concern to build up about the lack of progress at school - usually 3 investigations would need to be done - not always all are appropriate:

- medical - if the child is known or needs to be assessed by Child psychiatry or Habiliteringen (Disability services) or other specialities

- social - if the child is in receipt of disability services according to the disability act LSS - from social services and has specific development needs or support requirement

- psychological - often the child has already been assessed by Child psychiatry or Habiliteringen (Disability services) - or sometimes the kommun decides to use their own psychometric testing - I think this may have been what happened in this case.

Then a pupil care conference (elevvårdskonferens) is held between staff and pupils parents where the findings of the investigations are presented and the recommendation to transfer to the child to a särskola. The pupils parents then have to agree to the transfer and sign the form and the final decision is made by the education committee. If the parents say no then the child has to remain in mainstream or another solution presented to the parents.

In many cases you cannot discern a major difference between those attending a särskola and those that stay in mainstream with need of special support - the lower ability pupils in mainstream are often working at a similar level as a särskola's pupils with mild to moderate learning difficulties - not to be confused with a träningsskola for pupils with more severe developmental problems:

The särskola offers an adapted curriculum and often (but not always) a slower pace

- The särskola follows the national curriculum in a special form - but with more scope to adapt to the individual abilities of the group: there may be some adaptations for example särskolas do not usually offer a thrid language and are more likely to offer general science than chemistry, physics and biology - however many mainstream schools also do this with pupils that might struggle to make the grade

- groups are usually small - usually between 5-12 in a särskola class instead of 20-30

- staff ratios are usually high - perhaps 2-3 staff for a class of 5-12

- learning is individualised with each pupils usually having their own timetable

- sometimes children with normal or high intelligence have their schooling in a särskola by choice in order to benefit from the small groups - such as children with autism or Aspergers syndrom - therefore the ordinary national curriculum is often taught in a särskola

My daughter with Asperger syndrome has been attending a särskola for her lessons but following the mainstream national curriculum for 1½ years because of the refusal of the mainstream school to implement the support measures that she needed. Of the 6 in her class there are 2 that follow the mainstream national curriculum and there are 1½ teachers and a TA for 6 children - she has made much better progress in the past 1½ years than she made in the previous 3½ at the mainstream school - ironic that it is the särskola who have less difficulty adapting lessons to the fact that she is highly intelligent - in fact last year in year 6 she followed the mainstream curriculum for year 8.
17:32 August 12, 2009 by skane refugee
people working at kommun/senior local level in education in Sweden have almost 'godlike' power over childrens (and by implication their parents) lives here ...

... theoretical 'checks and balances' are more often than not negated by education professionals 'closing ranks' when disputes arise with parents ...

... I've seen hardass (by local standards ;o) ) CEOs reduced to grovelling sycophants in the presence of visiting school pschologists or school rektors/heads (whose attitudes would have got them a walk-in role in the 'Godfather Trilogy') assessing their childrens futures ...

... chances are ... the real story behind this is that a parent pissed off someone with power in the local education system ... and their child was 'punished' as an example to all other parents ...

... sincerely hope the child can recover the lost ground ... fortunately with the limited teaching hours and snailspace learning in mainstream Swedish schools that may not be impossible ...
18:03 August 12, 2009 by Puffin
This was an unfortunate error - but lets not get carried away with conspiracy theories - it sounds like you've been reading too much Stieg Larsson

I really doubt the scenario that you outline according to the Swedish media the problem was the result of the kommun using a very outdated psycholigal test which does not properly differentiate between

- learning difficulities + normal intelligence - which this boy had

- learning difficulties + mild development delay - which he did not have

If you read the article it makes it clear that he has not lost ground - he returned to högstadiet - passed his year 9 exams - and got into the gymnasiet programme he chose
23:13 August 12, 2009 by Keith #5083
Dear Puffin, u r certainly making a noble effort to present a 'reasonable' view of this unreasonable scenario.

However,Psychologists and School personnel hold themselves out to have a level of 'expertise' in the training/education of children. Clearly,here,that expertise was apparently lacking - either through negligence or apathy or malpractice.Your description of 'an unfortunate error' is acceptable in the first instance,but lacks credibility when applied to a 7 year period.

If all is normal,why does the Skolinspektionen criticise the situation. Something is not right here and I sincerely hope that the lessons of this case will cause new rules to be implemented to ensure no further cases of this kind.My view of Sweden is that is has an excellent record in correcting or upgrading standards.

The SNASI says it 'seriously' affected this pupils life!! You state earlier that 'this is very common'.
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