Catching Up and Supporting Students—The Need for In-Person Services
This fall, there will be periods of learning consolidation, updating and catch-up to be considered. Many students will need additional support, including remedial education. More frequent behavioural problems must also be anticipated, hence the need for additional resources, such as psychoeducation. Intervention plans will have to be updated and students presenting new problems will have to be taken care of, which will mean all staff members will be working with students with disabilities and special needs. Let us not forget the desperate need for psychosocial services, as well as the importance of universal services that promote socialization and getting along with others.
Almost all members who participated in the FPPE discussion meetings indicated that, in order to best support students (through preventive, universal or targeted actions), teachers and the entire school team, including professionals, must be able to interact face-to-face. More than ever, there is a need to ensure equal access to professional services, hence the need for additional resources.
For many students, continuity in remote learning has simply been impossible in recent months: no access to technological tools at home (despite departmental promises), lack of time or inability of parents to support their children in distance learning (illiterate, allophones). For older students, lack of motivation or the obligation to financially support the family by taking a full-time job have also been significant obstacles, particularly in vocational training (VT) and general adult education (GAE). Even students who have been back in class since May are struggling to make up for lost time.
Additionally, all students should have physical access to their living environment, school or training centre, in September. Institutions must be ready to welcome them, both those that have progressed at a good pace and those that have experienced a five-month latency period. It should be remembered that summer – or absence from school for two months – is known to cause many students to lose some of their knowledge.
In order to meet the needs of students, the majority of work by professional staff must be done face-to-face. Although many of our members have developed telepractice, it remains limited. The members who participated to the meetings report that they remain convinced of the importance of direct contact with students and the school team to create a proper bond of trust, be visible and fulfil their role adequately. Direct service staff must be able to observe students in class, interact with subgroups, conduct workshops, carry out all the steps required for assessments, and provide individualized interventions and follow-ups.
What will be allowed this fall still remains to be clarified, however. Will it be possible to change subgroups in the classroom following the RTI model? Will the processes required to conduct professional assessments, including classroom observation, be allowed? Will consent measures and other ethical rules be discussed with the professional associations and adapted as necessary? Will the Passe-Partout Program’s parent-child meetings and other out-of-class activities be able to take place? The FPPE has put its questions to the Department and we are waiting for answers.
VT and GAE professionals told us that they often felt forgotten during the first months of the pandemic. Little has been said about these learning environments and the guidelines have been slow to arrive. Let’s not make the same mistakes. From the outset, the – too few – VT and GAE professionals and practitioners must be freed from the red tape that is solely required for funding purposes. The particular, but very diverse, realities of students attending the centres must be considered.
To meet the needs of all students, schools must be able to offer sufficient services in psychology, academic and vocational guidance, speech therapy, remedial education, occupational therapy, psychoeducation, spiritual life and community involvement, as well as social work. The school team must be able to count on the expertise of education consultants, librarians, and all professional staff to ensure that the school remains a dynamic, functional environment that is in tune with new research findings.