Special Education in Ontario (Draft Version, 2017)

PART A: Legislation, Policy, and Funding

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Introduction

The provision of special education programs and services for students of the province is governed by the Education Act, the regulations made under the Act, policy/program memoranda, and ministry policy documents. The legal framework provides the comprehensive procedures for the identification of exceptional students, for the placement of those students in educational settings where the special education programs and services appropriate to their needs can be delivered, and for the review of the identification of exceptional students and their placement. In addition to providing an overview of the legal framework and guiding policies for special education in Ontario, this chapter provides information about special education funding.

Legislation and Policy/Program Memoranda Pertaining to Students with Special Education Needs

The Education Act

The Education Act requires the Minister of Education to ensure that appropriate special education programs and services are provided for exceptional pupils in accordance with the Act and the regulations. Subsection 8(3) states:

The Minister shall ensure that all exceptional children in Ontario have available to them, in accordance with this Act and the regulations, appropriate special education programs and services without payment of fees by parents or guardians resident in Ontario, and shall provide for the parents or guardians to appeal the appropriateness of the special education placement. . . .

This section of the Act requires “school boards to implement procedures for early and ongoing identification of the learning abilities and needs” of students. It also gives the right to the Minister to review the categories and definitions of exceptionalities, which are described in the Categories of Exceptionalities section.

It is mandatory for all school boards to provide, or purchase from another board, special education programs and services for their exceptional students. Subsection 170(1) states:

Every board shall . . . provide or enter into an agreement with another board to provide in accordance with the regulations special education programs and special education services for its exceptional pupils.

Subsection 1(1) defines exceptional pupil, special education program, and special education services as follows.

An exceptional pupil is:

a pupil whose behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities are such that he or she is considered to need placement in a special education program by a committee, established under subparagraph iii of paragraph 5 of subsection 11(1), of the board,

  1. of which the pupil is a resident pupil,
  2. that admits or enrols the pupil other than pursuant to an agreement with another board for the provision of education, or
  3. to which the cost of education in respect of the pupil is payable by the Minister.

A special education program for an exceptional pupil is:

an educational program that is based on and modified by the results of continuous assessment and evaluation and that includes a plan containing special objectives and an outline of educational services that meets the needs of the exceptional pupil.

Special education services are:

facilities and resources, including support personnel and equipment, necessary for developing and implementing a special education program.

Regulations

The following chart lists and provides links to the regulations made under the Education Act that support special education programs and services for exceptional students.

Regulation Number Title Description
181/98 Identification and Placement of Exceptional Pupils Governs the establishment and conduct of the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC), and sets out the procedures involved in identifying a student as exceptional, deciding the student's placement, or appealing such decisions when the parent does not agree with the IPRC. (The requirements of the regulation for the IPRC are described in detail in Part D of this guide.)

Governs the establishment of the Individual Education Plan (IEP). (The requirements of the IEP are described in detail in Part E of this guide.) For more information on categories and definitions of exceptionality, see the Categories of Exceptionalities section in this part of the guide.

296 Ontario Schools for the Blind and the Deaf Relates to the operation of the Ontario Schools for the Blind and the Deaf and sets out the requirements with respect to admissions, fees, and transportation, as well as the duties of students, teachers, residence counsellors, parents, and the superintendent.

298 Operation of Schools – General
  • Subsection 3(3) permits a reduction in the length of the instructional program for exceptional students to less than the required 5 hours per day.
  • Section 11 sets out the duties of principals with respect to exceptional students, in addition to those in the Act.
  • Section 19 sets out the qualifications teachers must hold to be placed in charge of or to teach in a special education program.
  • Section 26 describes the supervisory relationship between principals and professional support staff, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, where such persons are performing duties in a school.
  • Section 30 provides for special education programs for preschool children who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Section 31 sets out maximum enrolment for special education classes.
  • Section 32 sets out the use of sign language in the classroom and as a language of instruction and in communications in regards to student discipline and management of the school.
306 Special Education Programs and Services Requires each school board to maintain and regularly review a special education plan. (The requirements taken from Standards for School Boards' Special Education Plans (2000) are described in detail in Part B of this guide.)

464/97 Special Education Advisory Committees Governs the appointment to and operation of Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs).

(The requirements of Special Education Advisory Committees are described in detail in the Advisory Committees on Special Education section in this part of the guide.)

Policy/Program Memoranda

Policy/program memoranda (PPMs) are official statements of policy issued by the Ministry of Education and directed to school boards and schools. PPMs serve a number of functions, including:

  • setting out requirements regarding the application of a regulation, a section of the Education Act, or other legislation;
  • setting out a standard that boards are expected to meet or a directive with which they must comply;
  • providing an interpretation of legislation or regulations that may significantly affect board practice.

The following chart lists and provides links to PPMs that pertain exclusively or in part to students with special education needs.

PPM Number Title Year
1 Ontario Schools for the Blind and Deaf as Resource Centres 1986
8 Identification of and Program Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities 2014
11 Early Identification of Children's Learning Needs 1982
59 Psychological Testing and Assessment of Pupils 1982
76C Alternative Educational Programs and Services for Deaf, Blind, and Deaf-Blind Exceptional Pupils 1991
81 Provision of Health Support Services in School Settings 1984
89 The Residential Demonstration Schools for Students with Learning Disabilities: General Information and Details of the Referral Process 1990
119 Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools 2013
138 Daily Physical Activity in Elementary Schools, Grades 1–8 2017
140 Incorporating Methods of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) into Programs for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) 2007
141 School Board Programs for Students on Long-Term Suspension 2012
142 School Board Programs for Expelled Students 2012
144 Bullying Prevention and Intervention 2018
145 Progressive Discipline and Promoting Positive Student Behaviour 2018
149 Protocol for Partnerships with External Agencies for Provision of Services by Regulated
Health Professionals, Regulated Social Service Professionals, and Paraprofessionals
2009
151 Professional Activity Days Devoted to Provincial Education Priorities 2019
153 Applications for Temporary Letters of Approval 2010
155 Diagnostic Assessment in Support of Student Learning 2013
156 Supporting Transitions for Students with Special Education Needs 2013
159 Collaborative Professionalism 2016
160 Protected Time for Daily Mathematics Instruction, Grades 1 to 8 2016
161 Supporting Children and Students with Prevalent Medical Conditions (Anaphylaxis, Asthma, Diabetes, and/or Epilepsy) in Schools 2018

A Summary of Requirements of School Boards under the Education Act and the Regulations

Under the Education Act and the regulations made under the Act, a school board is required to do the following:

  • implement procedures for early and ongoing identification of children's learning needs (Education Act, s. 8(3)(a); detailed procedures are outlined in PPM No. 11)
  • provide, or enter into an agreement with another board to provide, special education programs and services for its exceptional students (Education Act, s. 170(1))
  • establish Identification, Placement, and Review Committees (IPRCs); follow specified processes in the identification and placement of exceptional students; and provide a mechanism whereby parents can appeal decisions of the IPRCs (Ontario Regulation [O. Reg.] 181/98)
  • provide Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for children identified as exceptional (O. Reg. 181/98, ss. 6 and 7)
  • establish a Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) (Education Act, s. 57.1(1); O. Reg. 464/97)
  • create, maintain, and review special education plans, and prepare reports on special education programs and services (Reg. 306)
  • not exceed the maximum enrolments established for self-contained classes for students with different types of exceptionalities (Reg. 298, s. 31) (See the box below for details on special education class sizes and the section below for the categories of exceptionalities.)
  • provide for a shortened school day for exceptional students in a special education program (Reg. 298, s. 3(3))
  • employ teachers with the appropriate qualifications (Reg. 298, s. 19(4))

According to Regulation 298, section 31, the maximum enrolment in a special education class shall depend upon the extent of the exceptionalities of the students in the class and the special education services that are available to the teacher, but in no case shall the enrolment in a self-contained class exceed:

  • 8 in a class for students who are emotionally disturbed or socially maladjusted, have severe learning disabilities, or are below compulsory school age and have impaired hearing
  • 10 in a class for students who are blind, are Deaf, or have developmental disabilities or speech and language disorders
  • 12 in a class for students who are hard of hearing, have low vision, or have orthopaedic or other physical disabilities
  • 12 in a class for students in the primary division who have mild intellectual disabilities, and 16 in a class for students in the junior and intermediate divisions who have mild intellectual disabilities
  • Regarding gifted students in elementary school:
    • 20 in a class if it consists only of students in the primary division
    • 23 in a class if it includes at least 1 student in the primary division and at least 1 in the junior or intermediate division
    • 25 in a class if it consists only of students in the junior or intermediate division
  • 6 in a class for aphasic or autistic students, or for students with multiple handicaps for whom no one handicap is dominant
  • 16 in a class of exceptional students consisting of students with different exceptionalities

Roles and Responsibilities in Special Education

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities are an essential part of delivering special education programs and services. The roles and responsibilities within special education are outlined below.

The Ministry of Education:

  • sets out, through the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda, the legal obligations of school boards regarding the provision of special education programs and services;
  • prescribes the categories and definitions of exceptionality;
  • requires through the Education Act that school boards provide appropriate special education programs and services for their exceptional students;
  • establishes the funding for special education through the structure of the funding model;
  • requires school boards to report on their expenditures for special education through the budget process;
  • sets province-wide standards for curriculum and reporting of achievement;
  • requires through regulation that school boards maintain special education plans, review them annually, and submit amendments to the ministry;
  • requires through the Education Act and through regulation that school boards establish Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs);
  • establishes a Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education to advise the Minister of Education on matters related to special education programs and services;
  • operates Provincial and Demonstration Schools for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, who are blind or have low vision, who are deafblind, or who have severe learning disabilities.

The school board:

  • establishes school board policy and practices that comply with the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda;
  • monitors school compliance with the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda;
  • requires staff to comply with the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda;
  • provides appropriately qualified staff for programs and services for the exceptional students of the board;
  • plans and reports on the expenditures for special education;
  • develops and maintains a special education plan that is amended from time to time to meet the current needs of the exceptional students of the board;
  • reviews the plan annually and submits amendments to the Minister of Education;
  • provides statistical reports to the ministry as required;
  • prepares a parent guide to provide parents with information about special education programs, services, and procedures;
  • establishes one or more Identification, Placement, and Review Committees (IPRCs) to identify exceptional students and determine appropriate placements for them;
  • establishes a SEAC;
  • provides professional development to staff on special education;
  • adheres to all applicable legislation.

The Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC):

  • makes recommendations to the board with respect to any matter affecting the establishment, development, and delivery of special education programs and services for exceptional students of the board;
  • participates in the board's annual review of its special education plan;
  • participates in the board's annual budget process as it relates to special education;
  • reviews the financial statements of the board as they relate to special education.

The school principal:

  • carries out duties as outlined in the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda, and board policies;
  • communicates Ministry of Education and school board expectations to staff;
  • ensures that appropriately qualified staff are assigned to teach special education classes;
  • communicates board policies and procedures about special education to staff, students, and parents;
  • ensures that the identification and placement of exceptional students, through an IPRC, is done according to the procedures outlined in the Education Act, regulations, and board policies;
  • consults with school board staff to determine the most appropriate programs for exceptional students;
  • ensures the development, implementation, and review of a student's Individual Education Plan (IEP), including a transition plan;1
  • ensures that parents are consulted in the development of their child's IEP and that they are provided with a copy of the IEP;
  • ensures that the program is delivered as set out in the IEP;
  • ensures that appropriate assessments are requested and that, if necessary, parental consent is obtained for these assessments.

The teacher:

  • carries out duties as outlined in the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda;
  • follows board policies and procedures regarding special education;
  • works with the special education teacher to acquire and maintain up-to-date knowledge of special education practices;
  • works with special education staff and parents to develop the IEP for an exceptional student;
  • where appropriate, works with other school board staff to review and update the student's IEP;
  • provides the program for the exceptional student in the regular class, as outlined in the IEP;
  • communicates the student's progress to parents.

The special education teacher:

The special education teacher, in addition to the responsibilities listed above under “The teacher”:

  • holds qualifications, in accordance with the regulations under the Education Act, to teach special education;
  • monitors the student's progress with references to the IEP and modifies the program as necessary;
  • assists in providing educational assessments for exceptional students.

The early childhood educator:

The early childhood educator, in coordination and cooperation with the classroom teacher:

  • plans for and provides education to children in Kindergarten;
  • observes, monitors, and assesses the development of Kindergarten children;
  • maintains a healthy physical, emotional, and social learning environment in the classroom;
  • communicates with families;
  • performs duties assigned by the principal with respect to the Kindergarten program.

The parent:

  • is familiar with and informed about board policies and procedures in areas that affect the child;
  • participates in IPRCs, parent-teacher conferences, and other relevant school activities;
  • participates in the development of the IEP;
  • is acquainted with the school staff working with the student;
  • supports the student at home;
  • works with the school principal and educators to solve problems;
  • is responsible for the student's attendance at school.

The student:

  • complies with the requirements as outlined in the Education Act, regulations, and policy documents, including policy/program memoranda;
  • complies with board policies and procedures;
  • participates in IPRCs, parent-teacher conferences, and other activities, as appropriate.

Categories of Exceptionalities

The Education Act identifies five categories of exceptionalities for exceptional students: behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical, and multiple. These broad categories are designed to address the wide range of conditions that may affect a student's ability to learn, and are meant to be inclusive of all medical conditions, whether diagnosed or not, that can lead to particular types of learning difficulties.

The five categories are a useful tool for the identification of students with special education needs. However, a student may present learning needs in many ways in the school setting and may be identified as exceptional within one or more of the categories. The determining factor for the provision of special education programs or services is not any specific diagnosed or undiagnosed medical condition, but rather the need of the individual student based on an individual assessment of strengths and needs.

The definitions accepted by the Ministry of Education for the five categories of exceptionalities and their subcategories are provided in the chart below. Note that the ministry's definition of the term learning disability was revised, in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 8, “Identification of and Program Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities” (2014); the new definition is provided below.

Categories and Definitions of Exceptionalities

Behavioural

  • Behavioural Exceptionality: A learning disorder characterized by specific behaviour problems over such a period of time, and to such a marked degree, and of such a nature, as to adversely affect educational performance and that may be accompanied by one or more of the following:
    1. an inability to build or to maintain interpersonal relationships;
    2. excessive fears or anxieties;
    3. a tendency to compulsive reaction;
    4. an inability to learn that cannot be traced to intellectual, sensory, or other health factors, or any combination thereof.

Communicational

  • Autism: A severe learning disorder that is characterized by:
    1. disturbances in: rate of educational development; ability to relate to the environment; mobility; perception, speech, and language;
    2. lack of the representational symbolic behaviour that precedes language.
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing: An impairment characterized by deficits in language and speech development because of a diminished or non-existent auditory response to sound.
  • Language Impairment: A learning disorder characterized by an impairment in comprehension and/or the use of verbal communication or the written or other symbol system of communication, which may be associated with neurological, psychological, physical, or sensory factors, and which may:
    1. involve one or more of the form, content, and function of language in communication; and
    2. include one or more of: language delay; dysfluency; voice and articulation development, which may or may not be organically or functionally based.
  • Speech Impairment: A disorder in language formulation that may be associated with neurological, psychological, physical, or sensory factors; that involves perceptual motor aspects of transmitting oral messages; and that may be characterized by impairment in articulation, rhythm, and stress.
  • Learning Disability: One of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders that persistently and significantly has an impact on the ability to learn and use academic and other skills and that:
    • affects the ability to perceive or process verbal or non-verbal information in an effective and accurate manner in students who have assessed intellectual abilities that are at least in the average range;
    • results in (a) academic underachievement that is inconsistent with the intellectual abilities of the student (which are at least in the average range), and/or (b) academic achievement that can be maintained by the student only with extremely high levels of effort and/or with additional support;
    • results in difficulties in the development and use of skills in one or more of the following areas: reading, writing, mathematics, and work habits and learning skills;
    • may typically be associated with difficulties in one or more cognitive processes, such as phonological processing; memory and attention; processing speed; perceptual-motor processing; visual-spatial processing; executive functions (e.g., self-regulation of behaviour and emotions, planning, organizing of thoughts and activities, prioritizing, decision making);
    • may be associated with difficulties in social interaction (e.g., difficulty in understanding social norms or the point of view of others); with various other conditions or disorders, diagnosed or undiagnosed; or with other exceptionalities;
    • is not the result of a lack of acuity in hearing and/or vision that has not been corrected; intellectual disabilities; socio-economic factors; cultural differences; lack of proficiency in the language of instruction; lack of motivation or effort; gaps in school attendance or inadequate opportunity to benefit from instruction.

Intellectual

  • Giftedness: An unusually advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided in the regular school program to satisfy the level of educational potential indicated.
  • Mild Intellectual Disability: A learning disorder characterized by:
    1. an ability to profit educationally within a regular class with the aid of considerable curriculum modification and support services;
    2. an inability to profit educationally within a regular class because of slow intellectual development;
    3. a potential for academic learning, independent social adjustment, and economic self-support.
  • Developmental Disability: A severe learning disorder characterized by:
    1. an inability to profit from a special education program for students with mild intellectual disabilities because of slow intellectual development;
    2. an ability to profit from a special education program that is designed to accommodate slow intellectual development;
    3. a limited potential for academic learning, independent social adjustment, and economic self-support.

Physical

  • Physical Disability: A condition of such severe physical limitation or deficiency as to require special assistance in learning situations to provide the opportunity for educational achievement equivalent to that of students without exceptionalities who are of the same age or development level.
  • Blind and Low Vision: A condition of partial or total impairment of sight or vision that even with correction affects educational performance adversely.

Multiple

  • Multiple Exceptionalities: A combination of learning or other disorders, impairments, or physical disabilities that is of such a nature as to require, for educational achievement, the services of one or more teachers holding qualifications in special education and the provision of support services appropriate for such disorders, impairments, or disabilities.

Advisory Committees on Special Education

An advisory committee is a group of volunteers that meets regularly on a long-term basis to provide advice and/or support to an institution or organization. The following advisory committees, as required by legislation, support the delivery of special education programs and services for students with special education needs.

The Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE): Established by Order-in-Council, the MACSE advises the Minister of Education on any matter related to the establishment and provision of special education programs and special education services for exceptional students, including the identification and provision of early intervention programs for students with special needs. (See Appendix A-1, for information about representation on the MACSE).

Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs): Subsection 57.1(1) of the Education Act requires every district school board to establish a Special Education Advisory Committee. For a detailed list of the responsibilities of SEACs, see the Roles and Responsibilities in Special Education section above.

The Provincial Parent Association Advisory Committee on Special Education Advisory Committees (PAAC on SEAC): The PAAC on SEAC was established to provide a forum for parent associations to share ideas and strategies and to address common concerns related to SEACs throughout the province. The PAAC on SEAC provides information and resources to parent associations and promotes successful practices for SEACs.

Other Legislation Relevant to the Education of Students with Special Education Needs

In addition to the Education Act, other legislation is relevant to the education of students with special education needs.

  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This act allows the government to develop specific standards for accessibility and to enforce them. The goal of the act is to create an accessible Ontario by 2025 so that people of all abilities can work, play, and participate in all aspects of daily living.
  • Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Act. This act authorizes a regulation that: requires that informed consent be obtained before service is initiated; stipulates that only certified members of the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists can call themselves audiologists, speech-language pathologists, or speech therapists; and deals with the availability of records and reports.
  • Bill 168: The Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace), which amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). This act imposes new duties on employers to devise workplace violence and harassment policies; develop programs to implement such policies; and engage in assessments to measure the risk of workplace violence. In addition, work refusal rights and the duties of employers and supervisors under the OHSA have both been clarified to specifically apply to workplace violence.
  • Early Childhood Educators Act. This act established the College of Early Childhood Educators. The regulations and by-laws made under the act define the roles, responsibilities, and requirements for those using the title “early childhood educator” or “registered early childhood educator”.
  • Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act. This act requires 15 non-health professions and 22 compulsory trades to have registration practices that are fair and transparent. Under this legislation, the Office of the Fairness Commissioner ensures that regulated professions, including the Ontario College of Teachers, comply with the law.
  • Freedom of information legislation. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) governs the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information. The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) governs the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information at publicly funded school boards and schools.
  • Health Care Consent Act. This act sets out the elements of valid consent with respect to any medical treatment, noting that valid consent must be obtained by the health care professional before any treatment is provided. If the patient is not capable of giving consent, a substitute decision-maker must provide consent on the patient's behalf.
  • Home Care and Community Services Act (HCCSA). This act governs the provision of government-funded community services by approved agencies and service providers. The community services governed under this legislation are community support services, homemaking services, personal support services, and professional services.
  • Ontario College of Teachers Act. This act established the Ontario College of Teachers, which licenses, governs, and regulates the profession of teaching in Ontario. Under this act, the College has a duty to serve and protect the public interest.
  • Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act. This act established the Ontario College of Trades, a regulatory body designed to modernize Ontario's apprenticeship and skilled trades system. The regulations under the act also outline College registration and membership information.
  • Ontario Human Rights Code. Under the code, people have the right to equal treatment with respect to services and to treatment without discrimination on the basis of a number of grounds, including disability. Education is considered to be a service under the code, and service providers have an obligation to accommodate a person's needs, unless doing so causes “undue hardship” for the provider, “considering the cost, outside sources of funding, if any, and health and safety requirements, if any” (s. 17(2)).
  • Personal Health Information Protection Act. This act sets out rules for the collection, use, and sharing of patients' personal health information and records across the health system. The act applies to individuals and organizations in the health care sector, or “health information custodians” as referred to in the act.
  • Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. This act sets out rules for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from private sector organizations in the course of commercial activities. The act is intended to support and promote electronic commerce.
  • Psychology Act. This act established the College of Psychologists of Ontario to regulate the practice of psychology and sets the standards of practice for the profession. The college is responsible to the public and the profession.
  • Regulated Health Professions Act.This act and associated health profession acts set out the governing framework for the regulated health professions in Ontario. This act regulates, among other activities, the activities of health professionals who work with students, including students with special needs, and who train and supervise school staff to carry out certain health-related tasks.
  • Social Work and Social Service Work Act. This act established the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers to regulate the delivery of services provided by social workers and social service workers. The purpose of the legislation is to monitor and support high standards of practice to protect the public interest.
  • Youth Criminal Justice Act. This act governs the prosecution for criminal offences committed by young people aged 12 to 17. It establishes that the youth justice system is different from the adult system and recognizes the needs of young people.

Key Ministry Policy and Resource Documents Pertaining to Students with Special Education Needs

The following ministry policy documents outline program requirements for all elementary and secondary schools, and all students, including students with special education needs, in Ontario.

  • Creating Pathways to Success: An Education and Career/Life Planning Program for Ontario Schools – Policy and Program Requirements, Kindergarten to Grade 12 (2013) sets out the career development policy for Ontario schools, which involves the implementation of a comprehensive Kindergarten to Grade 12 education and career/life planning program designed to help students achieve their personal goals and become competent, successful, and contributing members of society.
  • Ontario Schools, Kindergarten to Grade 12: Policy and Program Requirements (2016) sets out the requirements that govern the policies and programs of publicly funded elementary and secondary schools throughout Ontario. Section 3.3 (“Students with Special Education Needs”), section 3.4 (“Provincial and Demonstration Schools”), section 3.5 (“Education Programs for Students in Care and/or Treatment, Custody, and Correctional Facilities”), and section 7.4 (“Alternative [Non-Credit] Courses”) are of particular relevance to educators working with exceptional students, but the policies outlined throughout the document are relevant to all students, including students with special education needs. Other sections of particular interest are as follows:
    • Section 6.1.3 (“The Secondary School Literacy Graduation Requirement”), along with Appendix 3 (“The Secondary School Literacy Graduation Requirement – Accommodations, Special Provisions, Deferrals, and Exemptions”), Sections 1, 3, and 4. (The policies outlined in PPM No. 127, “The Secondary School Literacy Graduation Requirement”, 2009, are incorporated here.)
    • Section 6.4, “The Certificate of Accomplishment”
    • Section 7.2.5, “Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)”
    • Section 10.1, “E-Learning”
  • The Ontario curriculum policy documents for the various subjects and disciplines provide grade-by-grade expectations for students in elementary and secondary schools in Ontario. In each of the elementary and secondary curriculum policy documents, there is a section summarizing policies and approaches related to planning programs for students with special education needs, including those who require accommodations only and those who require modified expectations as well as accommodations.
  • Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools – First Edition, Covering Grades 1 to 12 (2010) sets out policies and practices related to assessment, evaluation, and reporting in all schools and for all students. Chapter 6 (“Reporting Student Achievement”) and Chapter 7 (“Students with Special Education Needs: Modifications, Accommodations, and Alternative Programs”) outline policies and practices for assessment, evaluation, and reporting that are specific to students with special education needs. In conjunction with the release of The Kindergarten Program (2016), the ministry has released the policy document Growing Success – The Kindergarten Addendum: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools (2016).
  • Ontario First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework (2007) provides the strategic policy context within which the Ministry of Education, school boards, and schools will work together to improve the academic achievement of Indigenous students.

The following ministry resource documents also contain information relevant to special education.

Education Funding

The Ministry of Education provides the bulk of operating funding to Ontario's seventy-two district school boards through the annual Grants for Student Needs (GSN), which are determined according to a series of formulas collectively known as “the funding formula”. These grants are described in detail in a regulation made annually under the Education Act. GSN funding can be broadly categorized as providing support in four areas: classroom needs, including the cost of educators and materials, resources, and tools to support learning; school leadership and operations; specific student-related priorities; and local management by school boards.

Education funding consists of foundation grants – a Pupil Foundation Grant and a School Foundation Grant – and a number of special purpose grants. Foundation grants and special purpose grants each account for about half of a school board's GSN funding. The grants are distinguished as follows:

  • foundation grants support the elements of a classroom education that are common to all students;
  • special purpose grants address the unique needs of the students and the schools of the board based on school location, specific programs offered, and demographic profile.

The total GSN allocation for each school board is determined by the funding formula. The allocation consists of (1) funds from the education levy on property tax that is collected by the municipality and calculated using a rate set by the provincial Ministry of Finance, and (2) funds from the province to make up the difference between the property tax collected and the total allocation.

Formulas used to determine education funding are applied equitably to all boards and are designed to respond to the unique requirements of individual students and individual boards. While the Ministry of Education is responsible for the funding policy that directs the allocation of funds to school boards, each school board is responsible for allocating resources to schools, programs, and services according to their local needs and priorities.

Funding for Special Education

In addition to foundation grants, the ministry provides funding to school boards for students with special education needs through the Special Education Grant (SEG), one of the GSN's special purpose grants. The SEG supports the incremental costs of the additional programs, services, and equipment required to meet the educational needs of these students and to support positive outcomes for them. In this way, it ensures equity for all students with special education needs.

School boards have the authority to use their total GSN funding allocation – the SEG and other GSN grants – to meet their responsibility to provide programs and/or services for students who have special education needs. SEG funding, however, can be used only for special education. Any unspent SEG funding must be treated as deferred revenue for special education.

The SEG is made up of six allocations:

  1. The Special Education Per–Pupil Amount (SEPPA) provides every school board with foundational funding towards the cost of special education programs and/or services required by students with special education needs.
  2. The Differentiated Special Education Needs Amount (DSENA) addresses the variation among boards with respect to students with special education needs and boards' abilities to respond to these needs.
  3. The Special Equipment Amount (SEA) provides funding to assist boards with the costs of equipment essential to supporting students with special education needs where the need for specific equipment is recommended by a qualified professional. This equipment is to provide students with the accommodations that are required to enable them to access the Ontario curriculum and/or a board-determined alternative program and/or course, and/or to attend school. Eligibility criteria are outlined in the ministry document Special Education Funding Guidelines: Special Equipment Amount (SEA).
  4. The Special Incidence Portion (SIP) provides funding for school boards for support staff to ensure the health and/or safety both of students who have extraordinarily high needs related to their disabilities and/or exceptionalities and of others at the school. Eligibility criteria are outlined in the ministry document Special Education Funding Guidelines: Special Incidence Portion (SIP).
  5. The Care, Treatment, Custody and Correctional (CTCC) Amount provides funding for school boards to provide education programs for school-aged children and youth in government-approved care and/or treatment, custody, and correctional facilities. These facilities include hospitals, children's mental health centres, psychiatric institutions, detention and correctional facilities, community group homes, and social services agencies. The provision of education in these facilities is subject to an agreement between a school board and the facility.
  6. The Behaviour Expertise Amount (BEA) provides funding for school boards to hire board-level personnel who have applied behaviour analysis (ABA) expertise. The use of ABA instructional approaches has proven to be effective for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and for other students with special education needs.

More information on the Special Education Grant can be found on the Education Funding page of the ministry website.

Appendix A-1: The Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education: Representation

Exceptionalities

  • Behaviour disorder
  • Autism
  • Deaf and hard of hearing
  • Learning disabilities
  • Gifted
  • Developmental disability
  • Blind and low vision
  • Physical disability
  • Multiple exceptionalities

Communities of Interest

  • Students/Youth
  • Indigenous peoples

Educator Groups

  • Trustees
  • Supervisory officers
  • Principals
  • Teachers
  • Educational assistants

Professional Support

  • Medical practitioners
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Speech-language pathologists

Non-voting

  • Ministry of Community and Social Services
  • Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development
  • Ministry of Children and Youth Services

Two of the voting members are representatives of the Roman Catholic community.

Two of the voting members (one of whom is from the educator group) are representatives of the Franco-Ontarian community.


1. For a more detailed discussion of the IEP, including the transition plan, see Part E of this guide.

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