Expensive education in special needs schools is wasted due to insufficient continued care

Toomas Mattson | 12/15/2010 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 15 December 2010 - The National Audit Office has audited the performance of special needs schools and juvenile committees, and found that the state has not been successful in dealing with problem youngsters. Special needs schools are still an expensive but inefficient tool in the prevention of offences committed by minors and in reducing the number of such offences.

Regardless of several positive initiatives, such as increasing the number of staff in special needs schools and offering additional support services during the students' stay in special needs schools, the state has not managed to achieve a considerable decrease in the number of offences committed by youngsters who have left special needs schools. Almost four-fifths of students commit a new offence and two-fifths of them commit a new crime within two years. 43% of youngsters end up in a penal institution in just a couple of years after leaving special needs schools. Most students who leave special needs schools do so without acquiring basic education, or they only acquire basic education.

Although special needs schools have made progress in their work in the last five years, the state has still not managed to launch a continued care system for students who have left special needs schools. However, the lack of continued care renders the work of special needs schools useless, because it does not guarantee that minors are re-socialised after leaving special needs schools.

The Ministry of Education and Research plans to invest more than 150 million kroons in renovating and reconstructing Tapa Special Needs School and Kaagvere Special Needs School. At the same time, it is uncertain how many student places there should be in special needs schools in the future, as there are plans to create classes for students with behavioural problems which may reduce the need for places in special needs schools.

There have also been no significant changes in the work of juvenile committees. The options of juvenile committees to use sanctions differ by region and queues are long. The period between the time when an offence is committed and the time when a sanction is applied is too long.

The National Audit Office has advised the Minister of Education and Research to organise continued care for students who have left special needs schools in such a manner that there is a detailed action plan for the re-socialisation of students and it is clear who is responsible for its implementation. The National Audit Office also recommends analysing how many student places in special needs schools will be needed in future and reviewing the investments planned for special needs schools on the basis of this analysis.

The Minister of Education and Research replied that the lack of continued care for students released from special needs schools is a major problem, but added that he saw guaranteeing equal learning conditions for all students as the main task of the Ministry. The Minister emphasised that implementation of several recommendations calls for cooperation between agencies or amendment of legislation.

Background
The National Audit Office conducted the audit in order to assess the changes that had been made since the National Audit Office audit ‘Function and Performance of Special Needs Schools’ in 2004 and the audit ‘Performance and Efficiency of Guaranteeing the Performance of Compulsory School Attendance’ in 2007.

The purpose of juvenile committees and special needs schools is to deal with problem youngsters and prevent offences by minors.

There are two special needs schools in Estonia at present – Kaagvere Special Needs School and Tapa Special Needs School, which have almost 90 students between them and which obtain app. 25 million kroons from the state budget for their operating expenses. A student place in a special needs school costs almost ten times more than a student place in an ordinary general education school.

There are 15 county and 53 local government juvenile committees in Estonia in 2010, which are allocated almost three million kroons from the state budget.

 

Toomas Mattson
Head of Communication Service, National Audit Office
+372 640 0777
+372 51 34 900
toomas.mattson@riigikontroll.ee
 

 

  • Posted: 12/15/2010 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 11/10/2015 6:07 PM
  • Last Review: 11/10/2015 6:07 PM

Special needs schools are still an expensive but inefficient tool in the prevention of offences committed by minors and in reducing the number of such offences.

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