Students with Down syndrome in primary education in the Netherlands:Regular..or Special education?

‘Those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within child-centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs’

(UNESCO, The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, 1994)

‘Those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within child-centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs’

(UNESCO, The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, 1994)

‘Those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within child-centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs’

(UNESCO, The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, 1994)

How many children with Down Syndrome are in regular schools in the Netherlands?

Dutch children with Down syndrome born since the 1990s start their school career in a regular school

56%

Dutch children with Down syndrome who started their education in a regular school and still are in a regular school at the end of primary education (12yr)

56%

How many children with Down Syndrome are in regular schools in the Netherlands?

Dutch children with Down syndrome born since the 1990s start their school career in a regular school

56%

Dutch children with Down syndrome who started their education in a regular school and still are in a regular school at the end of primary education (12yr)

56%

How many children with Down Syndrome are in regular schools in the Netherlands?

Dutch children with Down syndrome born since the 1990s start their school career in a regular school

56%

Dutch children with Down syndrome who started their education in a regular school and still are in a regular school at the end of primary education (12yr)

56%

Since the late 1980s in the Netherlands, as in many other countries, more and more children with Down syndrome are entering regular schools.

Approximately 56 percent of all Dutch children with Down syndrome born since the 1990s start their school career in a regular school.

Approximately 56 percent of all Dutch children with Down syndrome born since the 1990s start their school career in a regular school.

Children with Down syndrome in regular education per year

Why parents with children with Down syndrome choose for regular school placement

Why parents with children with Down syndrome choose for regular school placement

Why parents with children with Down syndrome choose for regular school placement

For children with Down syndrome, The parent’s choice for more inclusion has been and still is the driving force for changes in educational placements.

Dutch studies show that parents with children with Down syndrome choose regular schools for social, educational and ethical reasons.

Still many parents have to invest extraordinary levels of time, energy, and resources in their struggle to get their children into mainstream school and to support their educational progress, once there.

History

1975 

1980 

2003 

2014 

Contourennota

Policy for more diversity

Structural Legislation

Fitting education

In a governmental document, known as the ‘Contourennota’, written in 1975 by the Minister of Education Jos Van Kemenade, excluding children with mild developmental disabilities and children with specific learning disorders from the mainstream was already seriously questioned and becoming understood to be undesirable, both for society and education in general.

In the 1980s, governmental policy was implemented to make regular schools more adaptive to students with mild disabilities and specific learning disorders. However, policy failed in actually reducing the numbers of these students in special schools. In addition, the Dutch government, starting from the mid-1980s, created ad hoc regulations aimed at providing extra support for students with severe learning difficulties.

In 2003, temporary regulations were transformed into structural legislation for students with more significant disabilities, the so-called Leerling Gebonden Financiering or LGF (‘Student Specific Financing’). Under this legislation, parental choice is more important. They may opt for special or regular education and their child is entitled to a specified personal educational budget. However, there is no clearly stated right to attend a regular school. Regular schools may still refuse placement of a child with a disability.

A relatively new educational policy (aug 2014), so-called ‘Passend Onderwijs’(Fitting Education) will replace the financial open-ended system of personal educational budgets for students with more significant disabilities (LGF) with a regional fixed budget for all students. Passend Onderwijs aims at all students with disabilities.Now, a regular school will be dependent on joint arrangements with many other schools about the way the regional budget is divided. This uncertainty may weaken the parents’ negotiating position in entering the school.

History

1975 

Contourennota

In a governmental document, known as the ‘Contourennota’, written in 1975 by the Minister of Education Jos Van Kemenade, excluding children with mild developmental disabilities and children with specific learning disorders from the mainstream was already seriously questioned and becoming understood to be undesirable, both for society and education in general.

1980 

Fitting education

In a governmental document, known as the ‘Contourennota’, written in 1975 by the Minister of Education Jos Van Kemenade, excluding children with mild developmental disabilities and children with specific learning disorders from the mainstream was already seriously questioned and becoming understood to be undesirable, both for society and education in general.

2003 

Structural Legislation

In 2003, temporary regulations were transformed into structural legislation for students with more significant disabilities, the so-called Leerling Gebonden Financiering or LGF (‘Student Specific Financing’). Under this legislation, parental choice is more important. They may opt for special or regular education and their child is entitled to a specified personal educational budget. However, there is no clearly stated right to attend a regular school. Regular schools may still refuse placement of a child with a disability.

2014 

Policy for more diversity

A relatively new educational policy (aug 2014), so-called ‘Passend Onderwijs’(Fitting Education) will replace the financial open-ended system of personal educational budgets for students with more significant disabilities (LGF) with a regional fixed budget for all students. Passend Onderwijs aims at all students with disabilities.Now, a regular school will be dependent on joint arrangements with many other schools about the way the regional budget is divided. This uncertainty may weaken the parents’ negotiating position in entering the school.

History

1975 

Contourennota

In a governmental document, known as the ‘Contourennota’, written in 1975 by the Minister of Education Jos Van Kemenade, excluding children with mild developmental disabilities and children with specific learning disorders from the mainstream was already seriously questioned and becoming understood to be undesirable, both for society and education in general.

1980 

Fitting education

In a governmental document, known as the ‘Contourennota’, written in 1975 by the Minister of Education Jos Van Kemenade, excluding children with mild developmental disabilities and children with specific learning disorders from the mainstream was already seriously questioned and becoming understood to be undesirable, both for society and education in general.

2003 

Structural Legislation

In 2003, temporary regulations were transformed into structural legislation for students with more significant disabilities, the so-called Leerling Gebonden Financiering or LGF (‘Student Specific Financing’). Under this legislation, parental choice is more important. They may opt for special or regular education and their child is entitled to a specified personal educational budget. However, there is no clearly stated right to attend a regular school. Regular schools may still refuse placement of a child with a disability.

2014 

Policy for more diversity

A relatively new educational policy (aug 2014), so-called ‘Passend Onderwijs’(Fitting Education) will replace the financial open-ended system of personal educational budgets for students with more significant disabilities (LGF) with a regional fixed budget for all students. Passend Onderwijs aims at all students with disabilities.Now, a regular school will be dependent on joint arrangements with many other schools about the way the regional budget is divided. This uncertainty may weaken the parents’ negotiating position in entering the school.

Does regular placement of students with Down syndrome really lead to better self-help skills, language development, academics and social functioning?

self-helps kills

There’s no significant evidence that regular school placement leads to better self-help skills but neither there is any evidence for an advantage of special school placement

Language

Regular school placement has considerable advantages for the language development of children with Down syndrome with higher scores on diverse measures

Academics

Children placed in regular schools have better academic skills. This is also shown in the skills of teenagers with Down syndrome, of which many had been in regular schools for most of their school career

task-oriented behaviour

Beneficial effects of regular classroom placement have been proven for diverse aspects of school learning, notably task-oriented behaviour

No adverse effect

Regular classroom placement of students with disabilities has no negative impact on the development of their classmates

Pro-social behaviour

Classmates show more pro-social behaviour and better moral development. They develop a more accepting and less stereotyping attitude

Better communication skills

In regular schools children were encouraged to use more complex language. In special schools they adapted to the communication culture of signing / simple phrases

Social advantages

Regular school placement offers children more interactions and support with children without a disability than specially placed children

Does regular placement of students with Down syndrome really lead to better self-help skills, language development, academics and social functioning?

self-helps kills

There’s no significant evidence that regular school placement leads to better self-help skills but neither there is any evidence for an advantage of special school placement

Language

Regular school placement has considerable advantages for the language development of children with Down syndrome with higher scores on diverse measures

Academics

Children placed in regular schools have better academic skills. This is also shown in the skills of teenagers with Down syndrome, of which many had been in regular schools for most of their school career

task-oriented behaviour

Beneficial effects of regular classroom placement have been proven for diverse aspects of school learning, notably task-oriented behaviour

No adverse effect

Regular classroom placement of students with disabilities has no negative impact on the development of their classmates

Pro-social behaviour

Classmates show more pro-social behaviour and better moral development. They develop a more accepting and less stereotyping attitude

Better communication skills

In regular schools children were encouraged to use more complex language. In special schools they adapted to the communication culture of signing / simple phrases

Social advantages

Regular school placement offers children more interactions and support with children without a disability than specially placed children

‘Reading is one of the most powerful ways of helping children with Down syndrome to overcome their speech, language and cognitive delays’

(UNESCO, The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, 1994)

‘Reading is one of the most powerful ways of helping children with Down syndrome to overcome their speech, language and cognitive delays’

(UNESCO, The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, 1994)

‘Reading is one of the most powerful ways of helping children with Down syndrome to overcome their speech, language and cognitive delays’

(UNESCO, The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, 1994)

Pay attention to social network

Regularly placed children with Down syndrome are generally fairly well accepted by their peers, they are less often seen as ‘best’ friend. Regularly placed teenagers with Down syndrome have fewer opportunities for friendships with other peers with a developmental disability and, as a result, for the development of equal close friendships at school

Organize contacts with peers

Parents of, particularly older, regularly placed students with Down syndrome should be advised to organize contacts also with peers with a disability, supplementary to the relations their child has with children without a disability.Parents should do this just as well in the case of specially placed students, because their special friendships with classmates are often confined to only the school hours

Research shows considerable advantages of regular school placement for children with Down syndrome for language and academic development. But we're not there yet..

More opportunities for inclusion of children with Down syndrome in regular classrooms

More attention in regard to the teaching of academic skills inside the special schools because in special schools often too much of the learning potential of children with Down syndrome in this area of academic skills remains unused

More research to understand which mechanisms have an impact on developmental outcomes in Down syndrome

Use research to improve educational approaches, both in regular and special schools


Sources and acknowledgements

Gerrit Willem de Graaf (Ph.D.) - University of Gent, Belgium, department Medical Pedagogy, doctorate by Gerrit Willem de Graaf published in 2014: "Students with Down syndrome in primary education in the Netherlands: regular or special?" - Effects of school placement on the development and the social network of children with Down syndrome and conditions for inclusive education.

A systematic review of studies on the effect of school placement of children with Down syndrome (pdf)

For more information on this research you can contact: gertdegraaf@downsyndroom.nl