Nikki Yee, the consultant tasked with overseeing the independent review of inclusive and special education in the territory, says her work has started with an in-depth look of the current approach the territory’s Department of Education is taking to deliver inclusive and special education programs. (Submitted)

Updated: Yukon government announces review of inclusive and special education in the territory

Review stems from a 2019 auditor general report. Recommendations are expected in June

The consultant tasked with overseeing the independent review of inclusive and special education in the territory says her work has started with an in-depth look of the current approach the territory’s Department of Education is taking to deliver programs.

It marks the first phase in Nikki Yee’s work that will review the current practices, procedures, legislated responsibilities and will also include speaking with administrative and school staff in the territory.

That will be followed by the second phase of the review, expected to happen in the spring, which will see input gathered from students, families, First Nations, school communities and others involved in education.

A report, including recommendations is expected to be finished in June.

The Yukon government announced Feb. 17 that Yee will lead the review that’s coming from a recommendation of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s report on the education system in the Yukon published in June 2019.

“The auditor general has identified some key areas,” Yee said in a Feb. 18 interview.

Among other issues, the auditor general’s report identified a discrepancy between educational outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, and also stated not enough has been done to institute Yukon First Nations languages and culture in curriculums.

It was also found that the Department of Education did not monitor service and supports delivery for students with special needs. Nor did it monitor the outcomes of students with special needs.

Among the findings, in some cases there were no evaluations, and “poor oversight of services and supports for students who had special needs” or a process to give some these students priority.

At some schools there are waitlists for services. The report stated a lack of prioritization “made it difficult for the Department to systemically identify students who had the most pressing needs from these waitlists.”

It also found the Yukon government didn’t monitor individual education plans, something the auditor general’s report called “troubling.”

Yee has worked for more than 12 years in education teaching everything from pre-Kindergarten to university as well as providing special education supports to schools. She is also a doctoral candidate in Special Education at the University of British Columbia.

Her research work has focused largely on decolonization in the classroom to support Indigenous and all students in inclusive learning environments.

“I’m excited,” she said of the review in the Yukon.

“There’s a lot of potential within education to support students with special needs and diverse students,” she said.

As work on the first phase continues, she said efforts are also underway to plan for how consultation will happen in Phase 2.

“I’d like to get a good picture,” she said of the education system in the territory, noting she expects there will be a variety of consultation tools used to do that.

Yee said that while everybody wants the best for students in the territory, there’s different perspectives on how to do that and part of her work will focus on gathering those perspectives.

“Yukon is striving to have an inclusive education system that enables all students to feel confident as learners, and that learning environments in all Yukon schools are providing effective and timely supports to meet students’ learning needs,” Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said in a statement.

Initial recommendations from the report are anticipated to come forward in June. The recommendations will be looked at by the Advisory Committee for Yukon Education and Yukon First Nations with short, medium and long-term actions developed from that.

With files from Julien Gignac

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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