MOE working with Sped schools to raise teachers' salaries, improve career progression: Chan Chun Sing

MOE will partner with social service agencies to set up five new Sped schools by 2030. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - To help the special education (Sped) sector attract and retain more teachers in the coming years, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is working with Sped schools to adopt human resource and job sizing practices that are being applied to MOE teachers.

But while Sped schools are Government funded and getting more support to improve teacher training, pay and career prospects, the social service agencies which run them retain substantial autonomy in their operations and hiring decisions, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Mr Chan was addressing MPs' questions on whether MOE would bring Sped school teachers under its purview, and on the ministry's plans to attract and retain talent to meet growing needs in the sector.

Under the Enabling Masterplan 2030 released last month, MOE will partner social service agencies to set up five new Sped schools by 2030, on top of the current 22.

Two new early intervention centres, focused on supporting young children with special needs, are also slated to open by mid-2023.

In March, MOE said it would set up a new school for children with multiple disabilities in the West of Singapore to improve accessibility to Sped education, becoming the fourth such school here.

Responding to Nominated MP Shahirah Abdullah's question on bringing Sped teachers under MOE to provide them the benefits that the ministry's teachers enjoy, Mr Chan said MOE is prepared to explore new models, but with five criteria in mind.

Any new model must deliver better outcomes for children with special needs, for their families, and in professional development for Sped teachers, he said.

It must also engage the wider community's participation in Sped needs, and lead to a better continuum of support for children with special needs from pre-school to post-schooling, he added.

"We're prepared to explore new models with the social support agencies and community, so long as we bear in mind these five criteria that I've just laid out."

Elaborating on how MOE is supporting the sector, Mr Chan said the ministry funds all Sped teachers' in their diploma in special education.

Of the 1,600 Sped teachers here, 1,100 have obtained the diploma or other recognised teaching credentials, while the remaining 500 teachers are either enrolled or will be enrolled next January.

The number of key positions in Sped schools will also be raised to provide career advancement opportunities for teachers who are performing well, he added.

To support this, Sped schools will receive additional funding for manpower costs in 2021 and 2024.

Sped schools will need to implement more progressive human resource practices and increases in their teachers' salaries, to receive the second round of funding, he added.

Mr Chan acknowledged that the sector currently relies quite a bit on foreign manpower.

"Just like any other part of our education and care sector, we would like a significant core of Singaporeans to be there so that we can take care of our own people, especially the vulnerable, even amid possible disruptions in the manpower supply," he said.

"So we will want to step this up, and we do have a road map worked out on how we progressively increase the number of Sped school teachers and caregivers as we build up the infrastructure in the next few years."

Looking to the future, the biggest gap in Sped education is not in the schools but in supporting students after they leave the education system, said Mr Chan.

This includes their parents, "who always worry about what will happen to their special needs children when they are no longer around", he added.

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