Waiting lists for LSEs and the length of the statementing process will be investigated by the Commissioner for Education within the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s office.
The investigation follows complaints by parents at the state-run Guardian Angel Secondary Education Resource Centre about a lack of specialised training for LSEs and professionals.
Meetings with stakeholders have begun in order to "objectively" establish the facts, the commissioner said in a statement on Tuesday.
There are 180 pending applications from students waiting for a learning support educator (LSEs), Education Minister Clifton Grima said in Parliament last month.
Answering a parliamentary question by PN MP Graziella Attard Previ, the minister said that the oldest application that is still pending dates to October 2022.
LSEs are assigned to students with special educational needs who require additional classroom support. The Statementing Moderating Panel decides whether a child with a disability needs an LSE after being referred by the school following a professional assessment.
An LSE can be one-on-one or shared.
In the statement, the Commissioner said “that the right to education is a fundamental human right," and "that children with learning problems deserve the best education that the State can provide".
It said that the State has the duty to ensure all educators are trained and able to meet the needs of the children in their care.
The commissioner added that two cases involving autistic children brought to the attention of the Office of the Ombudsman have been resolved by the Department for Education. Both cases were brought to the commissioner’s attention in January.
Need for specialised LSEs
Parents of children at the Guardian Angel school spoke out about the lack of specially trained staff and resources to cater for the specific needs of students at the school which forms part of the Dun Gorg Preca College and caters for students between 11 and 16.
The parents said their children had to spend weeks or months out of school either because they were suspended for challenging behaviour, or because they feared for their children’s health and safety if they were sent to the centre.
The Education Ministry said that last month it nominated a fact-finding board to evaluate the actual situation inside the school and provide recommendations by the end of this month.
Unrelated to this, police are investigating allegations of physical abuse by three educators on severely disabled students at resource centres.
The alleged abuse, which dates back to early last year, involved spraying the non-verbal students with “a liquid” and hitting one student on the head, according to sources. The educators have been suspended.