Developing collaborative models to support children with special educational needs in Harju County

Developing collaborative models to support children with special educational needs in Harju County

We conducted an analysis at the request of the Harju County Municipalities Association on the possibilities for supporting children with special educational needs across the municipalities of Harju County (excluding Tallinn). Initially, it was crucial for us to deeply understand the problems and obstacles related to providing services to children with special educational needs in Harjumaa. The objective was to propose recommendations for possible internal and inter-municipal collaboration models that would help improve the quality of services offered to these children. 

Our research strategy was based on a comprehensive approach that included analyzing documents, data inquiries, interviews with national policymakers, and detailed interviews with representatives from the social and educational sectors of Harjumaa’s municipalities. We met with all municipalities during a virtual discussion day to jointly explore potential collaboration areas and to identify their strengths and weaknesses. 

During the study, we confirmed several significant obstacles that are not unique to the municipalities of Harju County. The main issues identified were the lack of qualified support specialists (particularly speech therapists and psychologists), uneven distribution of existing resources, and a lack of suitable services and educational places for children with complex problems. 

As a result of the analysis and discussion day, we reached the following conclusions: 

  • Each municipality should assess the efficiency of working hours for support specialists working within the municipality on a uniform basis. 
  • There should be an increase in collaboration between support specialists, for instance, by initiating professional groups. 
  • In addition to planning new/expanded learning and competence centers in the county, consideration should also be given to consolidating necessary competencies in existing educational institutions through joint municipal cooperation. 
  • Support and develop subject teachers’ skills in assisting students with special educational needs. 
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