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Updated March 2019

Inclusive Education and Special Needs in British Columbia

There have been significant changes in the needs of students in BC’s public schools.

 The number of students with special needs in BC schools has remained relatively constant over the past 20 years at approximately 10% of the total student population. However, the types of needs have shifted dramatically, as seen in shifts among the BC Ministry of Education’s special education categories. The largest change is in the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which now has over seven times more students than in 2000–01.

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Source: Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Student Enrolment and FTE by Grade. Values are rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent.

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Source: Ministry of Education. (2018). Student Headcount by Special Needs Category.


The other categories also saw significant changes. Physical Disability/Chronic Health Impairment saw a 90% increase. Gifted and Moderate Behaviour Support/Mental Illness, two categories that no longer receive funding, declined by 69% and 49%, respectively.

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Source: Ministry of Education. (2018). Student Headcount by Special Needs Category.
Values are rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent.

After years of drastic cuts to special education teaching positions, a significant number have been restored. However, many more are needed.2

 Over 1,000 special education teachers were lost between 2000–01 and 2015–16, resulting in a drastic increase in teacher workload and decline in student supports. About 600 positions have been restored as a result of the BCTF’s 2016 Supreme Court of Canada victory. However, further increases to specialist teacher positions are critical for meeting all learner’s needs.

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Source: BCTF research table compiled from Ministry of Education. (2019); BC School District Revenue and Expenditure Tables; (2018). BC Schools – Teacher Statistics; (2018). Educator Statistics, 201314-201718 Masked, Nov 15, 2018. Values are rounded to the nearest whole number.

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Source: BCTF research table compiled from Ministry of Education. (2019). BC School District Revenue and Expenditure Tables; (2018). BC Schools – Teacher Statistics; (2018). Educator Statistics, 201314-201718 Masked, Nov 15, 2018; (2019). BC Schools – Student Enrolment and FTE by Grade. Values are rounded to the nearest tenth.

The graduation rate for students with special needs has doubled since 2000.

Between 2000–01 and 2017–18, the six-year Dogwood completion rates for students with special needs, excluding the Gifted category, has increased from 33.4% to 71.1%. Even during the years of understaffing, graduation rates steadily increased, demonstrating the efforts and abilities of BC’s teachers.

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Source: Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Six Year Completion Rate.
Values are rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent


Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Student Enrolment and FTE by Grade. Ministry of Education. (2018). Student Headcount by Special Needs Category.

2 BCTF research table compiled from Ministry of Education. (2019). BC School District Revenue and Expenditure Tables. (2018). BC Schools – Teacher Statistics. (2018). Educator Statistics, 201314-201718 Masked, Nov 15, 2018. and (2019). BC Schools – Student Enrolment and FTE by Grade.

Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Six Year Completion Rate.


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