Identifying students with special education needs
Learn how school board identification, placement and review committees identify and place students in special education programs.
On this page Skip this page navigation
School boards must provide special education programs and services to students who are formally identified as “exceptional pupils.” This is set out in the Education Act.
An exceptional pupil is a student who has behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities that require them to have a special education program or service.
Exceptional pupils are identified and placed in special education programs by school board committees called identification, placement and review committees (IPRCs).
A special education program is an education program that:
- is based on and modified by the results of continuous assessment and evaluation
- includes an individual education plan (IEP) which has specific objectives (except when the IEP has accommodations only) and an outline of special education services that meet a student’s needs
Special education services are the facilities and resources necessary for developing and implementing a special education program, including support personnel and equipment.
Regulation 181/98 of the Education Act sets out how IPRCs identify and place students (one of five placement options) in special education programs. This page provides information about:
- procedures that committees must follow
- how committees identify students and placement options
- the committee decision appeal process
We recommend that you read this page along with the regulation. If there is any discrepancy between this summary and the regulation, the information in Regulation 181/98 applies.
On this page, the word “parent” includes parents and guardians.
Identification, placement and review committees (IPRC)
All school boards must set up an identification, placement and review committee (IPRC).
An IPRC needs to have at least three members. One member must be a principal or supervisory officer of the school board.
- decides if the student should be identified as exceptional
- identifies areas of the student’s exceptionality, according to specific categories and definitions
- decides an appropriate placement for the student
- reviews a student’s identification and placement at least once in each school year
There will be an IPRC meeting for your child
Your principal can refer your child
Principals make a referral to an IPRC if they and the student’s teacher believe that the student may benefit from a special education program. If your child’s principal makes a referral, they must give you written notice.
You can request a meeting
As a parent or guardian, you can submit a written request for an IPRC meeting to your school principal.
Once the school principal receives your request, they must request an IPRC meeting for your child.
After the principal receives a request or refers a student
Within 15 days of receiving your written request or giving you notice of their referral, the principal must:
- acknowledge your request
- let you know in writing approximately when the IPRC will meet
- give you a copy of the school board’s parents’ guide to special education
At least 10 days before the meeting, the chair of the IPRC will send you a letter that includes the date, time and place of the meeting. The letter will also ask you to let the IPRC know if you will be attending the meeting.
Before the meeting, you will receive a copy of any information about your child that the chair of the IPRC received. This may include the results of assessments or a summary of information.
You, as the student’s parent, or a student who is 16 years or older:
- have the right to attend the IPRC meeting
- may request that the IPRC discuss potential programs that would meet the student's needs
If you can’t attend the scheduled meeting
If you can’t attend the scheduled meeting, you can either:
- contact the school principal to arrange a new date or time for the meeting
- let the school principal know you will not be attending the scheduled meeting
If you do not attend the meeting the principal will send you the IPRC’s written statement of decision for your consideration and signature as soon as possible after the meeting. The statement will include:
- the decision of identification and placement
- any recommendations for special education programs and services for your child
What to expect at an IPRC meeting
At a IPRC meeting the chair introduces everyone and explains the purpose of the meeting.
The IPRC will review available information about the student. The committee can:
- consider an educational assessment
- consider a health or psychological assessment conducted by a qualified practitioner, if they feel that an assessment is required to make a correct identification or placement decision (this is subject to the Health Care Consent Act, 1996)
- interview the student (with the parent’s permission, if the child is less than 16 years of age)
- consider information that the parent submits about their child
- consider information that the student submits if they are 16 years of age or older
The committee may discuss:
- any proposal about a special education program or special education services for the student
- any proposal at the parent’s request, or at the request of the student if the student is 16 years of age or older
After all the information has been presented and considered, the committee will make its decision.
Who can attend and participate in a committee meeting
Parents and students who are 16 years of age or older have the right to:
- be present at and participate in all committee discussions about the student
- be present when the committee’s identification and placement decision is made
Others who can attend an IPRC meeting include:
- the principal of the student’s school
- other resource people such as the student’s teacher, special education staff, school board support staff, or the representative of an agency who may provide further information or clarification
- a representative of the parent or student 16 years of age or older, for example a person who may provide support or speak on behalf of the parent or student
- an interpreter for sign language, or another language
You and the principal of your child’s school can make a request to the Chair of the IPRC to have others attend the IPRC meeting.
Before the IPRC considers placing the student in a special education class, it must consider whether placement in a regular class with appropriate special education services will:
- meet the student’s needs
- be consistent with the parent’s preferences
If, after considering all of the information presented, the IPRC is satisfied that placement in a regular class will meet the student’s needs and is consistent with the parent’s preferences, the committee will decide in favour of placement in a regular class with appropriate special education services.
If the committee decides that the student should be placed in a special education class, it must state its reasons in a written statement of decision.
For students whose needs cannot be met entirely in the regular classroom, a range of placement options is available, including a:
- regular class with indirect support where the student is placed in a regular class for the entire day, and the teacher receives specialized consultative services
- regular class with resource assistance where the student is placed in a regular class for most or all of the day and receives specialized instruction, individually or in a small group, within the regular classroom from a qualified special education teacher
- regular class with withdrawal assistance where the student is placed in a regular class and receives instruction outside the classroom, for less than 50% of the school day, from a qualified special education teacher
- special education class with partial integration where the student is placed in a special education class for at least 50% of the school day and is integrated with a regular class for at least one instructional period daily
- full-time special education class for the entire school day
Read Regulation 298, section 31 to learn about student-teacher ratios for different types of special education classrooms and student grades.
Other options could exist to meet your child’s needs. You can contact your school board staff to explore them. For example, you could consider applying for admission to a:
- Provincial School for students who are Deaf, blind, or deafblind, or a Demonstration School for students who have severe learning disabilities
- facility that provides the necessary care or treatment appropriate to the student’s condition
Written statement of decision
After the IPRC makes their decision, they will write a statement of decision that states if the IPRC has identified the student as exceptional.
If the IPRC has identified the student as exceptional, the statement of decision must include:
- the categories and definitions of any exceptionalities identified
- the IPRC’s description of the student’s strengths and needs
- the IPRC’s placement decision
- the IPRC’s recommendations regarding a special education program and special education services
- if the IPRC has decided that the student should be placed in a special education class, the reasons for that decision
If you agree with the decision
If you agree with the IPRC decision, you will be asked to sign the statement of decision. This means you agree with the identification and placement decisions made by the IPRC.
You can sign the statement of decision at the IPRC meeting or take it home and return it later.
Once the agreement is signed, the school board will notify the principal of the school where the special education program will be provided that they need to develop an individual education plan (IEP) for your child.
If you disagree with a decision
If you do not agree with either the identification or placement decision, you can:
- within 15 days of receiving the decision, request that the IPRC hold a follow-up meeting to discuss your concerns
- within 30 days of receipt of the decision, file a notice of appeal with the secretary of the school board
If you do not agree with the decision after the second meeting, you may file a notice of appeal within 15 days of receiving the second decision.
If you do not agree to the IPRC decision and do not appeal it, the board will instruct the principal to implement the IPRC decision.
Appeal an IPRC decision
To appeal a decision, you must give written notice to the secretary of the board. The timeline to appeal a decision is either:
- within 30 days of receiving the original decision
- within 15 days of receiving the decision from the follow-up meeting
The notice of appeal must include:
- which decision you disagree with
- a statement that sets out the reasons why they disagree
The school board must establish a special education appeal board to hear the appeal. The appeal board will be made up of three members who have no prior knowledge of the matter under appeal. As the child’s parent, you select one appeal board member.
The chair of the appeal board will arrange a meeting at a convenient time and place, but no later than 30 days after the appeal board is selected, unless you and board both provide written consent to a later date.
The appeal board:
- will receive the material reviewed by the IPRC
- may interview any persons who may be able to contribute information about the matter under appeal
You and the student, if they are 16 years old or over, are entitled to be present and participate in all discussions.
The appeal board must make its recommendation within three days of the meeting ending. It may:
- agree with the IPRC and recommend that the decision be implemented
- disagree with the IPRC and make a recommendation to the board about the student’s identification, placement, or both
The appeal board will give you and the school board a written report of its recommendations, including the reasons for its recommendations.
Within 30 days of receiving the appeal board’s written statement, the school board will decide what action it will take. Boards are not required to follow the appeal board recommendation.
You may accept the decision of the school board or may appeal to a Special Education Tribunal. You can request a hearing by writing to the secretary of the Special Education Tribunal.
The appeal board’s decision will include information about making an application to the tribunal.
Annual review meetings
A review IPRC meeting will be held within the school year. You can waive the annual review by providing written notice to your child’s principal.
After your child has been in a special education program for three months you can request a review IPRC meeting any time.
At a review IPRC meeting, the committee considers the same type of information that they originally considered. The IPRC will review the placement and identification decisions and decide whether they should be continued or if they should make a different decision.