We recommend that you read this page along with the Education Act, regulations and PPMs. If there is any discrepancy between this summary and the Act, regulations, or PPMs, the information in the source document applies.

Special education and the Education Act

Ontario’s Education Act sets out rules around special education.

Under the Act, a special education program is as an educational program that is:

  • based on and modified by the results of a continuous assessment and evaluation of a student
  • includes a plan (now referred to as an individual education plan or IEP) containing specific objectives and an outline of the educational services that meet the needs of the exceptional pupil

The Education Act requires school boards to provide special education programs and services to students who are formally identified as “exceptional pupils.” Under the Act, an exceptional pupil is a student who has been identified by a committee as having behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities that requires them to have a special education program.

School board committees who identify and place students in special education programs are called identification, placement and review committees (IPRC).

  • The Minister of Education shall require school boards to implement procedures for the early and ongoing identification of the learning abilities and needs of students, define exceptionalities of pupils and prescribe classes, groups or categories of exceptionalities. School boards are required to use these definitions. The Minister shall provide an appeal process for parents concerning special education identification or placement decisions and ensure that special education programs and services are provided without payment of fees by parents or guardians who live in Ontario. The government shall establish the Ontario Special Education Tribunal(s) to hear appeals brought by parents. The Ontario Special Education Tribunal will make final binding decisions on the identification or placement of a student.

Special education regulations

There are a number of regulations under the Education Act that relate to special education. Regulation 181/98: Identification and Placement of Exceptional Pupils sets out rules for the identification and placement of students in special education programs and for identification, placement and review committees (IPRC)..

Regulation 306: Special Education Programs and Services defines the requirement for each school board to maintain a plan on how they will deliver special education programs and services.

Regulation 464/97: Special Education Advisory Committees sets out requirements for school board Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs), such as their role, membership, and scope of activities.

Regulation 298: Operation of Schools-General contains qualifications for special education teachers, a provision for reducing the length of the school day for exceptional pupils, and maximum class sizes for special education classes.

Regulation 296: Ontario Schools for the Blind and Deaf sets out operating procedures for the Provincial Schools for the Blind and Deaf, and also describes duties of teachers, residence counsellors, parents, and superintendents at these schools.

Policy/Program Memoranda (PPM) concerning special education

There are a number of Policy and Program Memorandum that relate to special education.

Standards for school boards' special education plans

Read Ontario’s policy on province-wide standards that school boards must meet when developing their special education plans in Part B of Special Education in Ontario, Kindergarten to Grade 12: Policy and Resource Guide (2017).

Policy and resource documents