UNICEF launches the first Bulgarian online platform for additional support of children with special educational needs
Support Me is a free learning platform created as rezult of "Education for Every Child" campaign.
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Sofia, 20 September 2021 – At the beginning of the new school year, UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) and the Regional Center for Support of the Processes of Inclusive Education – Sofia city, launches the online educational platform "Help Me Thrive", which provides a library with free educational and therapeutic resources in support of children with special educational needs (SEN), available to all children, parents, teachers and professionals at: http://podkrepime.mon.bg.
The online platform will expand the opportunities for children with SEN for additional support throughout the country, especially in a pandemic, and will help teachers, parents and professionals to have free access to a variety of support resources. The platform is integrated into the overall database of resources of MES and will be accessible to all participants in the education system, through a single access.
"Much has been achieved in terms of inclusive education but special attention still needs to be given to the most vulnerable and hard to reach children, in particular children with disabilities and children with special educational needs. We need to make sure that we reduce inequities created by social exclusion and that no child is left behind"
- stated UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria Christina de Bruin.
“There are over 26,000 children with SEN in education. 17,268 study in mainstream schools, 5,889 in kindergartens, 2,861 in Special Education Support Centers, and 662 children are in special schools. They all need personalized training, tailored to their individual needs, as well as appropriate and well-planned support for their personal development. The platform, in addition to providing the opportunity to create and use educational and therapeutic resources, will provide space where specialists, in cooperation with parents, will be able to plan and implement work with each child and student on the basis of individual and differentiated approach. This is extremely important in view of the increasing digitalization of education and the growing role of the electronic environment as a result of the of COVID 19 pandemic. In this sense, the Ministry of Education and Science is actively partnering for the creation and successful implementation of this online platform," said Greta Gancheva, Director of the Inclusive Education Directorate at the Ministry of Education and Science.
One in five children does not receive additional support, according to the assessment of the Regional Centers for Support of the Inclusive Education Process (RCSIEP). Thus, in practice, these children risk being left out of the educational process.
"COVID-19 changed the way we live, work and study. The new reality has made us change the way we provide support and knowledge to children," said Maria Yankova, Education Officer at UNICEF Bulgaria, adding: "Pedagogical specialists working with children with special needs have clearly identified the need for additional online support both for the children and for the professionals and parents themselves.” To meet this need, UNICEF, together with our partners from MES and RCSIEP -Sofia-city, initiated the development of appropriate and accessible resources, united on an online interactive platform "Help Me Thrive".”
The creation of the platform is a result of the UNICEF "Education for Every Child" campaign, held in the spring of 2020, which received the support of many individual and corporate donors, as well as media partners. Anyone who wants to support the development of the platform and its content has the opportunity to donate funds on the UNICEF Bulgaria website.
Thanks to the funds raised during the campaign in the summer of 2020, work began on securing partnerships, identifying needs and building the platform. The first phase of the platform was completed in the spring of 2021 and included meetings and preliminary tests with resource teachers, other professionals and parents to check how they navigate the functionality of the platform, what information and support they need. The second phase included the development and collection of interactive educational and therapeutic materials, as well as the integration of the platform with the overall resource base of the Ministry of Education and Science. At the third phase, in the beginning of 2022, an additional module will be added, which will facilitate the work and communication between parent, child and specialist, which will allow an individual support plan to be developed for very child, and each specialist will be able to select resources from the system to support the individual needs of children with SEN.
As content, the platform provides educational video materials and resources for children with SEN, developed by professionals and teachers. At this stage, within the pilot project, the main focus is on materials from pre-school to junior high school. They are located in the Resources section and are structured in two sections - educational and therapeutic resources, some of which are publicly available, and others, which are more specialized, require a request from the parent. All resources in the platform are completely free.
A parent, whose child needs such additional resources, will be able to apply for a Development Program in early 2022, which will complement the support they receive in kindergarten or school. The development program will be tailored to the individual needs of the child and will include a package of resources from the platform - selected by a specialist based on the needs of each child. The aim is more effective cooperation between the family and the pedagogical specialists, supporting the child, as the platform enables all of them to be connected and to monitor and support together the progress of the child.
The platform enables professionals, teachers and parents to improve their knowledge and skills on topics, related to child development and inclusive education, by free webinars and other training and methodological resources in the Training section. In the Inspire section are selected videos filled with a lot of strength, motivation, talent, and potential of young people with disabilities, parents and other ordinary people - champions of positive change.
Get inspired! Because young people with disabilities can achieve great educational success! See Maria's story.