Minister for Education Dr. the Hon. Natalio Wheatley told the House of Assembly on 3 June that a decision has been made to halt the scholarship programme at the Vanguard school for differently abled students in the Territory.
In a statement to the House of Assembly Hon. Wheatley explained that while the Government will continue to fund the scholarship of the students who are already studying at the US based institution, he does not think that the scholarship programme is sustainable.
The Minister said that he has heard great reviews about the Vanguard programme but noted that he found it interesting that for a total of six students the Territory had to pay over one million dollars. “From the accounts of the parents, this has been an excellent experience for those young people. However, it is an expensive undertaking, costing the government $44,000 per student annually. We currently have six students in the programme, which amounts to $264,000 per year. Over a four-year term, this amounts to $1.56 million for six students,” he said.
The Education Minister further mentioned that he believes that investment should be made to bring the training and programme to the Territory so that more students can benefit at a lower cost. “I will invest money in a local solution which will benefit a greater number of students,” Hon. Wheatley told the House of Assembly.
Nonetheless the Education Minister announced that he intends to visit the institution to learn more about their offering.
In March 2014 it was announced that the Ministry of Education was going to offer two scholarships per year to assist students with special needs to seek secondary education outside the Territory.
Then in September that year two students were selected to attend the Vanguard School for students with Special needs in Florida, which is a Boarding institution that has been in existence since 1959. It was explained that while at Vanguard the students apart from doing academic studies are also taught how to become independent, taking care of themselves and also their fellow students.
It was explained by then Minister for Education Myron Walwyn that the school provides comprehensive special education and clinical services in a highly personalized setting through academic and extra-curricular programmes and activities to promote learning as well as the development of communication and interpersonal skills.
The school serves students between the ages of 4 – 21 years with an array of exceptionalities including autism spectrum disorder, neurological and speech-language impairments and socio-emotional difficulties.