High-Cost Special Education Program

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)'s High-Cost Special Education Program helps eligible First Nations students with high-cost special needs to access quality programs and services that are culturally sensitive and reflective of generally accepted provincial or territorial standards. 

Budget 2016 is investing $577.5 million over five years to support special needs education through the High-Cost Special Education Program. It will provide support for both direct services to students and indirect services that support them.

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About the program

INAC supports First Nation students' special education needs through two programs:

  1. The Elementary and Secondary Education Program funds special education services for First Nation students identified as having mild to moderate learning disabilities. Funding is provided for programming, remedial instruction, clinical services and resource teacher staffing.
  2. The High-Cost Special Education Program funds band-operated schools for high-cost special education students assessed with moderate to profound learning disabilities. The program funding is student-specific and determined by a formula based on individual student requirements. It is used for direct service support in the form of personnel, adaptive materials and resource services.

The High-Cost Special Education Program consists of direct and indirect services.  Direct services represent at least 75% of the available funding. These include a number of classroom and school-based services related to the education and support of students with high-cost special needs.  Examples include:

Indirect services represent up to 25 per cent of total High-Cost Special Education Program funding.  Funding is provided to eligible First Nation recipients for the development of special education programs and services on the understanding that each First Nation student with special education needs is unique. Each student requires a customized program to meet their individual needs in order to best support their success.  Examples include:

Who can apply?

Band councils, federal schools, provincial ministries of education, provincial school boards/districts, private education institutions and organizations designated by band councils.


The deadline to submit funding requests is May 15, 2017.

How to apply?

Proposals are accepted through an annual call for proposals.

Eligible recipients must submit detailed requests for all the high-cost special education activities to be undertaken during the school year.  Requests must clearly state how the proposed activities will further the objectives of the program and respond to students' high-cost special education needs and the expected results of the program.

The programs or services that are to be implemented or maintained during the school year must be comparable to the high-cost special educational programs and services that are currently offered by the provincial schools.

When submitting a request, please follow the High-Cost Special Education Program: National Program Guidelines 2017-2018.

All proposals will be assessed by INAC regional offices using these criteria.

For more information on submitting a request, please contact INAC by email at Education@aadnc-aandc.gc.ca or by telephone at 1-800-567-9604 and ask to speak to an Education officer.

Assessment of a student's needs

In order to qualify for INAC's High-Cost Special Education Program funding, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be in place for a student with identified special education needs.  Assessment costs are covered by INAC.

A teacher with appropriate training does a preliminary assessment and if a need is identified the student will be referred to a professional, such as a physician, speech or language specialist or an education psychologist for a formal assessment. The formal assessment is used in the development of a student's IEP.

The IEP will contain specific and measurable short-term and long-term education goals for the student. Teachers and professionals jointly develop these plans, ideally, in collaboration with parents, and depending on their age, the First Nation students themselves.

The IEP sets out the learning needs of a First Nation student and the types of high cost special education services that are required to achieve those goals.

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