High-Cost Special Education Program: National Program Guidelines 2017-2018

Table of contents

1. Introduction

The High-Cost Special Education Program (HCSEP) provides additional investments to recipients who provide services for students who ordinarily live on reserve and whose special education needs cannot be met within the current resources that are made available for the general student population.

Broadly speaking, special education needs students fall within a continuum of mild to moderate, moderate to severe and severe to profound.

Special education needs categorized as mild to moderate needs are expected to be addressed within the funding and terms and conditions of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Elementary/Secondary Education Program.

Only high-cost special education needs (ranging from moderate to profound) are eligible for funding under the High-Cost Special Education Program.

There are two types of approaches that are typically used in the school systems that help school administrators identify if a student has high-cost special education needs. These two approaches are sometimes combined:

  1. The intervention-based approach is a formula-based method that does not require formal assessments before intervention strategies are introduced. Nevertheless these students must undergo a formal assessment no later than the end of the following school year. Under this approach, teachers with the appropriate training are able to use and interpret assessment instruments and develop the necessary intervention measures to address the student's immediate needs while waiting for a more formal assessment. A student Individual Education Plan (IEP) should be initiated at this stage. The intervention-based approach is designed to provide immediate attention to the high-cost special education (HCSE) student by addressing the student's learning problems as soon as they are identified. This approach serves to mitigate some of the subsequent learning problems that may be experienced in later grades.

    IEP: Individual Education Plan
    An IEP can also be called an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) or an Individual Program Plan (IPP).
    • IEPs will vary depending on the educational jurisdiction.
    • A student who has been identified by a team of experts as having high cost special education needs must have an IEP in place, one that will map his or her progress during the school year.
    • The IEP will identify the curricular areas that will need to be modified or it will state whether the child requires an alternative curriculum which may be the case for students with severe to profound HCSE needs.
    The IEP will also identify the accommodations and or any special educational services the child may need to reach their full potential.
  2. The assessment-based approach involves classifying student needs into recognized high-cost categories and providing a "per pupil" funding allocation to support individualized programming. Severe to profound high-cost special education needs based on permanent physical or intellectual exceptionalities require at least one psycho-educational assessment. These students are identified by a physician's/psychologist's report and are required to have an Individual Education Plan that recognizes the broad range of their physical/intellectual abilities and addresses specific educational, health, and personal care needs.

2. Objective

The objective of the HCSEP is to improve the educational achievement levels of First Nation students on reserve by providing for access to special education programs and services that are culturally sensitive and meet the provincial standards in the locality of the First Nation. The program works to enable students with high-cost special education needs to achieve their fullest potential, as well as increase the number of special needs students acquiring a high school diploma or a certificate of completion.

3. Outcomes

The outcomes of this program are:

Note: Recognizing that students with high-cost special education (HCSE) needs may not achieve the same academic objectives as students without HCSE needs, the goals set out in student individual education plans are a measure of a student's ability to meet or exceed their educational goals, demonstrating progression towards a high school diploma or a certificate of completion.

4. Activities

In keeping with the trend among provincial education systems, HCSEP funding supports both direct and indirect services. This approach will maintain the requirement for formal assessments of students and the development of individual education plans (IEPs), and will also allow First Nation schools the flexibility to employ intervention strategies more quickly.

Activities funded under the program include:

Direct Services

Direct services are program activities such as classroom student intervention and counselling, focused directly on meeting student needs. These activities must represent a minimum of 75% of the annual HCSEP resources (See Section 7 for Eligible Expenditures).

Indirect Services

Indirect services refer to an array of supportive programs and activities focused on enhancing special education programming at schools, such as providing information services and professional development opportunities. These activities are often, but not necessarily, delivered by band-operated schools or Regional First Nation Organizations (may also be referred to as First Nation Regional Management Organizations [FNRMO]) and can benefit from aggregation by optimizing the use of resources for shared services.

These activities may represent a maximum of 25% of the annual HCSEP resources (See Section 7 for Eligible Expenditures).

5. Eligible Recipients

5.1 Eligible Recipients (Service Providers)

Eligible recipients of the HCSEP funding are:

Note: Eligible recipients who can only provide special education indirect services are only eligible to receive funding to deliver those indirect services (See Section 7 for Eligible Expenditures).

5.2 Eligible Participants (Students)

To qualify as an eligible participant, the following criteria must be met:

Note: In the case of a child in the care of a Child and Family Services Agency, or in the care of the province, the residency of the child is determined by the residency of the guardian with whom the child is placed. A guardian is a person who assumes authority for the child through a legal guardianship agreement.

6. Funding Request Process

Submission of funding requests

Deadline for submission of funding requests
May 15

Assessment Criteria

Note: Meeting these criteria does not guarantee funding from the High-Cost Special Education Program. Funding is limited overall by total available funding both nationally and regionally.

Review and Approval of Funding Requests

The funding requests will be reviewed and approved by the INAC regional office or jointly by the INAC regional office and a First Nation management organization. A written response will be sent to applicants to confirm whether, or not, their funding request has been approved.

Funding Approaches and Use of Funding

Funding is available through Set contribution funding, Fixed contribution funding and Flexible contribution funding. Your regional office will inform you about eligibility for these funding approaches.

Notes to Recipients

Recipients shall use these guidelines in conjunction with their Funding Agreement for the management of funds received and expended for the delivery of this program, e.g. the retention, the use and the reimbursement of unexpended funding, the redirection of funds received under a Flexible contribution, etc.

7. Eligible Expenditures

HCSEP programs and services are divided into two categories: Direct (First Level Services) and Indirect (Second Level Services).

Direct Services:

Direct services must represent a minimum of 75% of the annual HCSEP resources. The direct services HCSEP allocation is to be spent on high-cost student support services. The following is a list of eligible expenditures for direct services:

Assistive technologies and equipment purchases

The following list of Adaptive Hardware and Software is provided as an example of the types of tools that can be used in the classroom to assist the high cost special education needs students.


  • Audiocalc is a talking scientific calculator;
  • AudiSee is an audio-visual FM system used by oral-deaf or hard of hearing students (enhances understanding of speech and filters environmental noise);
  • Dream Writer Smart Keyboard is a portable keyboard with a built in word processor;
  • Franklin Language Master is a Merriam-Webster dictionary 300,000 word spell checker with visual and auditory feedback;
  • Hewlett Packard Scanner and Laser Jet Printer;
  • Juliet Braille Embosser is a Braille printer;
  • Kurzweil Personal Reader is a scan and text reading technology;
  • Magna Cam is a portable scanner and print magnifier (mini-screen/TV/eye-wear);
  • Tracker 2000 is a head mouse and bat keyboard; and
  • V-Cam is a head mounted zoom-lens (Jordy - zoom - lens video eyewear).


  • DeskTalk PC speech output;
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking continuous speech recognition;
  • Duxbury Braille Translator;
  • JAWS for Windows / DOS speech output synthesizer (screen reader);
  • Open Book Unbound OCR software, scan text and convert to E-text;
  • Text Help, Wordsmith & Inspiration (multi sensory computer software that assists reading fluency and enhances writing development for students with reading and written language difficulties); and
  • Zoom Text (print magnification screen reader).

Indirect Services:

Up to 25 percent of the HCSEP allocation may be spent on school activities and services that will improve special education programs for high-cost special education needs students. The following is a list of eligible expenditures for indirect services:

Administration Costs:
Direct and indirect services funding may be used for administration support. Eligible administration costs include only the actual costs associated directly with administering HCSEP and must not exceed 10% of the sub-total amount requested before administration costs. The program's Data Collection Instrument (DCI) will automatically calculate the amount. Eligible administration costs include, but are not limited to:

Further distribution of funds by INAC's funding recipients: When a funding recipient further transfers, to a Third Party, funds that were received under this program, the 10% allowed for administration costs must be divided between the parties, as agreed to between the parties. The total administration costs retained by all parties must not exceed 10% of the sub-total amount requested before administration costs.

8. Ineligible Expenditures

Ineligible expenditures include, but are not limited to:

9. Maximum Program Contribution

The maximum contribution for high-cost special education services per student shall not exceed the costs in accordance with the educational components set out below:

Tuition Rate for Specialized Schools (e.g. Provincial School for the Deaf)

Tuition for Non-Specialized Schools

Accommodation for High-Cost Special Needs Students (includes room and board)

Transportation for High-Cost Special Needs Students

Note: Depending on the severity of the student's exceptionality, according to methods prescribed by the province of residence and provincial standards for funding eligibility, the maximum contribution may be increased by the salary of a teacher's aide (per student) over and above the instructional services tuition rate.

10. Monitoring and Accountability

Funding recipients must deliver the programs in accordance with the provisions of their funding agreement and the program delivery requirements outlined in these National Program Guidelines while also ensuring that the necessary management controls are in place to manage funding and monitor activities. Funding recipients are required to exercise due diligence when approving expenditures and must ensure that such expenditures are in accordance with the eligible expenditures set out in these National Program Guidelines.

INAC is committed to providing assistance to recipients in order for them to effectively carry out obligations under these National Program Guidelines and funding agreements. Regional offices and other departmental contacts are available to answer questions and provide guidance related to INAC programs and funding.

To ensure that program delivery requirements are being met, that funds are expended on the intended purposes and that INAC's accountability to Parliament is being met, activities including audits, evaluations, as well as desk and on-site compliance reviews will be conducted with all funding recipients.

  • The Department's collection and use of personal information and other records for the purposes of program compliance reviews will be limited to what is necessary to ensure program delivery requirements are met.
  • The Department is responsible for all information and records in its possession. The confidentiality of the information will be managed by INAC in accordance with the Privacy Act and other related policies on privacy. Recipients are responsible for the protection of personal information per the privacy legislation, regulations and/or policies that govern them up to the point that it is transferred to INAC.

11. Reporting Requirements

The reporting requirements (program and financial reporting) are listed in the recipient's funding agreement, and details on these requirements are available in the Reporting Guide. Recipients are responsible for ensuring that reporting requirements are met and reports are accurate and submitted on or before the established due dates. Recipients who have access to the INAC Services Portal can access the reporting forms by opening a session on the Portal. If you do not have access to the Portal, contact your regional office.

Recipients must report on all funds received and expended, including the use of unexpended funding they were allowed to retain to use in the following fiscal year.

Recipients shall use these guidelines in conjunction with their Funding Agreement with respect to reporting requirements.

12. Contact Information

For further program information, please visit the High-Cost Special Education Program page.

The regional offices coordinates can be found on the Regional Offices page.

You can also write to:
Education Branch
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
10 Wellington Street
Gatineau QC K1A 0H4

These National Program Guidelines can be consulted in the Education Programs - National Program Guidelines page of INAC's website and through the View Instructions button on the first page of this program's Data Collection Instrument (DCI).

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