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Education, Poverty & Socio-Economic Status and Education, Research on Education, Special Education

Poorer Special Needs Students Get The Least Exam Help

examEveryone wants to know why our poorest children tend to get the worst exams results?  Well here’s one more cog in the machine that grinds them down.

It was reported today that if a student wants to access special assessment conditions (SAC) funds to help with exams and assessments, such as a reader for a dyslexic student, or a separate room for someone who is easily distracted, or someone who needs to use braille, then they first need an assessment.

That sounds reasonable – it’s fair to check that the student truly needs the different conditions and the funds to pay for it.

What is NOT fair or equitable is that the initial assessment has to be paid for by the student’s parents or whanau.

No assessment – no help for that exam.

Or more to the point:  No funds – no assessment – no help.

“The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand says the system benefits wealthy parents at private schools who have greater access compared to poor parents whose children miss out.”

Let’s look at some of the statistics of which schools got the most or least funding for SAC:

  • King’s College in Auckland (private) – 24.4 per cent of its 180 students got funding
  • Rudolf Steiner School in Christchurch (state integrated*) – 24 per cent of its 50 students got funding
  • Christchurch’s Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti (state) – 19.5 per cent of it students got  funding
  • St Andrew’s College, Christchurch (private) – 16 per cent of its pupils got funding
  • Otahuhu College (state, decile 1) – no SAC applications

That’s right.  Otahuhu had not one application for help despite having 4 times more students taking exams than nearby Kings College.

In fact the article in Stuff reports that “Nationwide, about 60 per cent of decile 1 to 3 schools made no requests for assistance for their pupils.”

Equitable System?

Just how fair is a system that relies on parents to pay for the initial assessment? How much are these assessments? Hundreds of dollars?

no money

Tell me how a family that cannot afford to heat their home can pay for that?

Yet again the have-nots get the shitty end of the stick.

And of course this will impact on students’ chances to do well at school and in exams; Without the proper assessment, they cannot get the correct support in class, let alone in exams, and they stand more chance of falling through the cracks.

Just another nail in the coffin for children of families with limited finances.

There’s a chance that would impact that long tail of under-achievement the National Party are fond of bandying around, don’t you think?

Change the System

It’s good to see that the system is being re-evaluated by the Ministry of Education, and I only hope they agree to fund assessments for those on low incomes.

Otherwise nothing changes, and the poorest are given the worst chance of success, yet again.


* Was previously noted as a private school, in error.  Changed 10.01 23/6/13.

About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


8 thoughts on “Poorer Special Needs Students Get The Least Exam Help

  1. Assessments start at about $450 but can be up to $600 or more depending on the provider.


    Posted by Heather | June 23, 2013, 9:30 pm
    • Wow, Heather! Thanks for sharing that. Many families would have trouble coming up with that amount of money, wouldn’t they?


      Posted by Dianne - SaveOurSchoolsNZ | June 23, 2013, 9:41 pm
      • hi dianne, I totally agree with your points about the expense of the reports and how that hinders a student getting support. but in terms of the funding going to high decile schools, can you tell me what funds NZQA give out? as far as i am aware, the school provides (and so covers the cost of) the reader/writer/separate accomodation/computer. For most of the applications, NZQA just accept/reject them, they dont give out any financial assistance. These are the Conditions that most students apply for, so my question is, what are the NZQA funds for? (hope this makes sense!) thanks


        Posted by walker | September 23, 2013, 1:14 pm
  2. Hi, long time supporter of your blog and the face book sites but one small incorrect item this time- Rudolf Steiner is state integrated not private. They work extremely hard with their families to source funding for parents and children to get assessed. The issues shoudl be- why are funds capped? not castigating those with the skills and work ethic to source them.


    Posted by Lesley Muray | June 24, 2013, 8:48 am


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