An NZ teacher writes:
I’m having a remembrance day.
I remember sitting on a couch with a boy who was around six. He was drawing a purple cat under a turquoise scribbly sky. He had dark hair and deep brown eyes. His teacher was across the room from us. Not too far. She said- so very vehemently – “I don’t want him in my class” and pointed at the boy next to me. He lifted his head. Looked at his teacher. Looked at me. I was reeling in shock at the outright rejection I’d just heard so he probably noticed that the smile I gave him – that was meant to be reassuring – was quite wonky.
I remember standing in a long and narrow “resource room” of a secondary school with the head of the English department and a curly haired, hugely built, usually tall but at that moment curve shouldered and stooped teenager. The same teenager that had written me a naïve but still detailed with understanding sympathy card when he had found out my father had died. The HOD was rifling through a grey filing cabinet, outlining all the ways the teenager was failing. She gave me his behavioural contract (lots of red marks and red pen comments from an assortment of teachers.) She gave me unfinished assignments. I recognised the student’s penciled printing and could easily imagine him writing every letter sooooo carefully. She gave me pristine textbooks with relevant pages marked and “The Diary of Anne Frank” which she wanted the teenager to summarise. She kept saying “He needs to take responsibility for this poor performance” and she gave me a deadline for when everything she was shoving my way was due in for him. I was feeling like I’d just been tackled by someone not unlike Jonah Lomu, so the teenager probably noticed the wobble of my voice as I faux merrily said “Do you want to grab all that stuff, mate……my bag is full of lollies and booze……”
I remember walking with a child from my class after school. A colleague came up to me. Very upset. Telling me very loudly in front of the child from my class that one of my other students shouldn’t be allowed at our school. She could see how this child “just didn’t belong with us”. She had seen how this child behaved. She had told the mother of this offensive student that her daughter shouldn’t be here. She was on the way to tell the principal that the child needed to go. I looked at the student from my class. She looked at me questioningly. Then looked down at the ground. So she missed my fake wink – again supposed to reassure that at least one of the adults on the scene wasn’t going to go nuclear.
All these young people I was so, so privileged to work with and have in my life for a while had special needs. And they were all treated so badly.
In my time in special education – and mainstream – I have heard and seen monstrously unfair things. Things so cruel they made me revert to the question children ask of each other when they can’t believe an injustice they’ve just been dealt. “Why are you being so mean?”
I’m a full grown adult – yeah, all altruistic and “overly emotive” (actual quote) – but I still ask “Why are they being so bloody mean?”
As an adult I know – The teacher who didn’t want the child with ADHD and Autism in her class was getting no ongoing support or understanding from her management team.
The HOD had no understanding of the teenager’s diagnosis. She had no idea what to do with him. She was hyper aware of the judgment that was being flung her way over the failing mark in her departmental bell curve of achievement that the teenager represented.
The colleague that was railing at me was also ignorant. And scared. And angry about something that probably wasn’t even to do with me or my student. I can’t rightly say what her exact issue was.
What I can say is that when I first saw and heard these monstrous things and felt like I’d been punched in the solar plexus, a part of me thought “I’ll probably get used to this.”
Yesterday – for reasons long and complicated – a person who has also been in special education for a long time walked into my mainstream classroom. I was relieved to see her. From the moment she started talking I realized how long I’d been worrying for, fighting for and trying to protect this particular student and her parents from “the mean people.”
It was like seeing the cavalry coming.
I can’t describe the relief.
It was only yesterday I figured out that as an “overtly emotive” person I’m never going to get over the shock of people willfully and fearfully misunderstanding others and trying to punish them and isolate them instead of trying to address their own ignorance.
It ALWAYS sucks when people are treated this way , and I will always, always remember it.
~ Secret Teacher NZ
Today’s release of a Cabinet paper outlining changes to support for children with special education learning needs has some positive developments but also raises a number of concerns, says NZEI Te Riu Roa.
As part of the Learning Support Update, the Ministry plans to implement a new service model that will include a single point of access for parents, whānau, schools and local communities, and Local Learning Support teams and a Lead Practitioner.
NZEI President Louise Green said such a move would be welcomed, and teachers and parents had long been asking for a single contact point.
“The concern is that there is still no more funding, even though the ministry acknowledges that the number of children needing learning support is growing, and principals are reporting that the significant needs of children in their schools are not being met,” she said.
“There is no detail around who will staff the learning support teams and lead practitioner roles. If they are existing specialist staff, this reduces the available expertise needed by individual children. If the role is to be taken by teachers or Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) in schools, a lack of resourcing for the extra responsibility will be an issue.”
Ms Green welcomed the acknowledgement that more speech language therapists were needed and that the eight-year cap on frontline staff could be lifted.
“However, they have also signalled a move to some private provision of services, even though it would be more cost-effective to use ministry-employed staff. Fewer children will be assisted if funding is going via private operators. We don’t want to see any privatisation of this essential public service for our children,” she said.
Ms Green was pleased that the new service model would be trialled in one area first, but said many questions remained around the details of the model and their implications on students.
Andrea Matheson writes:
Today, as a Mana [Porirua] resident, I had the ‘pleasure’ (amusement) of receiving the Minister’s MANA MATTERS newsletter. It has a feedback section, in which I particularly like the comment:
“I’m always interested in hearing your feedback and learning more about which issues matter to you. I’d appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to complete the survey below.”
Well Minister, I would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to read and respond to the TWO letters I have sent you where I outlined very clearly what issues matter to me! So I really don’t think you ARE interested in hearing about what issues matter to me or anyone else for that matter!
And I’m intrigued by your statement in the letter:
“We are expanding the ORS and the Intensive Wraparound Service to ensure that every child is catered for, no matter their circumstances”
How, pray tell, are you planning to achieve that, when you have made it quite clear there will be no increase to the special education budget!?
Andrea’s full letter to Hekia Parata follows:
Dear Ms Parata,
I am very disappointed that it has now been a month or so since I sent you my letter regarding the proposed overhaul to Special Education funding and I have not yet had a reply from you. I had very high hopes that my words would make a difference – I guess I am a glass half-full kind of girl.
You state in your opinion piece on Stuff, dated September 25th that “I will work with any groups or individuals that are seriously committed to improving children’s learning and raising achievement.” Well, Ms Parata, we have been trying to get your attention for WEEKS now – parents as individuals and as part of wider groups, have written letters, organised education rallies across the country, commented on news articles, commented on your Facebook page (and been blocked for their efforts), spoken to the media, left messages on the Ministry’s phone line and signed petitions. These efforts have been plastered all over social media – you surely cannot have missed these actions by passionate, proud, exhausted, anxious parents who are praying that the dire situation of inadequate funding in special needs is rectified, and fast.
The lack of response has given me additional time to think of more important questions I need to ask you as well as provide you with some further thoughts that have arisen during this long wait.
In several articles I have read in recent weeks, you have stated that no child currently receiving funding will lose that funding. This implies that individuals such as myself only care about their own child/children and will be satisfied with this reassurance. BUT – I wrote to you expressing my concern about the education system as a whole – I am NOT an individual parent who likes to whinge, who only cares about the impact for her own child – I care deeply about what will happen to children who desperately need funding who do not have any to begin with. So whilst your statement on this point seems to imply that my son will not lose the ORS funding he currently has, he was NOT my only concern. I am not that selfish. Therefore your ‘reassurance’ is of no comfort to parents of children about to enter the school system without ORS funding or teacher aide support, or to parents like myself who care about the bigger picture in education.
Could you please outline any school visits you SPECIFICALLY made as a part of the ‘consultation’ process to help you create your cabinet paper on inclusion? For example, did you:
Visit and personally meet with a wide range of children who have additional learning and physical needs?
Spend time with them in their school environment to understand how crucial additional funding is to ensure their success?
Observe a wide range of learning and physical difficulties, eg: neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, GDD and ADHD, physical disabilities, genetic disorders and learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia etc?
Ensure that you saw the VAST differences between what a teacher, teacher aide, child and parents can achieve with adequate funding, versus a teacher and child who have no additional funding or teacher aide support?
Or was consultation done without the real-life context of what it is like to be struggling to meet the demands in the classroom without support?
How do you propose to support children in primary school who do not meet the criteria for ORS funding? There is currently not enough funding to support children with learning difficulties or disorders, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and autism. If a school cannot meet their needs through their operational or SEG grants, what becomes of these children? Are they supposed to struggle through their school years with little or no support? What will the outcome be for them when they have to enter society as an adult? It is a frightening prospect. We are meant to be a forward thinking and innovative country but at the heart of it, we are not supporting the children who are struggling through every day and having their confidence eaten away bit by bit. I am sure I am not the only person in New Zealand who strongly feels schools need targeted funding to meet the needs of children with these disorders if they do not achieve ORS funding (and we all know the vast majority of children with these disorders do not). We all know these disorders are on the rise Minister – what does your government plan to do about this issue?
We have repeatedly asked you how you plan to improve services to ECE without increasing the overall budget for special education. No satisfactory answer has come from you as yet. Instead we have to listen to radio interviews and read articles where the majority of journalists have not dug deeper to properly dissect the information that is being fed to them. But we as parents have a vested interest in the changes to funding and we know how to read between the lines. We will not be satisfied by the usual vague statements such as “The proposed changes that we’re making in education are all about putting our kids at the centre of the education system, lifting the educational success of every young New Zealander” and “Everything I’m working towards is about putting children and their achievement at the centre of the education system.” Are these statements intended to keep us quiet? I’m afraid they won’t. I guess the giant governmental PR machine may have underestimated our fortitude and determination.
Whilst we can appreciate the sentiment behind your statements, which I’m sure is genuine, you have not given us the answers we are seeking. How will you achieve better funding to students through ‘streamlining’ and what will streamlining look like? Until we get those answers we will continue to be noisy (deafening in fact).
We as parents are striving 24/7 to raise children who can become happy, appreciated, well-understood and productive members of society. All we ask for is that you work with us to better understand their needs, and the successes they can achieve with better funding and more support. Please LISTEN to what we are trying to tell you.
We want to be listened to, we want to be heard. You say that you want to work with us – why are you not responding to our questions? Why are you deleting perfectly reasonable questions and comments from your Facebook page? As a passionate parent and advocate recently suggested, we see plenty of pictures of you planting trees and other lovely photo opportunities, but where are the photos of you working alongside children with additional, high or very high needs, trying to understand how teachers meet their needs with no funding? Where are the photos of you talking to parents whose children have been turned away from schools or stood down because there are no teacher aides to help the teacher support their learning and behavioural needs? Where are those photos Ms Parata?
I respectfully ask (again) that you respond to these thoughts and concerns with REAL answers. We WANT to be involved in the direction that these changes will go, nobody knows the needs of children with ‘special’ needs better than their parents. We want to give you the benefit of our guidance. I am not setting out to be a trouble maker. I have spent an hour and a half on this letter, an hour and a half I could have spent playing with my son. But I am forced into this situation because I need to fight to be heard. Please respect our combined knowledge and experience, there is so much that we could add to help you lead an education system that we can ALL be proud of.
With kind regards,
Mum to a super special, endearing, pride-inducing and heart-warming wee lad.
Letter reproduced with Andrea’s kind permission.
Special education funding cuts have been revealed on eve of rally at Parliament to support inclusion education.
Educators are joining with disabled people, families and service providers to rally at Parliament tomorrow, Thursday 22 September, to let Government know that their Special Education Update is totally inadequate and it is time to invest in inclusion.
“NZEI is concerned that the Special Education Grant (SEG) paid to schools through operational grant funding is failing to keep up with wage inflation and roll growth,” said Louise Green NZEI Te Riu Roa President.
“Between 2009 and 2016, the SEG fell by 1.8% when labour cost increases are taken into account, according to information released to Education Aotearoa under the OIA.
“In the same period, school rolls have risen from 760,859 students to 776,816 and the identification of students with special education need has increased dramatically. So there really needs to be much more funding going into SEG than the Government is current providing to ensure the value of the funding per student increases.
“The SEG is mainly spent on teacher aides to help meet students’ special education needs. The inadequate levels of funding puts real pressure on a school’s ability to provide the best education possible for all their students.
“Any parent or teacher of a special needs child can tell you that the level of learning support funded through the Ministry of Education is inadequate, and in many cases non-existent.
“The recent Special Education Update proposal to shift resources to pre-schoolers, without putting any additional funding into the system won’t work in the best interests of all children who need the support. They need more funding.
“We strongly support greater investment in early intervention, but that should not come at the expense of those who need support when they are older. Funding should be based on the need for intervention and support, not age,” said Louise Green.
Education for All Rally
Where: Parliament forecourt
When: Tomorrow, Thursday 22 September 4.30-5.30pm
Organised by Education for All, a collaboration involving the disability and education sectors, including NZEI Te Riu Roa
Facebook Event Page
We ended season one of Minister MegaLie Strikes Again with a cliffhanger:
Minister MegaLie released a mega-fib- POW!!! -during Parliamentary Question Time, almost flooring The Hipkins – KAPUTTTT!
Eagle eyed Activist Gal spotted the uber-whopper and challenged said Minister to confess to her super-falsehood – KAPOW!!!
Super Special Ed launched a mighty roar: “Justiiiiiice – we demand truth!” – PZZANG!
Minister MegaLie held off Activist Gal and Super Special Ed with her La-la-la Blinkers of Steel – OOOF!!$!
Monster Media walked away and didn’t look back – ARGHHGGGGH!
The Hipkins was struck mute – ZZZAP!
Super Special Ed wept furiously, as the silence rang in their ears – WAHHHGHGGGH!
Teach-A-Trons throughout the land held their breath – EEEEK!
Activist Gal hoped for a hero…
Season Two: Minister MegaLie and The Cloaked Protector
[Fade in to see Mighty Martin on the top of The Beehive]
Mighty Martin launches her email of shame into an angry Wellington wind – BAZINGA!
Carter the Cloaked Protector flinches and skulks backwards slowly into the Carter Cave – FLRGHGH!
[Tumbleweed and the sound of crows]
Carter the Cloaked Protector unearths an ancient text, The Scroll of Unaccountability – WHOOA!
The Scroll of Unaccountability gives Carter the Cloaked Protector the power to bury Minister MegaLie’s heinous deeds once and for all – MWAHAHAHA!
Super Special Ed let loose a might roar – RAAAARGGGGGH!
Teach-A-Trons arm for battle – KRANGH!
Activist Gal looks to camera and says
“Without you – without your voice – without your power and your vote – this evil will prevail…”
“But together… Together we are strong. Together we are mighty.
“Together We Can Get Justice!”
The crowd beings to whisper.
More start to listen…
Staunchly, Bravely, Intrepid Souls join the chant…
~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ
It’s been a year of non-stop changes and proposals. Some call it a war on free public schooling in NZ – indeed it feels like a continuous battery of skirmishes with little to no break between attacks.
If the Minister is purposefully undertaking psychological warfare to break teachers down, then she’s doing it well, because we’re worn out; We just want to teach.
So far this year, NZ public education has faced:
- COOLs – out of nowhere and with no consultation at all, Hekia Parata announces plans for online charter schools for 5-18 year olds.
- Global Funding – a raft of proposals to bulk fund schools, including giving schools a set payment to fund teachers with the provision for schools to spend that money any way they want (including not spending it on teachers). This means government would cease to guarantee to maintain teacher/students ratios at current levels.
- Special Educational Needs – the Minister has proposed significant changes, but appears to have largely ignored the information collected at select committee. It was confirmed that there will be no additional money for SEN, despite a real issue with under-funding. There are proposals to divert current funding towards early childhood education and reduce funding for 5-18 year olds. Proposal to stop ORS funding at age 18 rather than 21. (And Hekia lied in the house saying the proposals have support where none exists.)
- Operations budget frozen – schools’ operations funding is frozen despite a hike in power and water bills, meaning a net loss of funds to schools. This means less money for things such as libraries, equipment, specialist classes, and teacher aides.
- Teacher Education Refresher course – ill-thought-out and inappropriate targeting of teachers for retraining costing $4k (and no student loans available for the course) causes huge amounts of stress for teachers and put pressure on schools as it gets harder to find relievers.
- Charter Schools – two more, despite the current ones missing targets set by Ministry of Education
- National Standards – the ‘National Standards: School Sample Monitoring & Evaluation Project 2010-2014‘ report was published and reported that “evidence strongly suggests that [Overall Teacher judgements (OTJs)] lack dependability, which is problematic as OTJs are a central element of the National Standards system”. Despite this, National Standards are still being pushed and continue to be used by government as if they are reliable.
- Pushing PaCT – schools being pressured to adopt the Progress and Consistency Tool for National Standards. This includes workshops that give school staff very biased and one-sided information. There are still concerns PaCT is being pushed in order to later use the data for performance pay, despite research and experiences showing that teacher performance pay does not improve student outcomes and in some cases lowers it.
- Education funding diverted to private sector – proposal to give a larger portion of the education budget to charter schools and private schools, leaving less for public schools
- Untrained Staff unsupervised in classes – Minister proposed a law change to allow untrained ‘teachers’ to work unsupervised in public school classrooms (this while at the same time forcing trained teachers to spend $4k to upskill if they are deemed to have not done enough classroom teaching over the past few years).
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things – there have been so many – so please comment below if there’s anything that needs to be added.
Meanwhile, look after yourselves – there’s still one whole term to go and, as we know, a lot can happen in a few short weeks.
PS, more added below!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Thousands of people have read my post about Hekia Parata fabricating support from a mystical “Special Education Association”, and most were just plain dismayed that a Minister would openly make up information to justify her plans for special education. However, a few hardy
trolls souls dredged up whatever support they could for the Minister, saying that there is indeed an New Zealand Special Education Association (NZSEA) in Canterbury and they probably did support the plans. (This despite Hekia writing on her Facebook page that when she said she had the support of the Special Education Association what she mean was some people generally support her plans). Most people know and accept that Hekia lied – but, you know, some poor devils just wont face those kinds of facts.
So I did what seemed best, I emailed the apparently defunct NZSEA to double check that they are indeed no longer a group and check whether they did or did not support Ms Parata’s plans.
In plain English and to be very clear, I asked the NZSEA whether they are the Special Education Association to which Hekia Parata referred when she said to Chris Hipkins during Question Time in Parliament on 23rd August 2016:
“I can tell the member that the Special Education Association tells me they want to be able to measure progress…”
The answer is no, they are not.
The NZSEA’s reply, received at 9.45am today, said:
Kia ora Dianne,
Thank you for your email. It is timely as I am about to write a letter to the editor disclaiming any association between NZSEA and the Minister’s statement she gave last week. She has never consulted with NZSEA on any matter associated with special education, in the past or now.
Unfortunately, the NZSEA is currently on the process of winding up so it will be interesting to see if the Minister refers to the group again. All the best in your quest.
New Zealand Special Educaiton Association (NZSEA)
Over to you, trolls.
This is what Hekia Parata said in the House on 23rd August 2016:
We’ve already seen how Hekia justified her statement to Melanie Simons.
This is what she said when Glenis Bearsley questioned her:
Anyone else see a pattern forming here?
In parliament this week, Hekia Parata was asked who, if anyone, supports her plans regarding special education, and she replied with a smug grin that they are backed by the Special Education Association. It’s all there in Hansard:
Hmm…. Special Education Association? Who are they, I thought.
I asked on Twitter.
I asked people who are very close to special education, like Giovani Tiso and Hilary Stace. Nope, they’d not heard of it either.
Others asked too. I tried Facebook. I tried Googling. I’m good at Googling. But nothing.
And it wasn’t just me trying to find out. Members of a special education group on Facebook – a group that know a lot about this area, between them – were also trying to find out. What did they get? Zip. Diddly. Nada. Not a thing.
Oh wait – we tracked down a small group of people (like, 4-6 people, it seemed) at the University of Canterbury that might be the Special Needs Association! was this it? No. And anyway, that small band of merry folk are disbanding.
Was it the Special Educational Principals Association (SEPAnz?) No. Not them, either.
So people went to ask Hekia Parata’s Facebook page…. Melanie, for example…
It turns out Hekia made the association up!
IT DOESN’T EVEN EXIST!
I can’t even … I mean, really?
She just lied?
Seriously, she named this organisation in Parliament as backing her plans, and she now says it just means “all those involved in the delivery of special education” that she’s spoken with.
Utter and total tosh. The sector is dismayed by the proposals. Many are outraged. Parents are both angry and frightened.
By the way, when Melanie pointed out Hekia’s words were misleading, her post was deleted from Hekia’s Facebook page and Melanie was banned from it. This is common practice on that page, where only cheer-leading is allowed, not citizens asking reasonable questions. (My tip – screenshot everything).
Silence anyone that finds you out. What a wonderful, open democracy we live in. Tui.
Hekia Parata has stooped to a new low. She has lied. Openly and blatantly. I do hope the media and opposition MPs take this further. A Minister cannot and should not just make things up to pretend their plans have support.
EDIT: Another person questioned Hekia – here are those screenshots.
UPDATE: Update: Defunct group, NZ Special Education Association, confirms Hekia Parata did not consult them EVER
Instead of addressing the underfunding of the education system, this year’s budget has hit schools with a funding freeze for everyday running costs.
Educators are appalled by the freezing of schools’ operational grants which would have a significant impact on already low-paid teacher aides.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green said teacher aides and most non-teaching staff were paid out of schools’ operational grants, so this meant a third of the education workforce could again say goodbye to any hope of a much-needed pay rise.
“The teacher aides helping our most disadvantaged students are on little more than minimum wage and often suffering the effects of poverty themselves,” she said.
Ms Green said that parents faced with increasing school charges and donation requests knew how much schools were struggling to deliver the education we expect for our children.
“We agree with targeted funding, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of overall funding, which was already inadequate.”
Instead of an increase to schools’ operational grants, the government is putting $43.2m over four years into schools educating about 150,000 children who have spent a significant proportion of their lives in benefit-dependent households.
Ms Green said that a separate $10.5m per year for students with special needs would also get nowhere near meeting the demand. It also did not give any extra assistance to special education schools already working with special needs children.
“Let’s be clear, this is peanuts when we know that tens of thousands of children aren’t getting the educational support they need to meet their potential.”
An angry parent sent me the link to Stuff’s article entitled “Mentally ill teachers investigated by Watchdog“. She was upset at the entire tone of the article and in particular that the ill-informed journalist had declared Aspergers to be a mental illness. It is not.
Then I saw the article shared in a home schooling group as an explanation for why that particular parent chose to home school.
I then heard from a few teachers who have suffered or are suffering with depression, who were very upset that the article implied they might be a danger to children and not able to do their jobs.
This all in the space of half an hour.
So I read the article to see what the fuss was about, and by crikey it was enough to send the best of us into a rant. The journalist makes leaping conclusions that would impress Dick Fosbury himself. He lumps together drug and alcohol addictions, neurological disorders such as Asperger’s, mental illness such as depression and anxiety and more as if they are one and the same. They are not.
At a time when there is such a push to understand mental illness, addiction, and spectrum disorders, Stuff’s article does all a disservice. At best, linking them together as one is inaccurate – at worst it is incredibly damaging.
Stuff faced a barrage of complaints, both on their web page and on social media, and some have sent in formal written complaints. Stuff’s response was to tone down the title of the article so that it read “Nearly 100 mentally-ill teachers investigated by the Education Council in the past six years” Sorry, Stuff, but that token gesture doesn’t cut it.
As Aaryn Niuapu noted in his article, “Using a 0.099% statistic to demonize teachers and mental health is more than irresponsible or lazy, it is unprincipled.”
The one good thing in all of this is the comments section under the Stuff article. (Yes, you read that right!) Most people could see the flaws in the journalist’s article and were understanding of the various issues discussed in the article. A lot of patience and understanding for mental illness is demonstrated, and many make it clear that Asperger’s is not a mental illness.
It’s not often I say this, but thank goodness for the comments section.
Stuff, you need to apologise.
Teachers with mental illness investigated, by Al Ingram
The perils of reporting on mental heath, by Jess McAllen
Under Pressure, by John Palethorpe
Teacher stress, depression and suicide, by Dianne Khan
There are few things as a teacher that I find more upsetting than hearing from a distressed parent whose child is being let down by the system because it cannot meet their special educational needs (SEN). And then to hear the system let her down too, for the same reason, well that’s a double horror.
If we are going to do inclusion (and I absolutely think we must) then it has to be done properly, with support and training and understanding and compassion. And there must be room for teachers to adapt to the child’s needs and not push them in ways that are not developmentally appropriate.
Having a system where children are deemed naughty far too often simply because the system expects them to fit in no matter what, when in fact we should be adapting to the needs of the child – well that is madness.
A system that prioritises benchmarks over individual growth? Madness.
Having a system where there are very few teacher aides and even fewer *trained* teacher aides is abysmal. And we lose good TAs every year due to the terrible way they are employed, due to appalling funding systems. This is also madness.
A system where teachers are crying out for training and support with Special Educational Needs but little to none is given and where professional development has been prioritised as STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) for the coming few years by government, meaning we are bang out of luck for SEN PD…? Totally bloody madness.
How many of our underachieving students have special educational needs that are not met?
How many of our SEN students end up home schooled because the system is causing them more harm than good?
How many teachers leave the job because they cannot cope with SEN students without support and there is none?
How many distressed people does it take before real, huge, positive changes are made?
The select committee looking at improving SEN provision have an unenviable task on their hands. The job is huge. Massive shifts are needed, both in the system and political ideology, to get this even vaguely moving in the right direction. It will need bold action. Let’s hope the kids are put first in their considerations and that bold action is indeed taken.
Dire SEN provision is one huge mistake we really must learn from.
I urge all educators and all parents of children with special education needs to please write to the select committee with your thoughts on what does and doesn’t work and what you would like to see change.
Your voices matter. They are needed.
Submission can be made online here – click through and then scroll to the bottom of the page.
The select committee’s specific remit is:
“Inquiry into the identification and support for students with the significant challenges of dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders in primary and secondary schools”, but I urge you to discuss whatever special educational need matters to you. It’s your chance to be heard.
This is my submission, but yours will speak to what matters to you. There is no right or wrong format – just speak from the heart.
My submission to the Select Committee
The issues I would like select committee to look into are:
– that specialist SEN help ends at age 8, which is not supported by evidence of need. There should be a continuation of help from SEN specialist such as speech therapists where it is needed.
– that specialist help is given based on a points system that gives fewer points to children under age 5, meaning early intervention is less likely. Again, this is counter to what specialists say is needed, and is not best practice.
– the Special Education Specialists such as SLTs can work directly with students and not just with teachers. Their training makes them the best people to work directly with students. It is not enough to have a system where they are made to tell a non-specialist what to do and hope they get it right. Non-specialists, with the best will in the world, cannot do what a trained specialist can do.
– that the staffing cap on Special Education Specialists is preventing children getting the help they need and must be reconsidered.
– that the process for appointing new Special Education Specialists is cumbersome and leads to gaps in provision and needs to be simplified and speeded up.
– that requests for provision should not cancel between sectors. For example, a child under 5 on Ministry wait lists for help has the request cancelled when they start school and the family must reapply. Worse still, parents do not always know this and spend months waiting for an appointment that will never come.
– that SEN provision ends at the close of each school year and must be reapplied for at the start of the next school year, causing delays in service and unnecessary admin and paperwork for all concerned.
– that teachers and support staff have more and better access to quality SEN professional training. We *want* to up-skill and do the best we can. We need support in this. (This training should also be available to relief teachers, who have little to no access to PLD despite dealing with many needs in any given week).
– that teacher aid support is not withdrawn simply because a student has made improvement if it can be shown that improvement will clearly be lost once support is withdrawn. This is commonplace and leads to distress for students and parents as well as increased admin, meetings and paperwork for staff in order to reapply for help.
– that processes for getting help are made very clear for parents (and teachers) so that we know who to contact and what we must do. Currently we are passed pillar to post and it is very stressful.
– that consideration is made to establishing proper help for children with emotional needs (anger, depression, etc). At present there is a gap, and yet the need is there.
Make an online submission here.
The Green Party has initiated a Parliamentary Inquiry into dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders in schools in New Zealand.
Following a request from the Green Party, the Education and Science Select Committee has today agreed to investigate the identification of and support for students facing the significant challenges of dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders.
“We want to change the system so every child has a fair go.”
Green Party Education spokesperson, Catherine Delahunty
“So many students are missing out on education because their learning differences are not identified early enough and help is not made available. We want to change the system so every child has a fair go,” Green Party Education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.
Significant numbers of New Zealanders live with these conditions.
- 13,000 children between 2-14 have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum disorder (including Asperger’s syndrome),
- autism is estimated to affect 40,000 people,
- dyslexia is estimated to affect 70,000 people, and
- dyspraxia is estimated to affect 70,000 schoolchildren.
“Of course, these figures are speculative because the identifying of these learning issues has been so contentious,” Ms Delahunty said.
“There needs to be strong processes and support in place to enable these learners to make the most of their educational opportunities.
“Investigations at an early level of education are important before students may become discouraged from education at higher levels.
“Decile 10 schools are seven times more likely
to get Special Assessment Conditions assistance
than students in Decile 1 schools”
“Of particular concern, has been the inequality in access to support for these conditions. Decile 10 schools are seven times more likely to get Special Assessment Conditions assistance than students in Decile 1 schools.
“It can cost well over $700 to get these special assessments done. Parents and schools need assistance to ensure that these conditions are picked up and students get the assistance that they need,” Ms Delahunty said.
The Terms of Reference include:
- Investigate current screening in schools
- Identify best educational practice
- Investigate why Special Assessment Conditions differ so greatly among schools
“While this is great news for special needs learners, I am disappointed that the Select Committee has not taken up my Te Reo in schools inquiry as well.
“I urge a wide range of parents, schools, and teachers to participate and engage in the Select Committee process that is going ahead.
“It is very encouraging to have the support of the other parties on the Select Committee to address this problem. I hope it will result in students being able to get the right help that they need,” Ms Delahunty said.
A UK study which has found that teacher aides in some cases did not improve learning, challenges the New Zealand Government to come up with its own research, as part of a general system-wide “fix” of special education in this country.
NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter says in New Zealand the Government has continued to short-change students with special needs.
“The ‘system fix’ needs to urgently address the fact that it is impossible to develop a professional teacher aide workforce because of the way teacher aides are funded through the paltry Operations Grant.”
The grant received a one percent increase in this year’s Budget.
“These are dedicated hardworking people, yet they have no job security and often receive no professional development or proper training. And despite working with children with extremely challenging educational needs, there is no formal qualification and no career pathway for teacher aides.
“Many receive little more than the minimum adult wage. This is an insult to special needs students, their parents and teacher aides.
“It is a system failure and it shows that the Government is not committed to improving learning for students with special needs.
“We need a professional teacher aide workforce and the Government system works against that.”