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Special Education

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New “Learning Support Co-ordinators”: What we know so far

How many Learning Support Co-ordinators (LSCs) will there be?

The plan is to have around 600 in place by the start of the 2020 school year, with more to come. The goal is to eventually have one in each urban school and for each rural school to have access to one.

What exactly will LSCs do?

LSCs  will be a specialised point of contact for parents and caregivers. They will liaise with staff, students, whanau and outside agencies to support a child’s educational needs.

LSCs will not teach children – instead, they will support classroom teachers and Teacher Aides, and provide expert advice to them.

How will the LSC role be defined, and how is it different to a SENCO?

SENCO roles are almost always tacked onto a teacher’s or senior staff member’s other roles, meaning they have only a few hours per week dedicated to SENCO work. The LSC role will be a dedicated one, focused solely on learning support.

Tracey Martin (NZ First) said in the Coalition Government’s press release: “Feedback from public consultation, which has just closed, will inform what the final job description looks like and the appropriate ratios for both urban and rural schools. This will also inform the final number of coordinators.”

Will LSCs only help students that are struggling?

No. An LSC’s role will be to support any student with specific special educational needs, including learning and physical disabilities, neurodiversity, behavioural issues and also giftedness.

How will so many LSCs be found, given the current teacher shortage?

There is no specific information about how the LSCs will be found and placed yet.

However, Tracey Martin said government is “deliberately taking a two-phased approach to rolling out coordinators across all schools.” She noted that this government  “inherited a significant teacher shortage and implementation of the new role in full from the beginning of 2020 would place huge pressure on the education workforce supply.”

Martin said that once the first cohort of LSCs is in place and “a clearer picture of medium and long term workforce needs emerges,” planning for the second phase of LSCs will take place.

How is LSC funding different to the current SENCO funding?

SENCOs are paid for by Boards of Trustees – SENCOs are not centrally funded like teachers are.   In contrast, LSCs will be centrally funded.

What will the new LSCs cost government?

LSC implementation will cost $217 million over four years, and the money will be allocated in the 2019 Budget.

This funding is on top of the $272.8 million allocated for learning support in this year’s Budget.

SOSNZ will share new information as it arises. But so far, this looks very positive move indeed, and we would like to thank Tracey Martin (NZ First) and Catherine Delahunty (Green party) for their long-term dedication to making this happen.

~ Dianne

Sources:

Government announcement – New workforce a game-changer for kids with learning needs – Beehive Panui

PM Jacinda Ardern announces 600 school staff to support children with special learning needs, NZ Herald 4/11/18

Jacinda’s Speech in Full – more help for education

Prime Minister’s speech to 2018 Labour Party Conference

Kia ora koutou katoa,

Kia orana,

Malo e lelei,

Ni sa bula vinaka,

Fakalofa lahiatu,

Malo Ni

Namaste,

Ni Hao.

And thank you for the warmth of that greeting.

I’m really pleased to be here in Dunedin.

For all of the creativity, history, and beauty that this city holds, you still had me at ‘cheese roll.’

I’m also pleased to be here because this is my first leader’s speech at a Labour Party conference.

That means my first order of business is a very simple one – to say thanks.

When I took over the leadership from Andrew at the beginning of August last year, the election was seven weeks away.

I said we’d run the campaign of our lives. And we did.

To all those who worked the phones, pounded the pavements, stuffed the letterboxes, erected the hoardings, or did countless other tasks – thank you from the bottom of my heart.

There are a few people I also need to pay special tribute to.

To our president, Nigel. To everyone in our party organisation from branch level to the New Zealand Council.

To my deputy Kelvin, and my parliamentary colleagues. My warm thanks for the support you give me, and for expanding. We welcomed 17 new MPs to our caucus after last year’s election.

And that Class of ’17 included ten women – a fitting tribute to mark Suffrage 125, and let’s be honest, just a bloody good addition to our team.

There are also a few people outside of the Labour movement I want to acknowledge. The Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and his New Zealand First team for their commitment to the success of the Coalition Government.

The Greens and in particular their Co-Leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson for their goodwill and co-operation in this most MMP of governments.

It’s not easy to describe the journey since the Labour caucus handed me the profound responsibility of leading our party.

A number of words come to mind.

Frenetic.
Fascinating.
Fulfilling.

Which you could call a polite set of F words.

None of that probably seems surprising.

You’d probably expect that in this job I get to meet amazing people every day. And I do.

That I get thrown a diverse set of challenges and exciting opportunities. And I do.

And that there are some days that are tougher than others. And there are.

But I will be honest, there are some things that have surprised me about this job, and I want to reflect on one of them.

Letters.

It’s fair to say I get a few. In fact every MP probably does.

I still remember, as a brand new member of parliament, being given the opportunity to feature alongside a National Party MP in a weekly breakfast TV slot known as ‘The Young Guns’.

One day I received an email from a member of the public politely advising me that she thought my hair clashed with the National MP, and perhaps I should consider dying it.

I replied that perhaps she could make the same suggestion to the other MP. After all, his hair was shorter.

But whether they’re positive, negative or indifferent – it’s not the letters themselves that have been surprising, it’s the profound impact they have had on me.

I should have known that was possible. I remember some years ago watching old footage from when David Frost carried out an interview with the late great Prime Minister Norman Kirk in 1973.

He asked him a broad open-ended question – what was his most memorable incident since taking office?

He could have talked about absolutely anything. Instead, he said this, in that quietly spoken way that he often adopted.

“I would think the thousands of letters that came in December after we’d made a nominal payment to social security beneficiaries and not the fact that we’d given an extra week’s pay, but in those letters, and there were thousands of them, came through the fact that there were a whole section of our community who were missing out on ordinary everyday things.

One women wrote in and said “I had my first pair of shoes in seven years” she had trouble with her feet and had to have them specially made and “oh what a comfort to have new shoes” and you know, you don’t think in 1972 or 73 of people not having access to basic things like that but literally, there are thousands.”

A Prime Minister who was gifted a question on national television, had an opportunity to speak on anything, and he talked about a woman who wrote him a simple letter about buying an extra pair of shoes.

There are many things that have changed since Kirk’s time, but the power of this simple form of communicating with the people we are here to serve has not.

They tell me when we are on the right track or the wrong track.

They tell me when we have made a difference, or when we need to make a difference.

They tell me what children think, what adults think, and sprinkled in-between, what my mother thinks.

But there is a particular group you won’t be surprised that I keep coming back to.

Kids.

They write to me in their hundreds.

About just about everything, like this letter from a young child with some interesting economic philosophy.

“I think we should make everything free because then there would be no such thing as poor people.”

And a seven year old who clearly thinks my powers have no limits and wrote.

“Dear Jacinda, can you change the boring grey toasters into bright colours please. Perhaps you could pass a law?”

The lovely kids of Rolleston Primary in Canterbury sent me a letter with their wish list of ideas to make New Zealand a better place. It reads:

“Stop the pollution.
Make our rivers clean for swimming.
Don’t close any more schools because it makes children sad.
Stop cyber bullying.
Peace.
No nuclear bombs.
Help the homeless.
Look after the animals.
Help beached whales.
Help the sick, the poor and the old.”

I can assure you Rolleston Primary, it is on our list too!

But if you ask me the same question that was asked of Kirk all those years ago – what has been the most memorable letter since I have become Prime Minister, it’s not quite toasters.

It’s the families’ package. It has been my greatest source of pride, and I hope is yours too.

Under this package some 384,000 low and middle income families will receive on average $75 a week extra once it’s fully rolled out.

In addition, we are helping one million people heat their homes in the coldest months of the year with the Winter Energy Payment.

And we are supporting young families with the $60 a week Best Start payment for their first child, and extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks.

I know what a difference this more than $5 billion package is making, because people have told me.

Just a few weeks ago a mother of three wrote to me and said:

“Dear Jacinda. I have been meaning to email you for a while now.…I have a son, step daughter and step son…times are just so tough.

Money doesn’t go very far at all so I had started working as a cleaner part time….Anyway, I just wanted to say that the extra money in family tax credits that we receive because of your government has meant I can work one less cleaning job, creating less stress, less tiredness and a bit more of the mother I want to be.

Thank you from the bottom of me and my family’s hearts.”

And another wrote this in a letter:

“With the extra money I am able to buy my kids some more school socks with no holes in them, I am able to buy warm sheets and blankets so they are warmer at night.”

But whether it’s shoes in the 1970s, or sheets and socks now – it’s the fact people are going without these things that stands out to me the most.

These letters may have been written to convey thanks or acknowledgment, but I just see further work that needs to be done.
Kids should be warm at night.

A mum shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs to get by.

There are still huge systemic problems that we all know we need to address. And that’s why I want to pay particular tribute to our Finance Minister, Grant Robertson.

Grant knows and understands those challenges, and has made it a priority to transition New Zealand to a sustainable and inclusive economy, where everyone benefits from prosperity.

He is completely focused on well-being, and I know our well-being budget next year will demonstrate that.

But alongside this transformation, sits one of the issues that we campaigned so hard on, and that remains one of our most pressing issues.

Because if we want to increase the incomes of families we need to reduce their biggest cost – housing.

Housing will be one of the things that our success or otherwise, will be measured against. And I welcome that challenge.

Already there are over 1200 more public housing tenancies than a year ago.

In our last budget we funded 6400 more public homes and housing New Zealand are investing $4 billion to not only build this new stock, but to renovate existing state houses so they are warm and dry.

And then there is KiwiBuild.

Last Saturday I stood alongside Phil Twyford as we welcomed 18 families to their new neighbourhood in McLennan, Papakura. They were the first families to buy a KiwiBuild home.

It was a huge day. I was standing near the front of one of the families’ new homes when I overheard Phil Twyford say to one of the people gathered at the street party “this is one of the most important days of my political life”.

And I can see why.

KiwiBuild will give thousands of young families who have been locked out of home ownership a chance to buy their own affordable home, not through a subsidy, but through the government using our scale and buying power to do what the market hasn’t.

It’s an example of the government seeing a problem, and fixing it. And that’s exactly what Michael Joseph Savage did.

I like the way he summed up his housing agenda though. As new state house tenants were moving into their new homes, Savage once told a gathered crowd that:

“We are trying to cater for everyone…we do not claim perfection, but we do claim a considerable advance on what has been done in the past.”

But housing is not the sum of our ambition. We are after all the Labour Party, we will always have a focus on the value and dignity of decent work with decent wages.

That’s why we have increased the minimum wage, extended the living wage to core public sector workers, and improved our pay equity laws.

But it’s also why we are so focused on skills and training, especially for the next generation.

I’m really proud for instance of our Mana in Mahi, or Strength in Work, programme. It will help some 4000 young people to gain apprenticeships.

I know it will make a difference, because people in the industry have told me that. Here’s just one letter I received after we introduced this programme:

“Mana in Mahi trade training initiative is the most intelligent skills training proposal witnessed thus far. 

The proposal of businesses topping up wages to the minimum wage is a step in the right direction. Implemented across the whole work spectrum should be the next move. It will promote business expansion and God forbid it may even claw back some ownership of our economy.”

And that of course is not the only tool we’re using to drive job opportunities.

We will continue to work with our regions on regional development strategies, and supporting them through the Provincial Growth Fund.

And we will continue to reach out to communities, including Māoridom, to find solutions to economic and social challenges through partnership.

We have set up the Māori-Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti portfolio to oversee the Government’s work with Māori in the post-settlement era – our recent partnership on housing in Porirua with Ngati Toa shows just what is possible.

But so have the existing partnerships with Maori around governance and the environment.

I’ve talked a lot about the environment in the past year.

Our changing climate.

Our dirty rivers.

The pollution of our precious coastal and marine areas by plastics.

And yes, I do think plastics warrants its own special mention. And why? Because the kids told me so. And they didn’t tell me just once. They wrote and told me hundreds of times.

Like the student in the Waikato who wrote me a letter to say:

“Dear Prime Minister, I’m only 10 years old and I am trying to convince you to ban plastic bags. They are killing our wildlife, they swallow the plastic and it gets stuck in their bodies and they can’t breathe. It is our responsibility to stop this.”

I agree. And so with the help of Green Party Minister Eugiene Sage, we have.

The past year has also seen David Parker pursue a comprehensive plan to restore our rivers to becoming swimmable again, James Shaw’s progress on our climate change goals, and with the ambition of New Zealand First in the mix, our plan to plant one billion trees is well under way – for those who don’t follow the tree counter as religiously as I do, we are up to 60.6 million.

As you have probably picked up by now, if you pick a subject, I will have received a letter on it.

It is fair to say some subjects generate more mail than others, and as much as Grant will be disappointed to hear this, the Budget Responsibility Rules haven’t been the subject line of too many messages.

And yet we all know that some of our critics gloomily forewarned that Labour in government wouldn’t be able to balance the books.

But Grant – a proud Dunedin boy – has proved the naysayers wrong.

He has kept a firm grip on the country’s finances and he is focused on running surpluses which is a vital part of our plan.

A surplus is a safety net.

Nobody knows what’s around the corner. The surplus is insurance against those risks.

Right now the volatile international situation means having that cushion is more important than ever.

But we are also balancing that financial security with the pressing social needs that the Government promised to deliver on. That is what we were elected to do.

We can’t do everything at once, just like it doesn’t make sense to spend every cent you earn.

But we are investing carefully in the areas that need it most. Things like health, housing, education.

In the seven or so years since the Canterbury earthquakes, there has been insufficient investment across these important areas.

Over the next four years we’re turning this around, and significantly. In fact we’re investing $24 billion more than the last government in those priority areas, because that’s what we need to start rebuilding New Zealand’s infrastructure, and improving the wellbeing of our people.

We’re also prioritising managing the debt that arose from the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes, because we always need to be prepared for the challenges of the future.

And there are challenges.

We may have a lot to be proud of – long list of things we have managed to do these last 12 months – but we have many things we are yet to do too.

But we will miss the urgency if we just characterise that list as statistics or numbers.

If I say for instance that there is a lot to do in education, that there has been significant under investment over the last nine years, that we came into office facing the reality that not even population growth had been factored into future spending by the last government – all of that may be true – but it doesn’t factor in the human face.

I want to share with you an example of what does, with a letter written to me by the aunty of a boy with special needs.

“We as a whānau have tried with dead ends where ever we turn so I then turn to you Prime Minister and plead for your help, he is missing out on so much and it just isn’t fair. Please help us find a solution for this young boy who deserves the best chance living with autism.”

There’s a lot in that letter that stood out to me – including the words “the best chance.”

You may have heard me talk about my goal to make New Zealand the best country in the world to be a child.

We simply will not achieve that unless we ensure that every single child, no matter where they live, no matter their background or ethnicity, their ability or disability, has the best education possible.

We’ve already begun the enormous job of rebuilding our public education system.

In the last budget we provided funding for 1500 more teachers.

We provided the first per-pupil funding increase to ECE in ten years.

We have begun plugging a massive hole – running to hundreds of millions of dollars – in New Zealand’s schools rebuild budget.

We got rid of National Standards to free teachers up from the red tape and hours of compliance so they could focus on teaching.

And we provided the biggest increase in learning support in over a decade.

This funded around 1000 extra places for students with complex needs so they could get specialist support such as speech therapy.

Teacher-aide funding received an extra $59.3 million.

About 2,900 deaf and hard-of-hearing students and approximately 1,500 low-vision students got more help, and around 1,900 more children with high needs in early childhood education will now receive support each year.

Yet there’s more to do.

There are still children who need extra support to learn.

Maybe it is help to hear, or concentrate, or to be calm.

If a child needs support and is not getting it, that’s not fair, and I’m not prepared to tolerate it.

So today I want to say to parents, to kids, to teachers, to aunties, to anyone who has asked for more support for those with additional needs – we’ve heard you.

Today, I am announcing that we’ll be employing a new workforce of approximately 600 Learning Support Coordinators to work alongside teachers across the entire country.

Their job will be to make sure that children with extra needs are identified. They’ll work alongside classroom teachers to ensure kids with high and complex physical needs get the support they deserve.

This will be a game changer for those children.

It will be a game changer for teachers, who’ve been crying out for these roles, so they’re freed up to do what they do best – teach.

And it’s a game changer for those children who don’t need additional learning support, who’ll get more quality learning time with their teachers.

These coordinators – similar to what we now call SENCOs – are part of a new way of doing things and have been developed by my New Zealand First colleague and Associate Minister of Education, Tracey Martin, through the draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan.

But teachers have been urging governments for some time for this kind of role to be dedicated and fully funded. And for good reason.

At the moment schools ask their existing teaching staff to do the work of Special Education Coordinators. But teachers tell us this is a drain on their time and takes them away from their classroom teaching.

That’s why these coordinators will not only do that job for them, they will also support teachers, with professional advice and guidance about how to teach children with additional needs.

But more than that – these new roles will give parents a single point of contact with someone who understands the needs of their child, and will advocate for them as they move through their time in the school.

This is a big change.

It will mean investing $217 million over four years – and these 600 fully funded Learning Support Coordinators are just the start.

Taken as a whole, this investment alongside what we have already done, means that in just 12 months in office, we’ve committed nearly half a billion dollars to special education and ensuring every child has access to the best education possible.

Thank you Tracey for your work in this area. And thank you to Chris Hipkins for your leadership in education too.

I’ve shared with you today what people say when they get in touch with me.

In finishing I will tell you what I would say if I was writing a letter to New Zealand.

I’d start by saying thank you.

Thank you for supporting us.

For giving us this incredible privilege of being in government.

For allowing us to create a fairer, kinder New Zealand.

And I would finish with a big giant PS,

Let’s keep doing this.

 

Secret Teacher NZ: On the kids that “don’t belong”

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.”

I haven’t.

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

 

Special educational need support changes – mixed reaction

nzei logoToday’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.

Mum waiting over a month (so far) for response from Hekia Parata

hekia-mana-newsletter-1Andrea 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,
Andrea Matheson
Mum to a super special, endearing, pride-inducing and heart-warming wee lad.

Letter reproduced with Andrea’s kind permission.

 

Special education funding cuts revealed

220916-rally-1Special 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.

220916-rally-2RALLY DETAILS

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

Minister MegaLie and Carter the Cloaked Protector

 

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!!$!

[Silence]

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…

[Fade Out]

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

hekia-lie-tracey-martin-priv

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!

hekia-lie-david-replyjpg

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!”

“Stronger Together”

The crowd beings to whisper.

More start to listen…

Staunchly, Bravely, Intrepid Souls join the chant…

“Stronger Together”

“Stronger Together”

Stronger Together

[Fade Out]

.

.

~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ

https://www.facebook.com/events/184302395332651/

What National Has Done To Education in 2016 (so far)

id-100435177It’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.

~ Dianne

PS, more added below!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Update: Defunct group, NZ Special Education Association, confirms Hekia Parata did not consult them

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. 

Ngā mihi 

Gaye

Chair

New Zealand Special Educaiton Association (NZSEA)

Over to you, trolls.

~ Dianne

Hekia ‘Special Education Association’ – more screenshots surface

This is what Hekia  Parata said in the House on 23rd August 2016:

Hekia Hansard 23 aug 16

We’ve already seen how Hekia justified her statement to Melanie Simons.

This is what she said when Glenis Bearsley questioned her:

Hekia - glenys - SEN quHekia - glenys - SEN qu 2

Anyone else see a pattern forming here?

~ Dianne

 

 

Lies: Hekia Parata fabricates a ‘Special Education Association’ that she says backs her plans

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:

Hekia Hansard 23 aug 16

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…

hekki special education association

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.

~ Dianne

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

 

Teacher Aides miss out again – NZEI

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.”

Demonising teachers and mental illness in one hit – well done, Stuff

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.

~ Dianne

Further reading:

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

 

How many distressed students does it take?

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.

learn from our mistakesHaving 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.

~ Dianne

Special Education Provision – my submission to the Select Committee

special-education-clip-art1I 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.

~ Dianne

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.

naku noa,
Dianne Khan

Make an online submission here.

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