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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.

 

NZ Speech Therapist asks Education Select Committee to create a truly inclusive education system

November 11, 2016

To the Education and Science Select Committee Submission on the Education (Update) Amendment Bill

From Shannon Hennig

As a speech-language therapist and inclusion education consultant, I have dedicated my career to ensuring that students with moderate to profound speech, language, and communication differences can access education and learning in an inclusive setting.

My areas of expertise are autism, AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication), and teaching literacy skills to children with limited speech. I am a PhD level researcher who collaborates internationally on disability issues, assistive technology, and communication disorders.

I also write as someone who grew up in a truly inclusive school system overseas. I was educated alongside children with mild to profound disabilities. As an academically gifted student, I never once felt held back by quality inclusive practice. Instead it made my teachers better, my principals more thoughtful, and my learning richer. I have family members with disabilities as well.

I wish to share my comments, which primarily address the following sections of the bill: 

  • Schedule 2, Part 2: Powers and Functions of Board of Trustees
  • S38: Part 3A Communities of Online Learning
  • S43: Teaching and Learning Programmes, Monitoring and Reporting Student Performance
  • S47: Off-site locations for school
  • S48: Establishment of Communities of Learning

I urge you to make sure that the Update be amended so that it ensures that all children have access to a publicly funded, meaningful, and appropriate education, as is their right.

In its current form, the urgent unmet needs of students with disabilities and their families are not addressed.

Initially, I welcomed the introduction of this bill as a long overdue update to an Education Bill that does not currently meet the needs of all students. However, many students – particularly those with mild to moderate learning differences, children with autism, and students with mental health conditions – have significant challenges in accessing a free and appropriate education in New Zealand.

Before we introduce experimental ideas, such as CoOLs, I urge parliament to delay passing this bill until the funding, equity, and quality of our inclusive education system is brought up to international standards for developed nations. Funding and training are the biggest barriers for achieving this – but not insurmountably so.

Legal provisions need to be created that allow speedy, affordable, and transparent recourse when exclusionary practices occur. Such exclusionary practices are surprisingly common and include encouraging students to attend other schools, stand-downs and exclusions without appropriately providing a functional learning environment for the student, or the more insidious (and often inadvertent) practice of schools that do not include (or cannot afford to provide) universal design. Over time this can foster a state of such anxiety and needless academic failure that a student refuses to attend school. I personally know of at least 6 families in which a student is not in school because their learning environments were unable to accommodate their learning needs.

Without providing adequate resources, policy, and legal provisions to address historic and systematic gaps in inclusive education provision, NZ will be in violation of our international commitments and create future financial liabilities.

For example, there are tangible societal costs to not getting inclusion right:

  • increased underemployment for students in the future
  • increased underemployment for parents of current students
  • reduced educational staff moral and job satisfaction (leading to attrition of trained teachers)
  • mental health conditions from school bullying, academic anxiety/failure, and/or social isolation
  • increased incarceration rates

Of course, the real reason for making positive change should be the children. And their families. And all of us in the teaching professions who are working so hard under such difficult conditions.

The Ministry of Education urgently needs to conduct a consultation that properly considers the concerns of students, professionals (confidentially, without fear of employment repercussions), and families.

Having attended some of the consultation sessions last year, a significant number of parents (a) did not know about the meetings and/or (b) felt that the format firmly steered the conversation away from the issues they felt were most pertinent to their child’s learning. The term “rubber stamping” was frequently used to describe these sessions by parents. There were tears at many of the meetings and angry conversations in the parking lots. The issues they raised do not appear to be well addressed (if at all in some cases) in this bill.

Having previously practiced as a school-based speech therapist in the USA, I believe it would be prudent to get inclusive education policy right as well-crafted policy and legislation, rather than allow it to be created piece-meal through litigation for rights violations. As I am sure many have written, there are concerns that current practice is not aligned with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Equally, the Ministry of Education urgently needs to collect meaningful data that accurately reflects the reality on the ground. Before we focus on student outcomes, we need to understand what is actually happening (or not) to ensure that students are in school, being taught effectively, and feel safe.

Before holding students accountable to standards that may or may not be appropriate for their goals, we need to ensure that we collect meaningful, concise data on what the system is and isn’t doing to create environments conducive to learning. Do all teachers have training in autism? Are there discriminatory patterns in enrolment and expulsion? Do all children with learning and/or communication disabilities have access to appropriate accommodation, assistive technology, and interventions? This is the type of information that must inform policy going forward. I believe it is more relevant and of greater interest than national standards data at this time. Before we can improve student outcomes, we need to measure and address practices that may be setting students up for failure (or success, as the case might be) without being punitive to teachers.

We need to get this update right.

It needs to build on what we are already doing well, and effectively remedy what is not, in a futureoriented manner using NZ centric solutions.

It needs to directly address the issues I frequently observe that I believe conflict with (what I hope is) the spirit of NZ Education policy is. Specifically,

  • I observe families paying privately for teaching assistants in order for their child to attend school
  • I observe families offering to pay for teacher and teaching aid training and being denied this (and no training being offered)
  • I see children with disabilities being denied literacy and communication instruction who have the skills to learn from such methods
  • I see children with mild-moderate learning disabilities being placed in mainstream classrooms without specialised instructed to address their skills gaps, nor resources and training for the teaching staff regarding how to support their learning
  • In some cases, I observe what appears to be well-meaning practice that is outdated, ineffective, and closer to childminding than educational instruction
  • I see bullying being allowed to persist and inappropriate comments from teaching staff reflecting outdating thinking about children with communication impairments. Sometimes these are even said in front of the student (e.g., “they’re just being naughty,” “remember how lovely and quite it was before he learned to talk,” “She doesn’t need this communication device” etc.)
  • Most worrying, I see teachers aching, pleading, and begging for resources, release time, teaching assistants, and training to help them better teach children who learn, think, and understand differently. They are too often being denied such requests, or don’t know how to tap into the limited resources out there.

Specifically, we need an update to our Educational Law that ensures that (and provides provisions for) all of the following:

  • Removal of the introduction of CoOLs until the education system first addresses the systemwide, unmet needs of students with learning needs – including students with mild to moderate learning needs. These students are completely underfunded at this time and CoOLs will not provide the small group and 1:1 face-to-face, personal instruction they need. Many of these students struggle with executive functioning disorders, which by their nature make online learning, self-discipline, and non-differentiate instruction a poor fit for their learning needs.
  • Seclusion should have no place in our education system.
  • Appropriate training, staffing, school culture, and access to specialist knowledge (including parent expertise) is needed so that inhumane practices, like seclusion, do not occur.
  • Transparent and enforceable mechanisms are needed to address any and all violations to students’ right to a free and appropriate education.
  • Inclusive practices need to be reported to the MOE and effectively audited. These should not be cumbersome.
  • Schools with exclusionary practices need to be held accountable. Parents need to have clear pathways for dispute resolution, and all results need to be communicated to families in writing.
  • There need to be clear, enforceable timelines for when concerns are raised about a child’s learning and when appropriate support and interventions are expected to be put into place.
  • Teachers need access to effective training in how to support language development, teach children with learning differences, and have the resources to teach in smaller groups when that is what is what is needed.
  • Teachers-in-training need to have sufficient training in how to understand and teach children with autism, children with limited speech, and those who struggle to use and understand spoken language.
  • Schools and ECEs currently are financially penalised for including students. The reverse needs to be true. All children should be able to attend their local schools with appropriate funding and support. The system should not have policies that make a child with learning needs a “financial burden” for school. This only encourages exclusionary practices.
  • Students’ emotional and mental health needs to be supported at school – funding and support for guidance counsellors needs to be increased.
  • Students’ speech, language, and communication skills are fundamental to school learning and participation. All schools should have access to a speech-language therapist who is available on a weekly basis to provide just-in-time support, demonstrations, and specialised intervention. They should be as valuable and integrated within the school community as music and physical education teachers.

I also want to specifically highlight the concerning proposal to focus funding of specialist support and intervention on the youngest students. To be clear, early intervention is essential. It makes a difference and saves money. That said, many impairments only become an issue when academic and social demands increase in the older years.

Specifically, clinically the following are well known “service request bumps” to any school-based speech therapist from America (where we serve all children with a documented speech-language communication impairment that significantly interferes with their ability to access the curriculum):

  • Around 8-9 years of age, children transition from learning to read to the act of reading to learn. This is a stage where many subtle language differences start being significant challenges. But this marks one of the cut-off ages when speech-language input tends to be reduced in New Zealand.
  • Around 12-14, students need to learn to apply language skills in more abstract ways and process more complex language. This is another period where more kids start to struggle because of subtle underlying language differences. They often didn’t need support before, but now do.
  • In year 10, behaviour support options drop off in our system, however this is when our young people are thrown into a pressure cooker of high stakes tests that are linguistically demanding (even in maths) while attempting to navigate the social pressures of high school. Those with weaker language skills and/or social communication challenges need support and intervention at this stage – often for the first time in their lives. It is a shame to throw away a 10 year investment in a child just as they are about to finish education – for us and for the student.

My impression is that the Update, by design, does not address the concerns listed above. Given this, the following should be omitted from the Update:

  • Global funding – without an appropriate increase in funding levels and school attitudes, global funding is expected to increase exclusionary practices if students with disabilities are perceived to increase budgetary pressures on local schools.
  • CoOLs– children who have difficulty learning without specialised and individualised instruction are unlike to benefit from this model. Furthermore, it goes against the basic principles of inclusion.
  • Giving too much power to school boards without proper checks and balances puts many students at risk. We need an independent organisation to investigate complaints and enforce child rights regarding education.

In summary: while the Education Law in our country needs an update, it must be done correctly and in a matter that targets the known, pressing issues our schools face. This bill does not appear to address these matters adequately.

The Ministry of Education needs to be given the resources, power, and direction to ensure that all children in New Zealand, regardless of any sensory, cognitive, or physical impairment, have access to a publicly funded and appropriate education. Exclusionary practices should be prevented through appropriate funding systems, staff development, and promotion of inclusive attitudes. If exclusionary practices continue, principals and boards of trustees must be held accountable.

The NZ education is positioned to become a world leader in Inclusive Education, but only if this update is amended in such a way that ensures all of our young people will experience school as a place of security, learning, exciting challenge, and community. Families should not be expected to foot the bill for this essential public service.

ALL children are our collective responsibility as a society and we all benefit from inclusive education policy and practice. We are watching closely, and wish you well on this important piece of legislation.

– Shannon Hennig

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.

Study challenges Govt to fix “system failure” for special needs students – NZEI

nzei logoA 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.”

Peter Hughes thinks Ministry has work to do on Special Needs provision, does he?

less talk more actionWell, I think that is the understatement of the year, Mr Hughes.

You say that “[e]very child is unique and teachers and other parents don’t always understand that or get it right.” And yet when teachers are crying out for money to be spent on training and on good provisions for special needs students they are ignored.  When the government want to spend money on change principals and lead teachers via the IES proposal and teachers shout out that they don’t want bonuses but in-class support and training, the Minister says we are whining.

So, when teachers don’t get it right, bear in mind, Mr Hughes, that you and your Ministry are part of that problem.  .

You say that “When things aren’t working [the Ministry of Education] will own that and work with everyone involved to find solutions.”  Really?  Because parents and educators instead talk of huge waiting lists to get help, paperwork mountains no money available, and children having their funding removed whenever a slight improvement is seen, only for they to slip back when the support is removed.

You throw in that $530 Million is spent yearly on Special Needs, but so what?  How much is spent dealing with children who haven’t had good support?  Maybe paying for health problems brought on by the stress of fighting the system for every little thing?  Paid out in years to come to those students who weren’t given the best chance and are not unemployed?  What is spent is a mask for what it costs to *not*get it right, and to throw it in as if it proves how hard Ministry is trying is an insult.

And it hardly helps when the Minister cares so little for special needs provision that she is happy to close special needs residential schools – sometimes illegally.

Let’s face it, Mr Hughes, you do not just have work to do – you have a complete overhaul to do, after years of neglect of special needs provision.  And this neglect is to the detriment of all of our students and is a disgrace.

Start by looking at the lack of good professional development out there for teachers and teacher aides.

Try investigating at the minuscule bit of teacher training that is spent learning about special needs.

Look at the detrimental effect of National Standards on both students and teachers.

Ask parents and teachers how hard it is to get help even for the kids with severe learning disabilities.

Then tell me again you just “have work to do.”

___________________________________________________________________________

References and further reading:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/10265079/Education-ministry-still-got-work-to-do

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/assignments/nz-election-school-of-politics/10253672/Imagine-your-child-going-through-this

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/8611167/Angry-and-upset-at-lack-of-school-support

http://www.nzei.org.nz/NZEI/Media/Releases/2014/1/New_plan_to_establish_elite_teachers_ignores_biggest_hurdle_to_student_success_.aspx#.U8PCzPmSwcE

https://www.facebook.com/NZSpecialNeedsEducation

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7833594/Call-to-reverse-special-needs-education-cuts

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/learning-challenges

Residential Special Schools to Be Closed Down, Ministry Decides

It was a very sad day, today, for students with high level special needs in New Zealand.

Both McKenzie School in Christchurch and Salisbury School in Nelson are to be closed, leaving just two residential special schools for the whole of New Zealand.

Salisbury School is the only residential school in Australasia successfully providing for girls with complex learning difficulties; girls whose educational, social and emotional needs have not been met in mainstream schooling. They are proud to share that they “are an award winning school that is integrated into our community, ensuring our students are able to reach their potential as they move back home and to their local school.”

Salisbury School announced the news

Today, the Ministry for Education informed us that they have recommended closure of Salisbury School. They propose two residential options, both of which will be co-educational environments. We intend to oppose the decision to close Salisbury, as we know that co-education is often not an option for our students. We have 28 days to show the Ministry why we should not be closed. Thank you so much for all your support.

The Ministry of Education is seeking feedback on its plan to close down Auckland’s Westbridge School, Salisbury School in Nelson, and Halswell and McKenzie Schools in Christchurch.   Details of the review can be found here.

IHC’s View

ICH support inclusive education.  However, even they have concerns about the new set-up, saying  that “While there is strong commitment by IHC Advocacy for quality local inclusive education for all disabled children, there is also evidence that many families are not currently being well served by their local schools and communities. In a recent discussion on Radio New Zealand, principals of mainstream schools admit that because of insufficient funds, they are excluding students with special education needs from some activities such as school camps. A key factor for the success for this latest reform will be the quality of new programmes.  They need to be better than what is currently available for many disabled students and their mainstream schools.”  Read more here.

Board of Trustees

It’s also notable that the two remaining schools are having their boards of trustees closed down in favour of one over-reaching board appointed by the government.   So there will be no local or parental voice on the board.  Sounds familiar – this is the plan for charter schools too.  It seems there is a determined effort to slowly strip down our public education system and remove any say in it from parents.  Meanwhile, children suffer at the hands of another money saving venture.

I couldn’t be sadder.

Further Reading:

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1208/S00425/children-and-schools-will-be-hit-hard-by-closures.htm

http://www.voxy.co.nz/national/salisbury-school-disappointed-closure-recommendation/5/132914

http://www.voxy.co.nz/national/residential-schools-decision-hollow-victory-psa/5/132916

http://blog.labour.org.nz/2012/08/26/residential-special-schools/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/rodney-times/7398318/Special-school-was-a-godsend

http://www.salisbury.school.nz/

https://www.facebook.com/salisburyschoolnelson

http://www.ihc.org.nz/items/ihc-hot-issues-july-2012/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1208/S00423/salisbury-school-disappointed-nelson-based-school-to-close.htm

http://www.3news.co.nz/Ministry-to-close-special-needs-school/tabid/423/articleID/254746/Default.aspx

http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbedu/1196219223-closure-of-four-schools-for-disabled-students-labelled-extreme

http://www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducation/EducationPolicies/SpecialEducation/PublicationsAndResources/ResourcesForParents.aspx

http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry/Consultation/ReviewOfSpecialEducation.aspx

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