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special needs

This tag is associated with 25 posts

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 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

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

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.”

Government’s Budget announcements for kids can’t be trusted – Green Party

Green party logoA huge underspend in special education shows that Government Budget promises can’t be trusted and Ministers have no idea about the real needs of children, the Green Party says.

More than $32 million of funding for children with special needs has not been spent by the Government, despite families of children with special needs complaining for years that they’ve been denied the support they deserve.

“It’s hard to know whether this is deliberate penny pinching or a complete lack of understanding about the extent of the need in schools; either way children with special needs are missing out,” Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.

“This is what happens when the Government is not focussed on the needs of kids, but on other things, like keeping its disastrous Charter School experiment alive.

The Green Party commissioned analysis after last year’s budget showing that spending on education and health was falling in real terms under the National Government. Yesterday we saw the Prime Minister pretending he was spending more on education this year when all he was doing was re-package funding that had already been announced for new schools needed to keep up with population growth.

“The Government likes to be seen to be doing things in education because it knows that is what New Zealanders want, but the experience of special needs kids and their schools is that the promises are increasingly empty.

“The special needs sector has been crying out for more resources for years, and its shocking that the Government is not even spending what they said they would on the most needy learners in New Zealand,” Ms Delahunty said.

– END

Special Needs Support Sadly Lacking

mazeWhat’s going on in New Zealand? We have the Ministry of Education saying they want to support special educational needs, we have Hekia Parata demanding (quite rightly) that all children are given a fair crack with their learning, we have teachers crying out for support, and we have parents tearing their hair out, being pushed pillar to post and at every turn asked to pay, pay, pay.

Where are the students in all of this?

The system is broken. In fact, calling it a system is being generous – it’s more of a series of disparate services that each tell you they can’t help.

You have a child with behavioural or emotional problems? Tough.  If you’re lucky you’ll be offered a leaflet for a parenting course… or should I say another parenting course. Because the first thing you have to remember when your child has issues is that it’s automatically deemed to be your fault.

Heaven forbid anyone with an ounce of training in child psychology, mental health, spectrum disorders, behavioural issues, or anything useful gets to observe and evaluate your child. If you want a diagnosis, you’re going to have to get battle ready and prepare to fight.

You will also need to prepare to open you wallet. Often. And widely.

All too often I hear of parents asking school for support – school refer the parent to their doctor or child mental health services – they pass the buck back to school – school then tries the next agency – the buck is passed again. Often the school is trying so hard to help, but they are hitting brick walls all the way, just like the parents.

And meanwhile, that child is still waiting for support.

At some point, parents are advised to go private and get help. There are two problems here.

  • First of all, who has $120 an hour spare for a series of sessions? Not everyone by any means, and help shouldn’t depend on whether the child has well off parents or not.  It should be available to all students.
  • Secondly, finding the right help is a mine field,  If you don’t know what the issues are and are searching for a diagnosis, you will often see a raft of people who are not qualified to do that properly. So you try another specialist, and another, and all the time you are paying for this non-help.

Some time ago, Peter Hughes, head of the Ministry of Education, said “When things aren’t working [the Ministry of Education] will own that and work with everyone involved to find solutions.” Well things aren’t working, Peter, truly they aren’t.  So what is being done?

As I said in July, you have a complete overhaul to do, after years of neglect of special needs provision that is to the detriment of all of our students and is a disgrace.

Caring parents and teachers are doing all they can. But we need a good system that supports us to do our part well. And our children deserve nothing less.

~ Dianne

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

Be the village for Kiwi kids in need

 

smiledial1

Sometimes a cause touches your heart, and for me that is SmileDial.

SmileDial is a charity that does something special.  Kelly Dougan, SmileDial CEO explains:

“In 2011 I became the parent to a child with special needs and soon found that there was very limited support for parents and families like mine. It seemed the focus was always on the child with the special need yet mums, dads and siblings were not provided the support they required (and deserved).

I created SmileDialNZ (a registered charity) to “Support Kiwi Families Raising Kids With Special Needs” to fill this gap and provide the support so desperately required.

Since then we have supported thousands of families all over New Zealand with luxury weekends for mums and dads, home renovations, financial support, huge family events, Christmas gifts, sky diving, entertainment vouchers, airfares, specialist care and so much more totalling over $200 000 of support.”

To keep SmileDial running, funds are needed to pay Kelly. If he isn’t paid in this role, he will have to go and get another paid job – he has a family, too. But all donations to SmileDial go 100% to the families, and applications for grants have not so far secured the funds needed.

So to keep SmileDial helping people on the scale it does, a wages fund has been set up and a cash giveaway competition has been entered which has the potential to win them $5k or $10k.

How is SOSNZ Helping?

Well, SOSNZ has no money, but I have plenty of ingenuity, so I’m hiring myself out to friends in my community and they are paying my ‘wages’ to SmileDial. So far I’m booked for gardening, garage clearing, babysitting, cleaning, cooking, driving, and to go have coffee with someone!

And all the money I earn is paid straight to SmileDial, to Kelly’s wages fund, so he can continue the great work.

How can you help?

Easy! You can help by voting for them in the Jenian Homes cash giveaway. With a click of the mouse, you’ll be helping them towards winning $5k or $10k – money they desperately need to keep going.

So please do you bit –  just click and vote – it’s really that easy.

Oh, and share to get others voting, please.

Another way to help…

Also, if you are able to make a donation or set up a standing order (no matter how small), please make it to:

Acct name: SmileDial

Acct #: 03-1700-0623377-000

Reference: Wages

Other ref: SOSNZ

It takes a village, and that village is us.

Thank you, Dianne

Pssst – please remember to do you bit –  click and vote 

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child

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

Two years on – Novopay continues to suck money from schools – NZEI

It appears the government has earmarked millions of dollars this year for Novopay remedial work, says the NZEI.

rob peter to pay paulCosts associated with payroll services had previously been included in the budget for “Support and Resources for Education Providers”, but in the 2014 Budget, $43.2m has been pulled from that budget to create a dedicated budget line called “Payroll Services”.

This year’s budget also shows that last year $9.2m was diverted from “Support and Resources for Teachers”, plus another $4.348m from other education budget lines to prop up the disastrous payroll system:

$1.025 million from Curriculum Support (p 20 of Supplementary Estimates document)
$1.5 million from the National Study Awards (p 207)
$1.823 million from Primary Education (p 210)
$300,000 from Special Needs Support (p 212)

NZEI Te Riu Roa spokesman Ian Leckie said students and teachers were missing out on resources to support teaching and learning because of a payroll mess that had been going on for two years and appeared to show no signs of improving.

“The ministry needs to fess up and tell us how much of this $43.2m is for normal service charges and how much is for projected cost overruns and fixes. We asked the ministry last week and they haven’t been able to supply an answer,” he said.

Mr Leckie said parents of special needs children would be particularly galled to hear that $300,000 had been scraped out of special needs support to prop up Novopay.

“Special needs education is extremely underfunded and kids are missing out on help that will enable them to succeed at school. Parents and teachers have been calling for more funding. Not only was there nothing for these children in the budget, but the government has quietly siphoned much-needed funds out of the previous budget,” he said.

Meanwhile a report by the Auditor General details the extent of the problems that the school sector faced in completing their 2012/13 audits.  It shows that Novopay has caused significant delays in auditing school accounts and caused an extra $1.5 million in auditing costs.

Ian Leckie says he’s not surprised by the auditor general’s report.

“Novopay is continuing to cause ongoing issues for schools and this is diverting attention away from providing kids with education.”

A shameful shadow of an education system

The article below is about the saddest thing I have ever read about education, and fits exactly what I saw starting before I left the UK to come to New Zealand.  Sadly, this government is following the UK with this madness, and this horror is now here too.  I am devastated.  This is a shameful shadow of education and in years to come will be reflected on as a period of utter and total disgrace.

Secret Teacher, writes in The Guardian (UK):

speech marks blue bubbleWhen I began teaching I worked in early years. Back then, personal, social and emotional development was factored into every aspect of the curriculum. It was understood that to become a successful learner you needed to develop a love of learning and feel secure in your abilities to overcome challenges.

I remember rejoicing the first time a painfully shy child answered their name in the register and when another proudly taught the class to say hello in their home language. But these normal everyday achievements did not happen by magic; the children only achieved these things because they felt secure in their school environment and the right opportunities were available to them.

Roll on a few years and I recently found myself teaching key stage 1 in a new school rated good, and aiming for outstanding. But in this quest, levels and targets have become more important than anything – more important than the children, it seemed.

One Autumn morning I was summoned to the assistant headteacher’s office for the first round of target setting for the year. I was asked to predict the levels my year 1 class would get in their year 2 Sats. I should mention that 70% of my class arrived in year 1 below the expected reading age, which posed a problem; my literacy levels did not meet the targets and could not be submitted to the borough. Apparently, my predictions were “not ambitious enough” and were up levelled. The new targets were accompanied by a speech making the pressure of these expectations clear.

As a new member of staff, I was interested to see what approach the school would take to ensure the levels were met. Their preferred method was manipulation, making sure no one had access to enough information for a full picture. Parents were held at arm’s length and assistant headteachers were present in all formal meetings to monitor what information was shared and how. If a teacher was seen talking to a parent for too long in the playground, an assistant head would appear and join??????????????????????????????????????? the conversation. Nothing quite says you’re not trusted like being watched constantly.

In one meeting I was horrified to witness just how far they were willing to push the pursuit of targets at the expense of the children. My year group included four children that were in the learning support centre. Although they weren’t taught in mainstream classes, they were included in our all-important levels, which unfortunately meant our “quota” of children not at expected levels had already been accounted for.

One child who came under particular scrutiny had been a “problem” in reception. He fidgeted and struggled to manage his behaviour in certain circumstances. Compared to other children I had taught, he had minor behaviour needs, but he was behind academically. With a little bit of nurturing he was improving – the other children were not being affected by him and he was making academic progress. Even so, I was told to put pressure on his parent to take him elsewhere. At the sight of my horrified expression this softened to nudging them gently. Officially, the reason given was behaviour, but I have no doubt that unofficially levels and the extra time he required were the biggest factors in this decision.

When I didn’t follow orders, meetings began taking place that I was not invited to or informed of. I have no idea what the parent was told, but several secret meetings later they must have got the message and made the decision to move him to another school.

Read the rest here.

Food for Thought:

The comments below the article are food for thought. Below are some of the ones that stood out for me.

“This problem is now worsening due to the pressure being put on us by unrealistic performance management targets. If we don’t get the children to a certain place by the end of the year, we now don’t move up the pay scale. Horrid.”

“You aptly sum up why I, with deep regret, turned my back on headship. Loved the job but the conflict between doing what was morally right and what was demanded politically had moved beyond an uneasy compromise and into the territory of being expected to sell one’s soul.”

” This target driven culture comes directly from the DfE (past and present) and is enforced with an iron fist by Ofsted. If a school fails to meet targets it gets taken over, the head will be sacked as may be many other teachers. The only people willing to become heads and deputies now a days are those who are willing to play this game and whose ambition (and often limited talent) drives them to fiddle figures, bully and coerce others into making often impossible targets.”

“It’s obvious that the education system is broken to varying degrees across the country and in many schools. I have seen the type of behaviour, described by the secret teacher, towards children who ‘won’t make the grade’ happening more and more as the performance management has been directly linked with pay rises or lack of them, and the need for more and more children to make targets that are at best challenging but for many completely impossible. Those teachers who don’t get their quota of children to the grades required are not just not getting pay award but also in danger of the competency procedure. It’s a very very sad and bleak world for those children who for one reason or another cannot/ or will not make the expected grades and gain the results schools need to keep ofsted et al off their backs.”

Final Word

And the last word goes to this commentator, who I think speaks for so many of us when they say “This is just terrible. It’s not what we went into education to do.”

 

 

 

 

GERM agenda sucks money out of public education – NZEI Press Release

The 1 percentFigures in yesterday’s Budget show that millions of dollars are being skimmed out of public schools to pay for the government’s ideological experiments with the Global Education Reform Movement.

More than $12m over two years is being transferred to five charter schools (which currently teach a total of just 367 children) and $1.145m into Public-Private Partnerships.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said the incredibly high per-head cost of running charter schools was being paid at the expense of public school students and teachers.

“It seems parents of special needs children can beg for more funding until they’re blue in the face, but when it comes to the government’s ideological projects, money is no problem – just take it out of the public system,” she said.

“Treasury officials warned that any Public Private Partnerships for building schools would result in minimal savings – after all, tax payers have to pay the construction company’s profit margins. But on top of that, the government has pulled more than $1m from public school budgets for the PPP projects in Hobsonville.”

Charter schools
Charter schools received an extra $7.978m from the Secondary education budget line through appropriations (p 211 Vote Education Supplementary estimates of appropriations document) and an additional $1.252m from Primary Education (p 210 of the Supplementary Estimates) for the first tranche of schools in 2013/4 and they will get an additional $3.384m in 2014/15. (page 2 of Vote Education Initiatives paper).

Public Private Partnerships
$1.145 has been transferred from the School Property Portfolio Management to Hobsonville Point PPPs.

Dyslexia and the new super roles: The perfect storm?

dyslexia chalkboard

Today the Dyslexia Foundation New Zealand (DFNZ), who I have a huge amount of respect for, sent out an email celebrating positive changes for dyslexic students in the education sector.  But the email has me concerned. It tells me:

“There is … a tidal wave of change driven by ultra fast internet access and the “bring your own device to school” model, and a significant financial commitment by government aimed to improve leadership and retain great teachers. This might well signal a “perfect storm” that will further advance changes that will benefit our dyslexic students.”

Fast internet – great.  But, of course, the key is still that there must be a teacher there who understands dyslexia and knows what apps would be best for the student.  The internet without the expertise is of limited use.

BYOD – great. So long as all students have access to a device…..

… and I agree dyslexic students need better support and changes need to happen.

But I’m not sure how DFNZ sees the new roles as supporting this.

Perfect Storm?  Really?

More of a tsunami

Does the Dyslexia Foundation really believe current government initiatives will “improve leadership and retain great teachers”?Because that’s not the feedback I am hearing.

In fact, teachers are saying in their droves they have had it up to the back teeth with the constant reforms hitting the wrong areas and that special needs students are being let down badly by the system.

When the “super roles” were first announced, DFNZ put out a press release in which it said:

“it is critical that the external panel filling these new school roles has recognised expertise in addressing a range of learning differences and preferences. It has welcomed the Government’s intention to work with key sector groups to further develop and finalise details of the new approach.”

DFNZ seems to be unaware that key sector groups are being given incredibly limited say in the roles and that the bones of them have been set by government and are not up for negotiation.  Maybe they could watch and think about this video, which shows that the principals will be chosen by government not by the education sector.  And the roles themselves are to be driven by “achievement”, by which the government mean more National Standards and NCEA results.

National Standards

DFNZ responded to my querying their stance by saying “The DFNZ hasn’t entered the debate around National Standards, and doesn’t plan on doing so.”

But they have.  Unwittingly, maybe, but it doesn’t change the fact that their email essentially shows they are in support of proposals and roles that are to be underpinned by test results, which for primary schools is National Standards.

That would be all well and good if NS helped students.  But having ‘Standards’ for reading and writing does not help teachers do any better job of teaching anyone let alone special needs students.  Nor does it help students learn better.

Teachers already had, before National Standards, plenty of benchmarks and rubrics to refer to.  They already undertook regular testing to check where students were and what to teach next.  Sadly, all National Standards has added is more admin (oh the teacher hours inputting the data), a stick with which to beat schools via league tables, and another damaging label for those most in need.

“Teachers in most of the schools were clear that labelling children ‘below’ or ‘well below’ was unhelpful or damaging. This was considered especially problematic when there were lots of children with ESOL backgrounds or children with special needs…”  

(p.22) Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) Project: Final Report: National Standards and the Damage Done, Martin Thrupp et al.

Entrenching National Standards further is counter-productive to the goal of ” personalised teaching, multi-sensory and experiential learning, and the opportunity to present alternative evidence of achievement instead of standard written material” that DFNZ wants.

When grades are given such a huge focus, especially at primary school level, the focus inevitably drifts to getting those just on the cusp of ‘passing’, up and over that threshold.  Those deemed to have no hope of getting above or well above often end up faring worst of all.  That shift is not always done intentionally, but it happens.

Is that really a perfect storm?  Or just a storm?

What would really help?

What teachers want is time, resources and support to improve their own understanding of dyslexic and other special needs students.

  • More and better-quality special needs training for teachers and teacher aides;
  • Teacher aide support for severely dyslexic students;
  • Better availability of RTLB expertise;
  • Funds for specialist resources;
  • Less admin and hoop-jumping for teachers, so that there is more time to plan and implement targeted and individual learning for all students.

When I was teaching dyslexic students I had none of that and was left to do what I could by reading up online and learning on the fly. Other teachers told me they were in the same boat. And since I have been out of teaching, I am told things are far worse, with parents and teachers constantly upset by having to fight to get support and help for students, end even then they nearly always end up with nothing.

Hey, look, The Dyslexia Foundation know all of that already, they know that more support and training is needed, and they do a brilliant job advocating for that.  They are great, and I applaud their advocacy for dyslexic students and families.

Why they seem so supportive of the super roles, however, remains a mystery.

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Special Assessment Conditions in NCEA – improvements to system announced

Hundreds more could get special NCEA assessment support, says the Ministry of Education.

The NZQA and the Ministry of Education are moving to ensure hundreds more students get extra help for NCEA assessments to meet their special learning needs.

“It’s important that students at all schools have access to special help if they need it at exam and internal assessment time,” says Brian Coffey, group manager of special education at the Ministry of Education.

child sitting a testThe agencies today released a review of the use of Special Assessment Conditions in NCEA. The review found lower decile schools were much less likely to apply for NCEA exam help for their students with special learning needs, and that the $400-$700 cost of an independent expert assessment was one of the major barriers. Assistance during exams can take the form of a reader and writer, technology support or extra time.

Two major changes are to be made, in time for this year’s exams.

Firstly, NZQA has redesigned an alternative application process that is free to students. The application process has been made quicker and easier to use. Applications made this way use teacher observation and assessment information rather than an independent expert’s report.

“This option hasn’t been as widely used, or as easy to use as it should be. So we’ve streamlined the process and we will urgently be reminding schools this option is available.” says Richard Thornton, deputy chief executive, qualifications, for NZQA.

Secondly, the Ministry of Education will target 250 of the country’s 518 secondary and composite schools to ensure eligible students apply for special assessment. These are schools, many of them lower decile, that are being supported by the Ministry to achieve better NCEA results.

“Our NCEA facilitators will work with these schools to help identify students who could benefit from Special Assessment Conditions for their exams and other assessments this year,” says Mr Coffey.

In 2013 nearly 4000 students were granted access to Special Assessment Conditions, 3% of students in Years 11 to 15. Hundreds of extra students are expected to get help through targeted schools, and through an easier application process.

New technology for students with special learning needs is a priority in the medium term.

“At NZQA we are trialling special headphones so that students with reading difficulties can listen to a recorded exam. If the trial is successful, special headphones will be available in 2015,” says Mr Thornton.

The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ)

The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ) responded to the news positively, saying the review gives credit to the recognition of dyslexia as the cause of the increased demand for SAC applications over the last few years. Furthermore, what is also clear from the comprehensive review is that where schools are addressing the needs of students that learn differently [by way of accommodations] they are achieving higher student achievement in areas of language, literacy, numeracy and overall academic achievement.

The DFNZ said the review also highlights the critical need for accommodations to be activated in the primary years, and for great transitioning between primary and secondary, and outlined these additional important things to note:

1. NZQA have extended the official SAC deadline from Fri 10th April to Friday 17th April (the last day of Term 1)

2. NZQA will allow a case by case further extension to the deadline of Monday 5th May for any schools that want to complete their application over the Term 1 holiday. The only requirement, to get the extension, is for the school to contact NZQA so that they are able to manage the anticipated increase in volume and follow up.

3. All RTLB clusters have been contacted and asked to make contact with their local secondary school to see how they can help with identification of students who may be eligible for SAC and to support schools in gathering of alternative evidence.

4. The Ministry’s NCEA advisors who are in schools can help with identification of eligible students and work with RTLB and school staff to support the alternative evidence process.

5. NZQA will meet with and provide workshops for schools, parents, or groups about the Special Assessment Conditions process on request.

Don’t forget – This Sunday, March 16 at Noon on TV3. This is when the acclaimed documentary “The Big Picture; Rethinking Dyslexia” screens.

You may wish to like the Dyslexia Foundation on Facebook to keep up with the latest news from them.

For information on this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Week (DAW) starting Sunday 16th March, see here.

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Dyslexia Advocacy Week 2014 starts Sunday March 16th

DFNZEvery teacher needs to understand dyslexia and know what help there is out there for them and their students, so we are lucky to have this fantastic week of events with a lot of great resources.  Note these in your diaries and in your school newsletters 🙂

TELEVISION

At noon Sunday March 16th the acclaimed documentary “The Big Picture; Rethinking Dyslexia” will be shown on TV3, so be sure to watch (and record it for your next staff meeting).

SCHOOL RESOURCES

Your school principal and BOT have been sent the Dyslexia Advocacy Week 2014 mail out, so be sure to check that out.

ONLINE RESOURCES

For information on Dyslexia advocacy, look here. You might also like to go take a look at the Dyslexia Foundation NZ web site and also go and ‘like’ the DAW Facebook page so that you can keep up with the latest information.

EVENTS

The following events are taking place for parents – please spread the word:

Tuesday 18th;  “Supporting your Reluctant Learner” – Primary Parents
provider; Positive Participation & Learning with Difference
where; Christchurch 9am – 12pm
LINK: http://www.dyslexiafoundation.org.nz/dyslexiaadvocacy/pdf/PP%20&%20LWD%20SEMINARS%202014-%20LT.pdf

Wednesday 19th;  “iPads for Alternative Learners” – Parent Workshop
provider; eTime
where; Auckland  9am-3pm
LINK: http://www.etime.co.nz/WebSpace/594/

Thursday 20th;  “Dyslexia – Understanding and Action”
provider; Lorna Timms
where; Christchurch 7pm – 9pm, $10
LINK: http://www.dyslexiafoundation.org.nz/dyslexiaadvocacy/pdf/PP%20&%20LWD%20SEMINARS%202014-%20LT.pdf

Friday 21st; “Intro in Specific Learning Difficulties” – Parents
provider; SPELD NZ
where; Auckland – 2 day course
LINK: http://www.dyslexiafoundation.org.nz/dyslexiaadvocacy/pdf/SPELD%20PD.pdf

Sunday 23rd; Christchurch Festival of Education
DFNZ exhibit, Trustees in attendance
LINK: www.christchurchfestivalofeducation.org.nz

New plan to establish elite teachers ignores biggest hurdle to student success – NZEI

nzei logoCreating a new elite group of “change principals” and “expert teachers” misses the biggest reason children do not succeed at school – New Zealand’s high rate of child poverty and deprivation.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski says the Prime Minister’s announcement of $395 million for new principal and teacher roles and allowances does not address the key underlying causes of student underachievement – inequity and poverty.

Judith Nowotarski says the sector should have been consulted on the best way to use the new funding to support student learning.

“For example, we would like to see better support for students with special needs, a reversal of cuts to early childhood education, better professional development for teachers and school support staff, and extra assistance for students struggling with literacy and numeracy.

“NZEI has been working with the Ministry of Education for a long time to develop a career pathway that keeps expert teachers in the classroom and welcomes recognition of the importance of quality teaching and leadership.”

However, Mrs Nowotarski says members are concerned that aspects of the package -such as parachuting highly paid change managers into struggling schools – had not worked overseas and could increase competition rather than collaboration.

“Creating sustainable change requires genuine collaboration with teachers.   With “change principals” the government is again imposing a failed overseas experiment and putting ideology ahead of what will really work for children’s education.”

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