Government decision on special education resourcing inequitable for children with additional learning needs

11 August 2017 

The Government's decision to roll out reform of special education (Learning Support) to newly formed groups of school (Communities of Learning) rather than every school is abdicating its responsibility to support every child in every school, NZEI Te Riu Roa says.

Minister of Education Nikki Kaye today announced up to 15 Ministry of Education senior staff would be employed in 30 Communities of Learning to implement access to Learning Support.

"This is the wrong approach.  Every child in every school, regardless of whether it is in a Community of Learning or not,  must have equitable access to learning support.  To design a new special education system that discriminates against children based on whether the school they attend is in a Community of Learning or not is abhorrent," NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart says. 

"Teachers and parents are crying out for additional resourcing for children with learning needs, and yet the Government is putting extra resources into one type of schooling model, rather than coming up with a solution that works for every child in every school."

She says the decision to roll out a Learning Support pilot in the Bay of Plenty to a further 30 Communities is premature and not evidence-based.  Communities of Learning are themselves a new and unproven experiment.

"Interesting collaborative work around learning support is happening in the Bay of Plenty - and in many other areas," she says. "But to roll out a major system change on the basis of an experiment of a few months' trial and a single case study is patently irresponsible."

She said what all schools needed was recognition, resourcing and professional learning for special needs coordinators and teacher aides in every school.

She said the Ministry's own reference group of experts from the sector advised just this week against basing special education reform solely on the Communities of Learning pilot, and that national education sector leaders had expressed the same view to the Minister last week.

"The Government's obsession with the Community of Learning model means they are simply not listening to advice from the sector and are failing to meet their obligations to support every child that needs it."

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