National maintains push on $359m leadership in schools policy

Teachers protest outside National list MP Michael Woodhouse's office yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.Education Minister Hekia Parata continues to focus on the Government's $359 million policy to improve teaching quality and leadership in schools but special needs teaching will get a boost if National is re-elected.

The leadership policy is vehemently opposed by the primary teachers union, the New Zealand Education Institute, but provisionally supported by the Post Primary Teachers Association.

In the policy announcement yesterday, National said it would spend up to $89 million per year over four years to provide an additional 800,000 teaching aide hours to support children who had symptoms affecting their learning such as dyslexia, ADHD and Asperger syndrome.

''These students do not always meet the threshold for intensive special needs support but National recognises they also need assistance to learn and make the most of the opportunities they have at school.''

The plan to boost teacher aide hours meant pupils needing more individual time were given the help they needed and the teacher in the classroom felt more supported to teach, Ms Parata said.

There were 15,000 teacher aides in New Zealand. The policy would increase teacher aide hours, not necessarily the number of teacher aides.

It was expected many schools would increase the hours of the teacher aides they now employed.

The bulk of the funding would be new money but a small portion would come from within existing education funding. The policy was planned to start in the first term next year, she said.

Other policies announced yesterday include. -

• Support deaf and hearing-impaired children, their families and schools by providing more sign language resources.

• Grow Asian languages in schools through a new $10 million contestable fund.

• Continue to invest in early childhood education.

• Invest $350 million over four years to build up to nine new schools and additional classrooms in the Auckland region.