A push to help pupils from 250 low-decile schools get special
NCEA exam assistance is being treated with caution by the
Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand.
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The Ministry of Education hopes that with greater use of a
process which does not require parents to pay $400 to $700
for expert assessments, and more involvement of Resource
Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs), hundreds more
pupils will be able to receive help.
But the Dyslexia Foundation says low-decile schools may still
find the process too difficult and time-consuming and it
doubts there will be enough RTLBs able to provide the
Ministry Group Manager Special Education Brian Coffey, in an
email response to questions, said the full benefit of changes
proposed would not be realised this year.
The targeting of schools which have not applied for help
follows the review of Special Assessment Conditions (Sac)
carried out by the Ministry and the New Zealand
Qualifications Authority last year following increasing
concerns about the inequity of access to this assistance.
Pupils who are granted Sac may have the assistance of a
reader/writer for assessments, extra time or be allowed to
The review confirmed what the Otago Daily Times
highlighted in January last year, that under the existing
system, high-decile, mostly private, schools are getting the
most help while only a handful of pupils in low-decile
schools receive Sac.
This trend has been evident since at least 2005.
The review said a pupil attending a decile 10 school was
seven times more likely to have an application for Sac than
one from a decile 1 school. About a third of all schools did
not access Sac at all last year.
A graph in the review showed Canterbury had the highest
proportion of pupils with Sac, followed by Tasman and then
The review found the $400-$700 cost of an independent expert
assessment to support Sac applications was one of the major
barriers for low-decile schools.
The ministry and NZQA are encouraging greater use of the
alternative evidence application process which does not
require such assessments.
Although this process could already be used by schools, last
year's figures showed that most applications for this also
came from high-decile schools.
Alternative evidence applications also had a lower approval
rate than those applications supported by independent expert
While the information required for alternative evidence
applications has remained unchanged, NZQA says it has
streamlined the online application process to make it easier
for schools to use.
There will also be greater involvement of RTLBs to ensure
early identification and ongoing support of pupils who need
Dyslexia Foundation chairman of trustees Guy Pope-Mayell said
the ''elephant in the room'' about the proposed changes was
''where the money is coming from''.
The RTLB network of ''just over 900'' teachers was already
under-resourced and underfunded. Extra teachers and extra
training would be needed.
Mr Coffey said additional funding would not be required to
make better use of information already available about a
pupil to make an application for Sac.
He also indicated there would not necessarily be a need for
There is no information in the review report on the financial
implications of any changes.
Estimates on the current cost of Sac in the report
erroneously overstated last year's cost by about $300,000,
stating it as $800,000, rather than $500,000 the Otago
Daily Times found.
NZQA deputy chief executive Richard Thornton said this had
not affected the conclusions or recommendations from the
Conflicting figures were given in the report for numbers of
pupils receiving Sac last year.
Questions revealed the latest figure is 4615, higher than
The reason for the increase was because some pupils were
accepted quite late in the process and tallies were changing
late in the academic year, the Ministry said.
There was no explanation given for the 2012 number of Sac
pupils, now given as 4331, being about 900 higher than a
figure released in November last year.
The review said the cost of funding independent assessments,
at a rate of $500 each, for all schools, based on all schools
accessing Sac at 4% of the pupil population (the rate for
8-10 decile schools now) would be about $3.37 million.
Doing this in decile 1-3 schools alone would cost $552,000.
It did not recommend either option, favouring instead the
increased use of alternative evidence.
The report did not draw a conclusion on what proportion of
pupils could reasonably expect to receive Sac, although it
said the existing percentage was about 3%.
Mr Pope-Mayell suggests if all schools were proactive about
accessing Sac, the percentage receiving it would be
conservatively 8-10%, about 12,500 pupils.
The review did not discuss the concern of some in education
circles, previously expressed to the ODT, that there
could be over-identification of Sac pupils in some
Several schools told the review of concerns about the quality
of independent assessment reports.
Some assessors told the review they were concerned the system
required their reports to go to the schools for
interpretation, preferring them to go directly to NZQA.