Autism Day marked with events, funding plea

Celebrating Autism Day are, from left, Erin Halliday (15), teacher Barbara Guest and Kristal...
Celebrating Autism Day are, from left, Erin Halliday (15), teacher Barbara Guest and Kristal Cooke (18), of the Helen Brathwaite Centre, with Kaikorai Valley College principal Philip Craigie. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago secondary school principals say a lack of government funding is beginning to take a toll on educating the region's special needs pupils.

As part of Autism Week in New Zealand, Otago Secondary Principals Association chairman and Kaikorai Valley College principal Philip Craigie took the opportunity to highlight the funding shortcomings by saying the success or failure of special needs units in schools was dependent on high quality and experienced staff.

He said too few funds meant some schools were worrying about retaining staff.

"We need to have the people on the ground that are looking after the students.

That's where we are starting to struggle, because funding hasn't increased to cope with the pay rises that staff are due.

"I think that funding needs to be addressed by the Ministry of Education because it is becoming harder for schools.

"Some pupils with severe special needs are particularly demanding and you need to have good personnel to help them with their education."

Principals from other regions around the country have also expressed concerns that the number of pupils with conditions such as autism were increasing and the ministry was not providing enough funding to employ special education teachers to keep up with growing demand.

Autism New Zealand has 2947 members under 16 years old and adds about 25 a month.

However, the true number was likely to be in the thousands because not everyone with autism was registered with the group.

Mr Craigie said the Ministry of Education funded 19 pupils with autism at Kaikorai Valley College, and there were many others in the general school population who were "higher functioning".

"The numbers haven't increased over the last decade down here. Unlike other regions, the numbers in Otago seem to be the same and we're not expecting any growth in numbers."

Kaikorai Valley College celebrated Autism Day yesterday with a special assembly at which pupils from the school's Helen Brathwaite Centre told other pupils about dealing with the daily challenges created by their conditions.

Staff and pupils also celebrated the event by painting their faces and wearing brightly coloured clothes.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter