Special education moves welcomed

Rodney Hide
Rodney Hide
Otago principals have tentatively welcomed the Government's plan to inject an additional $69 million over four years to ensure children with special needs get a fair deal.

Associate Minister of Education Rodney Hide yesterday launched "Success for All - Every School, Every Child", which was the Government's response to the Special Education Review.

In its June 2010 evaluation, the Education Review Office found only 50% of schools were fully inclusive.

"That's not good enough," Mr Hide said.

"I have set a target of 80% of schools being fully inclusive of students with special needs by 2014, with the remaining 20% clearly on the way."

The Government had allocated an additional $69 million over four years and 1100 more children would get support from the ongoing and reviewable resourcing schemes, he said. A further 1000 would be able to get specialist support in their first three years of school.

There would also be more flexible services and support for deaf, blind or low vision children, he said.

"Special schools that support children with very high needs will be retained, and encouraged to provide more specialist out-reach teaching.

"There will be more focus on teaching children with special education needs in initial teacher education."

Mr Hide said Government agencies and the disability community would work together to improve awareness of the challenges facing people with disabilities.

Otago Primary Principals' Association president Jenny Clarke appreciated Mr Hide's sentiments, and said every principal across the country shared his goal of inclusive education.

However, when the detail was analysed, it may still be a challenge to provide effectively for all the special needs pupils in New Zealand schools, she said.

"Adequate funding, high quality personnel, sufficient appropriate resources and ongoing professional learning for teachers and support staff are required for schools to implement successful programmes to support students with special needs.

"It is a costly and necessary provision for us to make as a nation, and the reality is this funding provision may still prove inadequate.

"I encourage [Mr Hide] to work with the sector to make the best use of those with the knowledge and passion to develop the best ways to support special needs children."

Otago Secondary Principals' Association chairwoman Julie Anderson was also concerned about the plan. She said the "consistency of practice" of resource teachers; learning and behaviour (RTLB) across the country was mentioned and schools did not yet have all the information about what it meant.

"I hope that consistency of practice does not preclude local needs being met through flexible provisions that cater to the needs of individual students and schools.

"In Dunedin, the secondary schools use a cluster model working together to provide ongoing and regular RTLB support in all secondary schools.

"We would not want this option to disappear with a common countrywide model being mandated."

The plan was unreservedly welcomed by the Disabled Persons' Assembly chief executive officer Ross Brereton.

"We expect this will mean an end to the present lottery where some disabled students aren't allowed to go to their local schools, while other disabled kids get a terrific experience from the school nearby."


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