Learning support plan welcomed

The Government's plan to introduce about 600 new learning support co-ordinators to work with special needs pupils, has drawn mixed reviews from Southern principals, all raising questions about how it will work.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced funding for a new workforce of educational professionals, who will work in schools, to ensure children with diverse learning needs get the support they need to learn.

The $217million investment over four years will allow co-ordinators to work alongside teachers, parents and other professionals to give pupils the individualised support they deserve.

Green Island School principal Steve Hayward believed most principals across the region were "really excited'' by the announcement, because it would relieve some of the paperwork and workload of classroom teachers and principals.

"For a school like us, it will be fantastic because we have a number of children that need some special learning support.''

He said it was not clear whether the role would be purely administrative, include classroom work, be a full-time or part-time role, or be filled by a trained teacher or teacher aide.

"There's some clarification needed.''

However, Southland Primary Principals' Association president and Ascot Community School principal Wendy Ryan did not believe the role would put specialist staff in the classroom, and said she would prefer the money was spent on providing more teacher aides.

"What teachers find really difficult is the children with behavioural issues and the challenging conditions that we deal with in the classroom.

"I think teachers would welcome more teacher aides in schools.

"But funding for that is getting thinner and thinner.

"For my school, I would really love more money that I could directly use to put a teacher aide in with a student that was challenging, to directly support that teacher.''

St Clair School principal Jen Rodgers said the announcement was a great start to rectifying some of the issues schools were facing.

But she, too, had questions, including how the 600 roles would be spread across the sector.

She worried co-ordinators would be placed in schools with the largest rolls rather than those that needed it.

"But I do have faith [the Government] is on the right path. They're very good at consulting with the education sector.''

A Dunedin parent, who declined to be named, welcomed the announcement.

She had a son with autism and recalled the trials she had trying to get him the support he needed to attend his local primary school.

She liked the idea of the "one-stop shop'' the Government was suggesting.

"You do have a lot of referrals ... To actually get some action from them, it takes a long time.

"It can be really stressful.''

She was excited the initiative would give parents of children with special needs an easier course to navigate in the future to get their children into education.

john.lewis@odt.co.nzqc


 

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