Greens want to boost special education support

James Shaw: Photo: ODT files
Catherine Delahunty made the education announcement with leader James Shaw in Wellington today, outlining a collection of policies the party says will cost $315m over the next term. Photo: ODT files

The Green Party has launched education policy to greatly boost support for students with high needs - including funding "children's champions" to co-ordinate such help.

These positions - currently called special education needs co-ordinators - would be funded at a ratio of 1:400 students, costing an extra $70 million over three years.

The party's education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty has long championed greater support for students with additional learning needs, such as autism and dyslexia.

She made the education announcement with leader James Shaw in Wellington today, outlining a collection of policies the party says will cost $315m over the next term.

"Funding a children's champion for every 400 kids means there will be one in almost every school, freeing up teachers' and principals' time to focus on actually teaching," Delahunty said.

"Less stress on teachers means happier kids who are more confident in their learning and more creative strategies in the classroom creates a better learning environment.

"Thousands of children and their families have struggled to access the support services they need. Our children's education is too important to stuff up."

Other policies include:

  • An annual school camp fund of $5m to make sure students with additional needs are able to attend camps and do activities that other students take part in.
  • Double the funding for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme and Early Intervention Service to increase the number of students who are eligible, at a cost of $215m over three years.
  • Invest $25m over three years in targeted learning support professional development for teachers.
  • Centrally fund school support staff.
  • Strengthen child rights provisions in the Education Act to stop schools from turning away students with additional learning needs.
  • Work out new processes to cut down on the number of students being suspended or excluded, particularly those with additional learning needs.

About 80,000 to 100,000 children in early childhood education and schools get some form of learning support each year - about 10 per cent of the total student population.

The Herald has previously reported on how parents of children with additional learning needs had resorted to paying their own teacher aides, as government resourcing failed to keep up with increasing demand.

Most children with high-needs are integrated into local schools, meaning any lack of resourcing can affect all students in a class. Some schools have turned away children or allowed them to attend only if a teacher aide is present. This is illegal.

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