More funding needed for all schools to become fully inclusive



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An Education Review Office report released yesterday revealed that New Zealand schools are becoming more inclusive. The findings have been welcomed by the sector however some groups say more funding is needed to support students with special needs, so that all schools can become fully inclusive.


The report,Inclusive practices for students with special needs in schools, found that 78 per cent of schools in 2014 were found to be mostly inclusive, up from 50 per cent in the previous ERO report on inclusiveness in 2010.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said schools could be proud of the progress they’ve made.

However primary teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa says inclusiveness is not the same as having adequate funding to meet children’s needs.

NZEI National Executive member Lynda Stuart said approximately three per cent of students have high special education needs but funding is rationed to just one per cent.

“That means that 20,000 children miss out on assistance,” she said.

“It is great to see that ERO has noted a significant increase in inclusive practices, but it is very hard for teachers to meet the needs of every child without the necessary support, whether it be funding or specialist personnel,” said Stuart.

CCS Disability Action chief executive David Matthews agreed.

“A lack of funding is a reoccurring issue and so is difficulty accessing support from the Ministry of Education. While more funding is not always the answer, all students should be getting the support they need to thrive at school. If this is not happening then we need to look deeper at our funding and support systems,” said Matthews.

Denise Torrey, president of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation says while good progress is being made, more funding is needed for 100 per cent of schools to be fully inclusive.

“What we must continue to do now is keep pushing for more special education funding and support in our schools because 100 per cent of children with special needs deserve the best education we can offer them,” said Torrey.

Torrey said funding needs to linked with real need, and not some arbitrary measure.

IHC New Zealand agrees we need 100 per cent inclusiveness in schools and said the ERO report shows that half of schools are not promoting or monitoring achievement for children with disabilities.

IHC currently has a case before the Human Rights Review Tribunal about the failure of government to ensure inclusive education for all children in New Zealand. In preparing for this action, IHC has surveyed a large number of families, teachers and other education workers.  

“We know that many disabled children just aren’t welcome at their local school,” says IHC Director of Advocacy, Trish Grant. “Where children are accepted on the roll, many are being sent home for part of the day because a teacher’s aide is unavailable.  The children also often miss out on activities like swimming, sport, camp, after school programmes or even just project work within the class.”

Minister Parata acknowledged that more needed to be done.

“We know there is still more work to do. There are schools that are absolute exemplars for their colleagues. I look forward to the day when all schools are confident that they offer the best,” she said.

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  • Choices can be made for students with challenging behaviour
    Recent complaints to the Ministry of Education about seclusion rooms are hard to swallow and make sad reading. NZ was committed to inclusion politically and legislatively since the 1989 Education Act. Then, the Special Education 2000 initiatives were touted as being the best thing for students with special education needs, with promises of being included in all classes, having access to their local school and being given quality support via the SE2000 Behaviour Support Teams that were set up within GSE/Ministry of Education, a bulk funded agency commissioned to provide special education support on behalf of the Ministry of Education.
    The new system proposed a Special Education Grant to schools was based on Decile ranking (higher funds for lower decile schools), plus the support of an RTLB for moderate behavior needs and another level of support for the top 1 percent of challenging students whose cases were managed by professional personnel within GSE. Critics, then, indicated that the system was deemed to fail if insufficient funding, lack of professional development existed for practitioners and if teacher education programmes were unable to fund updated special education programmes for pre service and existing teachers.
    The rhetoric of special education support and inclusion has not lived up to its expectation and disappointingly students who have special needs are still missing out or wait extensively for any services and where the RTLB service usually only works alongside teachers. Students are now ‘physically’ in the classrooms and it seems that their presence is deemed as ‘inclusive’ but there is a paucity of knowledge that teachers can tap into with regard to ‘inclusive educational practices. It is concerning to read that students (The YouthLaw report) with special education needs were over-represented in those either informally removed or excluded from schools.
    Whilst special education funding and a review of special education funding are ongoing, in the meantime the settlement of students with behavioral and/or special education needs ‘wait in the wings’. Even the idea of shifting special education funding from the school sector to early childhood sector is concerning, given that there is insufficient longitudinal evidence in NZ to show definitive outcomes that this will decrease students’ challenging behavior in the compulsory primary, intermediate and secondary levels.
    Dr Selvaraj believes, as with Louise Green, that a number of proactive strategies are needed that not only include collaborative practice between school administration, parents and teachers but that teacher aide funding is either a voluntary and local exercise, or paid by parents, or simply not given because a school’s budget is dry. Berhampore School’s idea of having a specialist teacher to work across five schools full-time is commendable which seems similar to that of an RTLB.
    Prolific international research details the need for teacher education programmes to teach about ‘inclusion’. These programmes have a moral responsibility to set pre-service teachers up to know how to recognize students with special education needs and to gain the knowledge and pedagogical practices to ensure they are equipped to empower others and their students to recognize the benefits of inclusive educational practices. Currently, the provisions to develop the teaching of inclusive education practices for pre-service and experienced teachers are thin on the ground and schools struggle at mostly developing programmes that rely, at best, on their local talent of pedagogical practices. This is not how it should be. New Zealand needs to get serious in its quest to develop educational practices that reflect social equity. Millions of dollars is needed to front that process and equip all pre-service teachers with the tools to do their job. After all, if we value our future generations and social equity, we need to be committed to ensuring students with special education needs, those with challenging behavior and those who are ‘different’ to other students are given the same educational opportunities.

    Posted by Dr Judy Selvaraj, 20/02/2017 9:39pm (3 years ago)

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