Parata in denial over special education crisis

Hekia Parata has her head buried in the sand when it comes to the pressure that schools are under as they attempt to cope with an increasing number of children with severe behavioural and other learning support needs, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins.

“Almost every school principal I talk to lists coping with pressures around child behaviour and supporting children with additional learning needs amongst their biggest challenges.

“School principals have pointed out that if they expel a student, when that student enrols in another school, they are able to get a much more generous level of support than the school that expels them in the first place would be offered. It’s no wonder they’re considering expelling students so that they get them the support they need.

“Schools are increasingly having to rely on their operational grant funding to provide individual students with the support they need, putting their already stretched budgets under even more pressure. The whole situation hasn’t been helped by the funding freeze implemented in this year’s Budget that has seen funding for most schools going backwards in real terms.

“It gets worse. When performance data highlighted that the number of students receiving special education communication services, behaviour services or ORS-funded services within the required timeframe was declining, they just deleted the performance measure from their Annual Report completely. Deleting the data doesn’t make the problem go away.

“The level of direct support schools and early childhood services are provided through the Ministry of Education has also been slashed. For example, the number Education Support Workers employed by the Ministry halved from 275 FTE in 2008 to just 134 FTE in 2015.

“Meanwhile the Ministry of Education’s spending on consultants and contractors skyrocketed from $4 million in 2008 to $35 million in 2015. Hekia Parata says these are ‘operational issues’.

“I say they are clear signs of a government that has its priorities all wrong.  Labour will redirect funding to frontline staff working directly with schools and children. Every child in New Zealand deserves to get the support they need so that they can succeed in education. They aren’t getting it under National, they will get it under Labour,” says Chris Hipkins.

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  • Diana Gordon
    commented 2017-04-06 18:59:19 +1200
    Absolutely correct. Ask in parliament whether the MOE keep records of how many parents (like us) have had to pay for an aide. Why only a tiny percentage get ORS funding. Why children aren’t assessed for learning disabilities at a young age. Why children at Berhampore are in an inclusive setting while the school buildings become ramshackle because the principled principal would prefer to help the kids with needs over a shiny school- because that is the only trade-off they can make. Why so many schools don’t even have SENCOs. Why disabled children are routinely excluded from EOTC and other events for spurious H&S reasons – despite it being a breach of the UN convention of human rights. Why it was OK for my son to go to camp only if he was put in a separate wing to the other children – again against the UN convention and just a horrible thing to do anyway. Why disabled kids are often sent home under a Kiwi suspension but the MOE does not act against the schools. Why speech services magically stop at age 8 regardless of need. Why I just lost the IDEA social skills course for my daughter. Why when asked the education minister will parrot some figure for special needs provision without giving any context – and Labour don’t hold her accountable for those numbers (you do a terrible job doing that). Why Ashley Peacock was held in isolation for 5 years. Why Ngaire’s son was put in a dark room at Miramar Central and nothing has been done (damn that carpet is looking well swept under). Why it’s so hard for autistic young adults to acquire the skills they need to get jobs. Why only rich parents who can afford an educational psychologist get special assessment needs for their children for NCEA. Why nothing tangible came out of the harrowing committee on Autism and related disorders. Why the OBEGAL was $1.45bn in the black today and no one could fund a $500k need for IDEA’s special support to disabled children. Why a family like ours who knows what the high level of services kids get in the US can hand on heart say that the level of support in NZ is absolutely third rate vs. there (unless like us your kids aren’t too deep on the spectrum and you can afford to pay for the services). Why there is no analysis on the monetary value of early intervention vs. outcomes of adults on benefits plus crime. Why schools are not held accountable for bullying by the MOE, particularly of disabled children. Why there is no need to hold a register of all bullying incidents at schools and to hold boards accountable for the H&S of their charges. Why the suicide rate of young people is so high in this country. Why all these are acceptable in a first world country. Hold them accountable and I’ll vote for you.