|Associate Minister's address to the Auckland Disability Law Workshop|
Special education review 2010
Critical to school success is a national policy framework that is coherent and equitable. This is not easy to achieve under the atomised structures that are a feature of Tomorrow’s Schools. As a consequence, the system relies more heavily than previously on bureaucratic processes to provide consistency – both in terms of negotiating GSE regions/systems and in relation to application and funding processes.. Clear, nationally consistent systems, logical rules and comprehensive processes are required to ensure that the SE goals are able to be met
The Ministry of Education (MOE) needs to provide clearly mapped, transparent networks and information strands. This includes names and contact details of various managers, sections, regions, offices; lines of authority, relationships between different parts of the Special Education (SE) service, etc. This is currently not the case, as our own consultation process demonstrated, with members from different parts of the country experiencing markedly different systems and responses from Group Special Education (GSE) and other sections within MOE.
PPTA, in general, supports the current model of SE provision, with suggestions for improvements as described throughout this submission.
The Special education review 2010 discussion document can be accessed from the Ministry of Education website
Associate Minister of Education's address to the Auckland Disability Law Workshop (February 12) an excerpt from the address follows:
...We need to make the education system more responsive, effective and flexible. And, while not all choices can be funded, we need to maximise the opportunities for parents to make important schooling and programme choices. Wherever a parent chooses to send their child to school, we must ensure that the right services and support are available to make that the best choice.
Choice, access to schooling, and access to additional special education support are important dimensions of the review. Quality provision, value for money and outcomes and accountability will also be considered as part of the Review.
Wherever I go I hear about the need for teacher training in special education - how important it is for families to have teachers who know how to work in partnership with them and support a child with a disability to learn. I hear about the need for professional development for all teachers so students with special needs can have their needs met irrespective of the class they are in or the subjects they choose. And of course, none of this will be effective if there is not strong leadership from the top so principal training is also critical. These areas are also part of the Review.
However, we cannot rely solely on regular increases in special education funding to make the improvements that parents and others are demanding. We currently spend $450 million per year on special education. An extra 51 million over four years was announced in Budget 2009 but the assumption looking at the review must be that there is no extra money available in the current economic climate.
... Parents and caregivers - along with Government - need to have a better sense of what students are achieving and what further changes we need to be certain that the system works for all students. I want to know how you think accountability can be improved...
Special Education 2000 introduced significantly different new resourcing models for special needs students. The policy implementation was described at the time as ‘back-filling’ as the practical details of the operation of the theoretical model was often seemingly made up (and then redesigned, and modified to try to make it work in the real world of the secondary school) as the policy rolled out.
There was a review of SE 2000 early in its implementation. There have been subsequent tweaks to the policy and legal challenges to it by special needs advocacy groups since then.
IHC has launched a further challenge to Special Education 2000 with the Human Rights Commission on the basis that the implementation of the policy is discriminatory in effect.
The Association called together a group of Special Education Coordinators from a representative group of schools in 2008 and asked them to identify how the current special needs resourcing failed to address the stated aims of SE 2000. Their report, A report on special education resourcing, identifies twelve general areas in which SE2000 is failing to address the needs of special education students. These are:
- The inadequacy of the ORRS funding
- Underfunding of Teacher Aides and lack of career pathways and professional support for these people
- An unrealistic mainstreaming philosophy driving the policy work
- Too few students being verified for ORRS and concerns about the process of verification
- Lack of support for students in their transition from school to beyond school
- A lack of recognition of moderate needs and poorly targeted resourcing for this group
- Poor inter-agency co-ordination and difficulty accessing specialists/therapists in a timely or nationally consistent manner
- Inadequate recognition of the costs of travel for special needs students
- Inadequacies in the Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) model for secondary
- Difficulties accessing, and variability in, specialist/therapy support
- Failure to recognise condition-related behaviour in special needs student funding
- The lack of special needs components in teacher education
The group also identified the failure of governments and the Ministry of Education to act on the recommendations of previous reports as a concern.
The report identifies a number of specific solutions to the problems experienced by secondary schools and secondary school students with special needs.
Recommendations to Government
- That the concerns outlined above be addressed with urgency.
- That schools that wish to establish permanent special needs centres be supported to do so.
- That every school be resourced at 0.4 Full Time Teacher Equivalent (FTTE) for a special needs coordinator.
- That the per-student Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme (ORRS) resourcing be significantly increased.
- That the number of students who can be eligible for ORRS funding be increased to 3% of students.
- That there be an independent review of the effectiveness of SE2000 which includes advice on improvements to the system to effectively meet the needs of special needs students and of the support needed by secondary schools to meet those needs.
- That a moderate needs definition be agreed and used to allocate Special Education Grant funding and RTLB staffing.
- That a significant training and recruitment programme be undertaken to ensure that all schools have timely access to an adequate supply of specialist support professionals/therapists in all special needs areas.