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Timing of Special Education Announcement Worrying


Timing of Special Education Announcement Worrying

This afternoon (Thursday) the Associate Minister of Education David Benson-Pope is to make an announcement on Special Education. It seems this will most likely encompass the release of the special education district reports which were compiled late last year after consultation meetings around the country with parents, teachers and schools.

The real worry is that the Minister is apparently due to release these reports just as parliament breaks for a two week recess and just as schools begin a two week holiday!

There is a long tradition with unpopular educational announcements being made with this timing so as to avoid or dampen public criticism.

The Minister has had these reports since January!

We would urge the media to not allow this issue to become buried in holiday-recess time!

QPEC representatives John Minto and Linda Williams will be meeting with the Minister at 11am with his announcement on special education due later in the day.

Background:

These reports are vital to policy development in special education. They have been prepared as a result of the out of court settlement of the Daniels case. That settlement came after 4 years of protracted legal proceedings taken by 14 parents which argued that the government was not meeting its legal obligations to children with special education needs.

The Daniels settlement required Group Special Education to produce -

“Comprehensive district reports to be produced including parent perspectives of the adequacy and appropriateness of local resourcing; identification of gaps between resourcing and the needs of students; any recommendations for any changes needed in funding mechanisms and any recommendations concerning the need to have or maintain special educational units in that locality”

With this in mind we have high expectations that these requirements will be met and that in particular each of the 16 district reports which cover the whole country will contain -

Parent perspectives on adequacy of local resourcing and the range of services available

Quantitative measures of the gaps between resourcing requirements for special education and current provision

Recommendations for changes to funding mechanisms

Recommendations concerning opening and maintaining special needs units

At the outset of the report consultation process we expressed serious concern that the GSE consultation process involved gathering only qualitative data on resourcing needs.

To provide this quantitative data QPEC conducted a survey of schools late last year and those results found –

Serious underfunding across special education which is resulting in

-overworked professional staff

-lack of flexibility for schools

-lack of quality options for parents

-teachers/SE professionals struggling to provide quality learning opportunities for children with special education needs

97% of schools indicate the Special Education Grant is inadequate to meet the needs of their children

89% believe the SEG grant must be increased by at least 100% to meet their needs with 25% indicating it must be increased more than 200%

80% indicate the funding for ORRS students is inadequate

The ORRS threshold being set too high so that many children with high needs are missing out

The desire for a range of quality options for children with special education needs including properly resourced mainstreaming, special education units and special schools

Poor targeting of some existing funding (eg SEG is bulk funded to schools so that a school with 20 children with moderate special needs gets the same allocation as a school with just 2 children with moderate special needs)

The full report can be read on our website at www.qpec.org.nz

We confidently expect that the regional reports shortly to be released will reinforce the points made above and the need for specific changes to the funding mechanisms which QPEC has been seeking in special education since the introduction of Special Education 2000 7 years ago.

These changes include -

Extension of ORRS to 2% of the school age population as opposed to the 1% currently funded

Targeting the SEG to schools which actually have children with moderate special needs enrolled as opposed to bulk finding this money to all schools - many of which discourage these children from enrolling (eg Cambridge High School – refer to last ERO report) because it doesn’t suit the “image” they want to project in the community.

Government to resume responsibility for staffing of special needs units – 1/3 of which have closed in recent years under financial pressure.

These reports will have big implications for the budget process and we are therefore keen to see them acted on rapidly.

In the meantime we wait….

John Minto

National Chairperson

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