Education for All Petition Handed Over
6 April 2017
Education for All Petition Handed Over
3,300. people signed Education for All’s petition is being handed over to Catherine Delahunty, Education Spokesperson for the Green Party, today. EFA’s petition urges the government to invest in the education and success of all children, including those with disabilities. Children with disabilities have the same legal right as non-disabled children to thrive in their local education settings and experience the lifelong benefits of a good education. The petition calls on the Government to honour its long standing commitment to creating a “world class inclusive education system”. Not enough is being done to turn that into a reality for children and young people with disabilities and their families in their early childhood, school and tertiary education settings. We have early childhood centres and schools refusing to enrol local children with disabilities, families paying to provide or top up support staff for their children, children missing out on school camps, sporting and other activities, almost no professional development for teachers on inclusive approaches to education available, and most teacher education programmes lacking in inclusive education content and expertise. There are also many barriers for disabled people in the tertiary sector. These are all symptoms of long term systemic failure and neglect.
“Participating and learning at school is the right of every child and young person in New Zealand, whether they have disabilities or not. Teachers and school leaders want to provide the best education for every child in their community. That is their job. But it is hard to do when the government demonstrates little commitment, leadership, resources and action to support centres and schools to understand and provide an inclusive education for all. Governments have been applying rhetoric and bandaids for too long, it’s not working and generations of our children and young people are missing out” says Bernadette McCartney, parent and member of the Education for All Forum.
Education For All (EFA), urges the government to legislate for the enforceable right to inclusive education for every New Zealand child and young person. “Adding inclusive education for all is the very least any government should be doing to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being and education of New Zealand children and young people.” United Nations committees and reports on the Rights of the Child and the Rights of Persons With Disabilities in 2015 and 2016 criticised the New Zealand government for their lack of action and progress towards inclusive education. These are very basic and fundamental rights we are talking about. In March this year, the government had the opportunity and has chosen not include the right to an inclusive education in the recent changes they have made to the Education Act.
EFA acknowledges the focus of the Ministry of Education on trialling a new learning support service delivery system in the Bay of Plenty region, however a lot more needs to be done to make a difference to children, teachers and families, and it needs to happen with urgency.
The next step is for the government to work in proper partnership with the disability, family, children, youth, human rights and education sectors to make this commitment comprehensive and real.
Letter to the Minister:
The Education for All network is made up of disabled people, families, educators and service providers. We are disappointed and frustrated at the continued lack of commitment to ensuring that disabled people have access to a properly resourced and inclusive education.
We ask that this Government makes a full commitment to disabled people and inclusive education by:
1. Meeting New Zealand’s international human rights obligations and our own legislative requirements to provide every disabled person with an inclusive education.
2. Putting an end to children, families and schools having to compete against one another for funding.
3. Removing the disincentives for schools at all levels (i.e. ECE, primary, secondary and tertiary) to enrol and include students with disabilities by providing proper resources, supports and funding.
4. Adopting a policy of universal design for learning so that everything, from the built environment, curriculum, teaching practices and support services, is accessible for everyone.
5. Working with the disability community, families, educators and service providers to implement a system that works.
We have had countless reviews, consultation and inquiries into ‘special education’ for many years and yet the barriers remain the same:
· Children unable to exercise their right to attend their local schools
· Children being sent home part-way through the day because of lack of learning support
· Children being excluded from accessing the curriculum, as well as participating in sports, recreation and cultural activities.
· Families having to pay for their children’s Teacher Aides and additional learning supports.
· Schools having to fundraise and use operational funding to top up special education funding.
· Extremely limited tertiary and adult education options for disabled people, particularly those with learning disabilities.
· Lack of access to assistive technologies.
· Lack of inclusive education training for graduating teachers.
· Piecemeal access to professional development for teachers, support staff and schools.