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Need for funding of special needs role in schools

Survey shows need for funding of special needs role in schools

2 May 2018

A new survey shows that many of our most vulnerable children are missing out at school because there is not enough funding to give them the one-on-one support and resources they need to thrive and succeed.

The NZEI Te Riu Roa survey of school Special Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs) shows that they are struggling to get adequate support for the children and are swamped by the workload.

The survey findings have reinforced NZEI’s advocacy for a fully funded permanent and designated SENCO in every school.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said the best society is one in which the most vulnerable members are protected and supported to thrive.

“What does this say about us when we cannot fund and support the people who are doing their best on a shoe-string, often in their own time, to help these children?

“We are identifying an increasing number of children with severe learning and behavioural needs and not being able to help them in the way we should.”

At the moment, SENCOs are often permanent staff members – often teachers or deputy principals - who already have a fulltime workload and work after hours to fulfil the role and “scratch around to find funding for children” says Ms Stuart.

SENCO at Karori West School, Janice Jones, says having a dedicated, funded SENCO in schools would make a world of difference as it would spread the workload - writing applications, finding funding and targeting the teaching and learning of the most vulnerable students.

“We are desperate for better resourcing: there are great people in the Ministry of Education providing support - educational psychologists and speech language therapists for example, but there are not enough of them, and the wait time for their service is unacceptably slow. We are also desperate for more teacher aide support in classrooms.”

Ms Stuart says the SENCO role is complex and demanding.

“It requires knowledge, skills and perseverance to be able to negotiate the current system.”

Other results from the survey, which is a follow-up to a 2016 survey:
• 48% of respondents did not get any release time for their SENCO role
• 30% of respondents do not receive any financial compensation for the role
• 72% either disagreed, or strongly disagreed, that it was easy to obtain access to external support for children in a reasonable timeframe.
• 36 % were not at all confident, or only confident to a certain extent, to carry out their role
• 61% said they would be interested in obtaining a SENCO specific qualification
• 16% had funded their own professional development


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