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Turner: special needs funding inadequate

Monday, 21 April 2008

Turner: special needs funding inadequate

UnitedFuture deputy leader Judy Turner says locking special needs pupils in school toilets until they calm down is just not on.

She says current support funding for children with special needs in New Zealand schools is completely inadequate.

"School Boards of Trustees are having to take money from other important budgets within their general operations grant to supplement the number of hours children with high needs get teacher aide support.

"Otherwise they face having to ask parents to remove the children from school for the number of hours not covered by a teacher aide," she says.

"Students and teachers are often unsafe in classrooms where children with extreme behavioural problems or complex disabilities are placed with insufficient teacher aide hours to cover the time they are in school.

"Principals report having to isolate students in staff toilets until a child calms down.

"Staff retention is becoming a big problem for principals with staff who develop stress-related health problems teaching in unsafe work environments.

"One teacher has asked me whether she should pursue the child who runs away and leave the rest of her class unattended or does she stay put hoping the child will be safe?

"Teachers are unwilling to report progress made by a student in case teacher aide hours are pruned back and they are left to cope alone yet again.

"One principal I talked to has to give her teacher who is specialising in these students a day out of the classroom a week just to fill in the funding application forms that seem to be endless.

"There is so much uncertainty from not just year to year but school term to school term as to how many hours will be allocated to support the learning of some of our most vulnerable children who are actually as entitled to a quality education as anyone else.

"Teachers and school principals are desperate for a funding increase and many believe that if policy makers had to live in their shoes for a week they would see funding priorities in a very different light," said Mrs Turner.

ENDS

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