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Govt Response to Court Ruling Deeply Worrying

"Business as Usual" Government Response to Court of Appeal ruling Deeply Worrying

Associate Minister of Education Leanne Dalziel's response to today's Court of Appeal decision is deeply worrying. The Associate Minister apparently feels the court ruling makes very little difference to the SE 2000 policy and shows no indication that the serious flaws in the policy - identified by parents over a long period of time - will be addressed

We were very pleased the Appeal Court has found that the government acted unlawfully in disestablising special needs units. This decision reflects the dreadful experiences many parents had at the hands of the Ministry of Education and some Boards of Trustees at the time the government withdrew its support from units. About one third of units have subsequently closed with more closing each year as schools face the problems of funding them themselves.

Hopefully when the High Court decides on remedies for this serious breach of the law by the government the result will be greater choice for parents in the establishing of units in each locality around the country where there is a significant demand for this option. However the Associate Minister in her public comments is already doing all she can to undermine this possibility.

Disappointingly the court has accepted other parts of the government's appeal so that for children with "moderate" needs there is very little to celebrate from the decision. The court has found that other parts of the SE 2000 policy are not unlawful (even if they are plainly unjust) although it did not rule on the Human Rights Commission's discrimination claim in relation to this case.

These other aspects of SE 2000 remain of grave concern. The bulk funding of the Special Education Grant continues for example. Under this funding mechanism whether a school has 2 children with moderate needs or 20 with moderate needs it receives the same level of funding. Schools which turn away special needs children are rewarded at the expense of those schools which welcome such students. "Maindumping" is the result where many children with special education needs are simply dumped in mainstream classes without support to the detriment of everyone.

And so it is that most of the problems we identified nearly 5 years ago with the policy are still there and this issue now moves back into the political arena. We will be seeking a meeting with Minister of Education Trevor Mallard shortly to have these problems put to the top of the government's education agenda.

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