Children and schools will be hit hard by residential special school closures
NZEI says a lack of long-term funding for special needs children will have a severe impact on schools, children, their families and communities.
The Government’s decision to close two of the country’s four residential special schools will place more pressure on mainstream schools and on families of children with complex special needs.
NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Ian Leckie says children with severe intellectual disabilities and behavioural issues will be pushed back into mainstream schooling without adequate long-term funding.
“Today’s announcement indicates that more high-needs students will be placed into mainstream schooling but that extra funding will only be available to schools for up to two years. Beyond that time schools will be expected to fund specialized support needed for these children from their own budgets.”
“The four residential special schools are staffed with highly trained and qualified special education teachers. Schools will struggle to provide that level of care, especially once targeting funding is removed,” he says.
“This will inevitably place further pressure on teachers and families of these children. And the fear is that these children won’t get the specialist care they need.”
In an earlier submission NZEI sought assurances from the Government that it would guarantee enough resourcing to ensure the safety of these very high needs students and of other students in the schools.
It also sought transparent consultation and evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of any changes to the current services.
“Sadly, these changes appear to be driven more by fiscal imperatives than by sound evidence-based practice,” says Mr Leckie.
He says the Government is clearly out of step with the feelings of most New Zealanders.
“In a recent UMR poll 85 percent of parents agreed that “even in tough economic times there needs to be more funding for teacher aides and other specialist support for children who are struggling.”