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The Nation: Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin

On Newshub Nation: Simon Shepherd interviews Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin 10/11/18


• Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin told Newshub Nation she has been working on the proposal for 600 learning support coordinators to be placed into schools, since 2016. “And the moment I sat in the chair, I began the plan to make sure that that happened.” She said this was the first tranche and eventually there will be one in every school.

• Ms Martin said she was trying to bring all services “much closer to the ground” to support students with high needs in schools. She said organisations like Autism NZ and Dyslexia New Zealand could be reassured it was “step two in a five-step process to revamp the whole system".

• She said one option included having an Oranga Tamariki social worker attached to a cluster of schools “so they only have to contact that person and that person’s job is to get the support for the Oranga Tamariki child.”

• Ms Martin, who is also the Minister for Children agreed there is still a need for 1000 more foster care workers, although people were “putting their hands up”. She said there are still children being placed in motels because it took time to find people with the skills and support those children needed.

• As Internal Affairs Minister, Ms Martin said the report into Wally Haumaha’s appointment to Deputy Police Commissioner will be released on Monday at 11am.

• She said it had not been released earlier because she needed to redact names for privacy. She also said she did not know the Police Commissioner was going to the select committee.

Simon Shepherd: Primary teachers will start rolling nationwide strikes on Monday, despite the government upping its pay offer by $129 million. The NZEI says it will present the new offer to its members at mass meetings during the strikes. The government has also announced 600 new learning support coordinators for schools to help students with special needs – something else teachers had been asking for. Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin joins me now. Good morning, Minister. Thanks for coming on.

Tracey Martin: Good morning. You’re welcome.

So, the facilitator in the negotiations with the teachers’ union says it’s a $1.8 billion gap between what the government’s offering and what the teachers want. How are you going to resolve this?

Well, certainly not with $1.8 billion, because there just isn’t $1.8 billion out there to deliver. There’s so much that we need to do, and we agree with the teachers that there is a lot that needs to be repaired inside the education system. So it’s very frustrating to not be able to settle this and get back to working together constructively for the benefit of our students.

So you acknowledge that the teachers need a pay jolt, which is what they’ve been asking for.

Yes, and the offer that’s on the table – some of the cohort of the teachers there would get a $20,000-a-year increase in their pay. On average, it’s between $9000 and $11,000. That’s a jolt.

But it’s not just about the pay; it’s also about class sizes, they say.

Yes, and that’s interesting. I mean, originally, the teachers came out and talked very strongly about ‘we’ve got a teacher shortage’. So the government has put in many steps and millions of dollars to try and actually address that. And we believe we’ve got on top of that. We’re more than happy to talk about class size further down the line. But there’s only so much that can be done immediately.

So I’m sensing frustration. You’re not going to offer any more?

There is no more. I mean, from my perspective, what I’m looking at is – I’ve still got to recalibrate alternative education. I’ve still got to look at the other ways that we support our students in the classroom with diverse, neuro-diverse, complex needs. There’s a lot still to do.

Yeah, and we’ll talk about the learning support staff in a moment. I just want to ask – what is your message, then, to the teachers? Are you saying, like—are they being greedy?

I don’t want to say they’re being greedy. I believe what’s happened is they’ve had a long period of time where they have been asking for help, and it hasn’t been forthcoming. We understand that. What we’re saying is this is the best we can do right now. It’s a jolt. We want to work with them and resolve this and keep working with them to improve the system going forward.

So they should take it?

I believe they should take it.

Part of what the teachers are also asking for is learning support staff in every school. Now, last Sunday, you announced 600. Was that brought forward to try and stop this strike going ahead?

No. So, I’ve been working on that. I mean, Chris Hipkins and I, actually, with Catherine Delahunty, had worked on it originally in 2016. And the moment I sat in the chair, I began the plan to make sure that that happened. What the teachers had asked us for was – when I presented it to the NZEI, before negotiations started, they said, ‘Well, there’s no commitment, so there’s no point us actually nutting down the detail. There’s no commitment to dollars.’ So we got a commitment to dollars.

So it sounds like you did put that in place ahead of the strikes, ahead of these negotiations.

What I was doing was, I’d been going out long before they even decided that that was going to be part of their negotiations with this plan. So it wasn’t something I did just because they started to go into negotiations.

But there’s no cabinet paper, and even the industry, which has been talking to you about these learning support coordinators, says it wasn’t expecting this announcement until the budget – May next year.

Well, that’s their expectation. I’ve been arguing for this funding for as fast as possible since the moment I sat in the seat.

All right. So, the 600 new roles will all be qualified teachers. Now, we talked about teacher shortage before. You forecast an 850-teacher shortage just for next year, standalone teachers. Where are you going to get the 600 roles from?

My understanding from what I’ve seen from the Ministry of Education and the meetings I’ve sat in is that the marketing campaigns that we have done, both here in New Zealand and overseas, some of the restrictions that we’ve removed around teachers re-registering and so on is actually going to meet the demand at the beginning of next year. One of the reasons why I wanted clarity around the funding was for the sector to seriously work with me on the roles. But also, we have delayed a full rollout until 2020 to give us that leeway about positioning.

So they’re going to be experienced teachers or new graduates?

I would think it’s more likely that they will be experienced teachers. But the schools themselves will employ them, so it’s not the ministry or the minister deciding who is going to take that role. The schools will employ those people.

Okay, so 600, but there are 2500 schools. How are you going to decide where the 600 are going to go and who misses out?

Exactly, and so that’s a conversation I’m having at the moment and a conversation that I want to have with NZEI and PPTA, because there’s a couple of trains of thought. The ministry has put forward an option to just do by decile; I think that’s too blunt a tool. There’s another option which is to look at the learning support registers and who has 30 per cent or more of complex and neuro-diverse needs. Or there have been pilots that have already been going on for the last year. Would it be smarter to actually start with people who’ve already been doing this? They’ve been funding it themselves – and then grow it out from what is the pilots?

Some people are going to cry foul, and the teachers themselves say they want one in every school.

And eventually, we want one in every school, absolutely.

So you will have one in every school eventually?

Yes, this is just the first tranche. This is just the first tranche.

Do you know exactly what they’re going to be doing, these learning coordinators?

Pretty much.

What is that?

First of all, there are already special needs coordinators inside the school - special Education Needs Coordinators, SENCOs. So there’s the base job description. But then, because these are now fully funded, 100 per cent, walking learning support coordinators, we can widen that job description. So they’ll be doing more creation of professional development, doing more linking into specialist services for children. And we are looking at the development of screening tools at both school entry and at 7 years for dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia.

Okay. So it’s coordination, but it’s not going to be grassroots, and it sounds like part-time roles.

No, no, these are 100 per cent fully funded, full-time roles. And grassroots – I hope what you mean by that is that, actually, they are in the school.

In the classroom – are they in the classroom?

They will be in the school and be a support mechanism for the in-classroom teachers.

So if they’re going to be people who’ve been doing it already, or if they’re going to be existing, are you going to—? There’s so many more of them. How are you going to train them?

Well, what happens right now with resource teachers of learning and behaviour, for example, is they start as a registered, qualified teacher, and then professional development is layered on top of that as the needs of the students appear. So that’s how we’re going to do it.

Okay, but in opposition, you and NZ First and the Green Party recommended a national qualification with such a role. So what’s happened with that?

Well, I’m not quite sure. I thought that was around teacher aides and the centralisation of teacher aides.

This was one of the recommendations in terms of a select committee, and you had a minority report. And in that, you said – and I quote – that you recommend an established national qualification for this kind of thing, as well as professional development.

Right. We’ve moved away from that space based on the conversation with the sector itself, actually.

So that’s scrapped.

Yeah.

Okay. Also, during that report as well, you also recommended the initial teacher education curriculum includes skills for teaching students with specific learning needs.

Yes.

Is that going to happen?

Yes, it is. So, those are two separate things. First of all, there’s initial teacher training, and that is under the focus of Minister Hipkins, so he’s looking at what we can add into that initial teacher training. But we’ve got a teacher workforce out there that needs to be professionally developed on the job, and that would be part of what the learning support coordinator could assist with.

Do you know exactly how many you need? Because around 600 in the first tranche, as you say... But there’s one in five schoolchildren that access some form of learning support. You don’t really know the scale of the problem, do you?

No, we don’t. We don’t know the scale of the problem at all. If we talk about our ORS students, which are our ongoing resource funding— our very high, complex physical needs, we have good numbers on that. Children who just haven’t been able to jump that wall there, we have very little data on. We have no data on dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, gifted. We have no data. So that’s why those screening tools are now going to be really important, and that’s what the ministry’s working on as well.

So it’s hard to formulate the numbers that you need if you don’t have the data in the first place.

That’s right.

Should you have waited to have all the data in place before...

No, because this is too important. And we know that... Because we’ve been running the pilots and because the sector has already told us, we know that there is a need for this coordinator. What that data is for is actually for the workforce planning we’re going to need afterwards. We don’t know how many speech language therapists we need really at the moment. We don’t know how many specialists in dyslexia and dyspraxia we need. So this is for that future workforce planning that we need to have as well.

There’s been a consultation process about this, and that’s only just come back in, and yet you’ve announced this. Should you have waited for the consultation process and the feedback about who wants what before announcing?

So, the consultation finished on the 31st of October, but I had received quite full submissions from the NZEI, the PPTA at least a fortnight before. We already had quite strong information around the role itself, because it was an expansion of the SENCO role. What I was really looking for now, was what would the pay scale be, how would we do a rural model and an urban model, because too often, we do urban and we forget about rural. So that’s what that consultation was really about.

So there will be an urban learning support coordinator and a rural one?

Yes, there needs to be. There needs to be a rural way to deliver this as well as an urban one.

And that’s because the size of the schools out there don’t justify staff?

That’s right. Yeah.

What about the children who are excluded from school? Some are excluded from school because of their learning needs, attend part-time. Will these coordinators actually be able to include them?

That is the goal. The goal is that the coordinators will— we’re bringing supports closer to the ground. The models that we have had, not only have used the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and professionals from there, but also straight out of community. And one model the DHB gave Child Psych Services; I’d like Oranga Tamariki to have a person attached to the delivery model for a cluster of schools. So we’re trying to bring all services much closer to the ground, and that should support those children to be better-supported in schools.

Well, organisations I’ve talked to this week like Autism NZ and Dyslexia New Zealand say the real goal would be to ensure that these students with different learning needs are included in the mainstream. Is that your goal?

There is certainly inclusion and a greater diversity of inclusion is the goal for the New Zealand education system. I, however, want to make sure that there are some students— If we agree that one size doesn’t fit all, there still needs to be specialist schools like Salisbury and Halswell and Westbridge, because there are times that students with very high needs are better served from those schools.

But we’re talking about the mainstream schools and the schools that these teachers and learning support co-ordinators have to have to address these learning needs in the mainstream classroom.

Yes. Well, in mainstream school, and, like, if you take Mahurangi College, they have a special needs unit right in the middle of their mainstream school. And so, those students are part of— But they have all the extra supports that they need. So, you know—

So, can you reassure these organisations that what you’ve announced so far is not just a band-aid?

No, it’s certainly not a band-aid. It’s a step two in a five-step process to revamp the whole system so that these students are better supported inside school.

What about pre-schoolers and early intervention? So, support for kids in schools who need it. But, pre-schoolers, the early intervention waiting time at the moment is 99 days. Is that good enough?

No, it’s not good enough, exactly. So, part of the delivery model that is being rolled out across New Zealand right now — and it will be 100 per cent in place by the end of 2019 — in the pilots of that delivery model, ECEs in the areas got together. So 26 ECEs were inside one of the clusters where we had been piloting this. And part of what we want the Learning Support Coordinator to do is to help those children transition from ECE into primary, over into secondary and so on. So we’re not leaving them out. They will become part of what is that whole line of support.

Is this the plan that you’re going to roll out by the end of 2019?

Yes. That delivery model is the plan that’s going to be rolled out by the end of 2019.

So, putting your Minister for Children hat on, you just mentioned Oranga Tamariki and that you’d like OT, Oranga Tamariki, social workers to be included in this in some sort of way. But you don’t have enough of those. In fact, I think your former chief social worker has just said you need 700 to 800 new social workers just to bring current caseloads down.

Well, caseloads have dropped on average from 31 to 25. So we are actually getting more social workers in there. But there’s also a conversation to have, and that was one of the reasons why I went overseas. There’s a conversation to have as to – how can we get social workers to concentrate on social work, and can we use youth workers more with some of the mentoring and some of the support that our young people need? So there’s other ways to create that workforce, but it’s not to take away from the fact that we do need statutory social workers.

Right. But you do need a lot more, don’t you?

Yes. Well, we need a lot more, certainly.

How many? What is your target?

Well, I’m not going to criticise what Gráinne said. Gráinne, the chief executive, knows what she’s talking about. But when I was talking about it inside the learning support model, one of the things that schools have said to us is that, ‘If we have seven children who are Oranga Tamariki children, we have to find seven social workers when something goes wrong. We’re looking for that child’s social worker.’ If we actually have an Oranga Tamariki social worker attached to that cluster of schools, they only have to contact that person. And that person’s job is to get the support for the Oranga Tamariki child.

Okay, we’re running out of time, but a couple of other quick things. You’ve got a target for the foster carers as well; you need 1000 more. Are you getting any more? Is anybody putting their hands up?

We have. No, they are, they are. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you an exact number. But they are putting their hands up. But it’s a hard job. You can’t just take any old body.

You’ve got children still staying in motels?

Some of that is really interesting. Those children are very complex and violent. You can’t just go and place them with a foster family. You need the time to actually say, ‘Where is somebody with the skills and the support that this particular child can be with?’ So, you know, it’s not ideal, but sometimes that’s what has to happen.

But does that actually help them, staying in a motel? Do they get the support that they need there, or the behavioural change?

They still get support. So, we don’t not support them. But you can’t just uplift a child who is violent and place it instantly with another family without making sure that you’ve put the right supports around it. So sometimes, there needs to be that period of time in a motel while we find the right place for them.

Is that the intermediate step, or would there be another way of doing this?

Right now, it’s the intermediate step. But we are starting to create a whole lot of different options so that we’ve got more of them, and a database to tell us where they are the moment we need them.

All right, final question with your third hat on – Internal Affairs Minister. You’re in charge of the inquiry into Wally Haumaha’s appointment to Deputy Police Commissioner. You have that report right now, so when are you going to release it?

Monday at 11am.

Why have you not released it before the police commissioner went to the select committee?

Because, first of all, I didn’t even know the police commissioner was going to the select committee. Because I needed to make sure that Crown Law had gone through and redacted all the names and so on and so forth of Woman A, Woman B and Woman C, to protect their privacy. And so that is what I did. I wanted to make sure that that had happened and then to set in the process by which to release it publicly.

Okay. Internal Affairs Minister and every other minister, Tracey Martin. Thank you very much for your time.

Kia ora, thank you.


Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

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