Special Education Resourcing QPEC Report released
“Closing the Gaps” in Special Education Resourcing
Attached with this media release is a copy of the report of a nationwide survey undertaken by QPEC on special education resourcing in New Zealand schools.
It was undertaken because of the urgent need for a quantum measure of the gaps in special education resourcing which are preventing so many children with special education needs from becoming effective learners. (For more background to the survey see the 18 October media release on http://www.qpec.org.nz )
The survey results give a dramatic, crystal clear snapshot of the positives and negatives faced by schools as well as giving specific, quantitative feedback on the gaps in resourcing.
Key Findings Include -
Serious underfunding across special education which is resulting in:
-overworked professional staff
-lack of flexibility for schools
-lack of quality options for parents
-teachers/SE professionals struggling to provide quality learning opportunities for children with special education needs
97% of schools indicate the Special Education Grant is inadequate to meet the needs of their children
89% believe the SEG grant must be increased by at least 100% to meet their needs with 25% indicating it must be increased more than 200%
80% indicate the funding for ORRS students is inadequate
The ORRS threshold being set too high so that many children with high needs are missing out
The desire for a range of quality options for children with special education needs including properly resourced mainstreaming, special education units and special schools
Poor targeting of some existing funding (eg SEG is bulk funded to schools so that a school with 20 children with moderate special needs gets the same allocation as a school with just 2 children with moderate special needs)
This report is a strong vindication for the changes in special education which QPEC has been advocating for several years now – including through the 4 year legal battle resulting in the Daniels decision. Besides a large increase in quantum funding some of the key changes we are seeking include:
Extension of ORRS to 2% of the school age population as opposed to the 1% currently funded
Targeting the SEG to schools which actually have children with moderate special needs enrolled as opposed to bulk finding this money to all schools - many of which discourage these children from enrolling (eg Cambridge High School – refer to last ERO report) because it doesn’t suit the “image” they want to project in the community.
Government to resume responsibility for staffing of special needs units – 1/3 of which have closed in recent years under financial pressure.
In response to this report the government will quote figures showing a large increase in special needs funding since 1990 and this is true but not helpful. It ignores the fact that there are many more children with special education needs – per head of school-age population –enrolled in schools now than in 1990.
Reasons for this include -
(1) Many more children now surviving childbirth and - for example - a child born significantly premature has far greater likelihood of having moderate special education needs when they enter school.
(2) There is greater parental expectation that their children will be enrolled in a mainstream school – which is a great thing – but the government must provide the resources to ensure they can become effective learners.
(3) One third of our children now living in poverty with many bringing associated social problems from the community into schools.
This report is not a wish list but is a realistic reflection of the actual needs.
The survey results will come as little surprise to teachers or parents.
This QPEC report will feed into the Group Special Education (GSE) consultation process currently underway around the country and will be used by QPEC to continue to lobby for the changes needed to ensure one of the most vulnerable groups in our community gets a far better go.
John Minto- National Chairperson
Linda Williams - National Secretary
“Closing the Gaps” in Special Education Resourcing
Report on School Feedback to Survey of Special Education Needs Funding
Over the last 2 months QPEC has conducted a survey of New Zealand schools to gain specific, quantitative feedback on the gaps in resourcing of special education.
We have done this because the current Group Special Education series of consultation meetings around the country to gain feedback on service delivery is not gathering this information despite the requirement from the Daniels agreement that the district reports produced must include -
“…parent perspectives of the adequacy and appropriateness of local resourcing; identification of gaps between resourcing and the needs of students; any recommendations for any changes needed in funding mechanisms and any recommendations concerning the need to have or maintain special educational units in that locality”
The QPEC survey results contains the quantitative data to “close the gaps” between resourcing and student need.
The report is a collation of responses from 344 schools and teachers nationwide and includes the following areas:
Invercargill, Blenheim, Auckland (Central, North and South), Rotorua, Hawke’s Bay, Hastings, Dunedin, Christchurch, Waikato, Whitianga, Dannevirke, Manawatu, Pahiatua, Oamaru, Wellington, Taupo, New Plymouth, Nelson, Tararua, Aka Aka, Pahoia, Waihi, Rangiora, Pahiatua, Whangarei, Tauranga, Maungakino, Wanganui, Napier, Kaikohe
The responses come from educators in the secondary, primary and early childhood sectors including principals, teachers and support staff.
(Note: The responses to questions 1-3 are listed in order of their frequency rating)
What is working well for you and your students in the current system?
(Less people answered this question than the other questions. Although several found something that was positive, many said “Nothing is working well”)
It was felt by many respondents that the service they got from therapists and GSE staff was valuable. The most mentioned service was Speech Language Therapy. Several problems were included in these responses however, including, “Provided services are adequate.” “They come from a distance and are not necessarily available when needed.” “Therapists are a great help WHEN they are available but are thin on the ground.”
Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) and Resource Teachers of Literacy (RTLit’s) – where available – are seen to be valuable for the work they do assisting teachers with students and programmes.
Teacher aides where available are a valuable resource helping to implement programmes put in place by Speech Language Therapists (SLT’s), physio etc and working with small groups.
Special needs units and learning support classes are found to be beneficial for students that have difficulties fitting into the mainstream. There are very few units nationwide, so this is not an option for many but where they exist it is seen as a very valuable resource.
We had several replies concerning special schools and the level of appropriate education they gave to many students. It was also felt by those working in special schools that having their own therapists provided students with good support.
ACC funded students are able to access a much higher level of funding, although other students with greater needs, who cannot prove medical misadventure or accident, are not funded. These students miss out on Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme (ORRS) funding.
Group conferences and Individual Education Programmes (IEP’s) were identified as ways people worked together to address the needs of students effectively.
Some felt access to Group Special Education (GSE) Funding for funded students was improving.
Working in small groups on special programmes such as Bannatyne was seen as useful.
Many schools felt that their special needs teams, reading recovery teachers, teachers, aides and peer tutors worked extremely hard for their special needs students.
There was also some support for the following when the intervention was adequate and easily accessible.Riding for the disabled.
Gym fun preschool programme
Reader/ writer assistance
Waitakere Child and Family
Public Health Nurse
Psychologists working with behavioural problems.
Special education advisor
Social worker in schools
Statements that reflect the “Question 1 issues” as schools see them
“GSE staff work really hard with students and are a great help to the classroom teacher with planning and adapting programmes. The downside is that they are overworked with too large caseloads.”
“We have a physically impaired unit at out school that our principal and the Board of Trustees (BOT) are committed to funding while we have the ORRS students. The GSE physio and Occupational Therapist (OT) are excellent but very overworked - we see them 3-4 times a term.”
“For mainstreaming to be successful funding and personnel need to be adequate”.
“Visually impaired students use laptops, camera, closed circuit TV. Timetable allows time to rest and catch up.”
“Speech language therapy is helpful although it is not always available due to high turn over of staff. We have had 4 in two years and currently don’t have one”.
“Having a teacher whose sole responsibility is Special Needs for our school only has greatly lessened the demands on classroom teachers re paper trails and having the need to have many fingers in the pie. Every school should be funded in this way. Counselling by a professional counsellor is also an added bonus.”
“Participating in relevant mainstream classes with assistance when required or available and the security of a home room style class for core subjects continuity, self esteem, social skills, sense of belonging, specialist programmes ….Speech therapy and physio when suitable.”
“Itinerant Teachers of the Deaf (ITOD) are excellent”.
“Students have been assisted in option subjects to have some meaningful experiences which they might otherwise have missed.”
“In the 20 years of employment at this school I have seen the positive results of children having spend time in the special needs unit.’
What needs are not being met currently?
It was felt that although students are assessed onto therapy rolls, the amount of service they get is often minimal, in many cases 1 hour a month or less. There are long waiting lists, inconsistent visits, and the visits are too far apart in frequency. SLT are not always NZ trained and are often on Overseas Experience (OE)
A very large percentage of respondents indicated that there were not enough SLT, Physio, Psychologists and other specialists and that the high turn over rates for some, often meant long gaps between employing new staff to areas. Staff are very overworked and caseloads are high. This results in long time lapses after referrals
Although teacher aide support is seen as crucial and many respondents felt that there should be a high level of teacher aide support, the reality is that there is not enough Teacher Aide (TA) time to support programmes. Speech language and physiotherapy programmes need support but the support needed to access these and other programmes is not allocated, unless the student has ORRS.
The criteria for receiving ORRS was considered to be too high and several respondents felt that lots of very high needs students were missing out on much needed intervention. There is no real resource support for these students. This impacts on the needs of others for intervention resourcing.
Funding especially the inadequacy of grants was identified as a huge issue for schools.
RTLB are considered by several respondents to have an exceedingly high workload, resulting in an inadequate service. Others feel that RTLB are not equipped to cover the increasing level of high to very high needs students being placed on their caseloads.
Often the sharing of information with teachers by therapists and other support staff is done during teacher break times. This is not the best time for meaningful dialogue.
Many teachers had given up sending in forms for extra resourcing or services because it is considered to take too long for help to come, if any comes at all. Teachers who are professionals are being ignored in decision making
Isolation is a problem in accessing services in many parts of rural New Zealand. It is very difficult to get therapists, RTLB Maori, Children Young Persons and their Families Service (CYFS) personnel and RTLit to name a few.
Many respondents were dismayed at the difficulty in getting support/intervention for students with learning disabilities as so much of the finite resourcing, such as SEG and RTLB time, was taken up by intervention for students with behaviour issues.
The following services were also mentioned as being in short supply.RTLit’s
Mental health assessment
Maths recovery programmes
Counselling and social skills programmes
Programmes for students with Aspergers and Autism
Ramps for classes
Statements that reflect these “Question 2 Issues” as schools see them
“At this point in time we are extremely inadequately serviced by outside agencies. Their performance levels are low. Case loads are far too heavy. Twice the number of staff in GSE would help. RTLB are not delivering.”
“I have a student who has ten hours a week. This is hardly enough for her needs in the classroom. This is the same for other children in the school with high needs.”
‘Physiotherapist has to travel 119 km to get here…same with other therapists.”
“Children with severe learning disabilities do not get ORRS funding so the Special Education Grant (SEG) for our school is thousands short. In most of our classes we have students with special needs and related learning disabilities. We receive enough SEG to fund 1 teacher aide for the school. BUSY LADY!!”
“Now that units are no longer funded from the Ministry our equipment is becoming run down and we get by on the generosity of the BOT and the PTA.”
“Behavioural issues with some children are a continuing drain on resources and teachers/teacher aides. These seem to take a priority because of the effect it has on the classroom and the slow learners and extension children miss out as the teacher just can’t cover all.”
“The main issue is that students whose needs require more individual attention simply slip through he cracks without additional support as there is no time with the competing needs of 25-30 other students. Some simply do not cope with the Hurly Burly of a classroom or the pace/ level at which lessons are conducted.”
“Speech Language Therapists move students off their books too quickly due to high workload and cases”.
“Not enough staff to deal with problems. I have an elective mute who is under speech therapy but does not have consistent regular work done with him.”
“I don’t know what SEG covers anymore as I have not been able to get any help for students in my class for 3 years”.
“Present system totally inadequate –assessment procedures too lengthy-paperwork too bureaucratic “.
“Another concern I have was for a child I taught in 2002. His parents ended up paying for a great deal of the support they were advised he needed”.
“I have been teaching for over thirty years. For the last 8-10 years I have seen teachers struggling with increasingly difficult to manage children who require strategies and learning outcomes planned individually for them. Supposedly we have access to support services but do we really?”
What do you see the solutions to be?
Increased funding would need to be provided for access to resources, to provide programmes and assessments to meet identified student need across all areas including vision and hearing.
The majority of respondents felt that increased staffing of therapists, teacher aides and other support personnel such as counsellors and psychologists was paramount, providing readily available help to students and meeting identified student needs. These personnel need to be readily available to students and teachers in rural areas.
Many felt that the reinstatement and employment of special needs teachers and increased special needs and learning support classes being made available, would be extremely helpful in assisting with students with very high needs. It was felt that it would be appropriate to centrally fund these staff.
To improve the retention of New Zealand trained staff and provide adequate staffing levels to meet student need, it is important to provide increased funding for wages and an improvement in conditions in the areas of professional support SLT, ITOD, teachers of the visually impaired, Physio, psych etc. Caseloads need to be realistic.
To make sure that students with very high and high needs receive the level of education they deserve, the ORRS threshold of verification should be raised to 2% of the population at school or in early childhood. This verification should not be open to constant review. Help should be provided to teachers in filling in applications.
There was support for the increase of RTLB and RTLit.
It was felt that there should be transparent criteria for all resourcing applications including Enhanced Programme Fund (EPF) and as with ORRS, help to fill in applications should be supplied.
Training of teachers at Colleges of Education in special needs, IEP, strategies for behaviour and English as a Second Language (ESOL) is necessary to equip young teachers for classroom practise, instead of being left to learn on the job.
It was felt that all teachers needed ongoing Professional Development (PD) in the area of providing special needs students with a quality education that meets their individual needs including the IEP process.
It is necessary to keep a wide range of education settings and a wide range of services for students with special needs.
82% of respondents felt that the SEG should be targeted to students with moderate needs, thus increasing the coverage for students in this category of need.
The following were also mentioned as ways to improve the current system -
Set testing and monitoring at an early age.
Smaller class sizes
A brokerage system to allocate appropriate interventions and services
Someone with medical know how available for correct diagnosis
School/cluster self management of all SE funds
Less waste in middle management of special education
Aim funding where the problems are don’t wait too long to solve obvious problems.
Special Schools to remain fundholders for their students
Funding specific to helping mainstreamed students
Make social skills programmes available by qualified psychologists
Include parents in decision making
Fair and equitable funding not decile based
Consistency of foster and hostel care for students in this situation.
Statements that reflect these “Question 3 Issues” as schools see them
“More money put aside for earlier assessments so the children don’t wait so long for help and more children could be helped where it is needed. Units are good because the children don’t always fit into a classroom situation”.
“We don’t just need advice but hands on practical support with specialist interventions”.
“More hours allocated to GSE to use and more support workers to be placed in centres when children are first identified. Early support does not happen”.
“Give more funding to the children needing assistance. Stop cutting funding down without discussing these needs with the teachers, parents and other support people”.
“Smaller classes with extra staffing to meet high needs: More special schools: More TA’s and a better pay scale to attract this as a career option.”
“Well resourced means putting in well trained support teachers for children with behaviour issues/ emotional issue.”
“Our SEG is used to fund TA. They are crucial in our school but have no job security as hours are dependent on funding. How about TAs being properly trained with salaries paid by the MOE and schools staffed with TAs on a similar basis to teachers.”
“Special needs units are a must within schooling system; this means all individual needs are met with quality assistance.”
“I feel very strongly that the parents of special needs children should have the choice of mainstreaming (with full support) or units for their children, wherever the child’s needs can be met”.
Is your school adequately funded for your students special education needs?
Adequate Funding.......Inadequate Funding
Is your school adequately funded in terms of ORRS students?
Adequate ORRS.......Inadequate ORRS
Does the SEG cover your Special Education needs?
Adequate SEG.......Inadequate SEG
How much more percentage wise, do you think the SEG would need to be raised by to cover the demand for programmes or resources? (This is considering that 97% felt that SEG was inadequate.)
50% increase.......100% increase.......200% increase.......More than 200% increase
On a scale of 1-5 how important are the retention of the following?
(1 is not important, 5 is very important)
Special Education units
We are often told from Ministry of Education sources that Auckland is the only area of the country with support for special needs units. However the survey showed only a 3% difference between Auckland and national figures in the choice of units as a very high priority for the education of students with special needs.
At the same time, well resourced mainstreaming has a higher support in West Auckland than Nationwide as do special schools.
Would you support the SEG being targeted to students on the same basis as ESOL funding is now, with an easy set of criteria covering literacy, numeracy and behavioural issues, to assess students against their age level group?
Yes 84% / No 16%
Most respondents would like to see the SEG targeted so that they are able to provide resourcing for special needs students as they arrive at their school and know that there is a certain level of security in this funding. Nearly all respondents, either for or against this option, felt that SEG was not working in its present state.
(For more background to the survey see the 18 October media release on http://www.qpec.org.nz )