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National Education policy not so special

Inclusive Education Action Group

14 October 2009

National Education policy not so special

The Inclusive Education Action Group (IEAG) is appalled that the National Party, if elected, will turn back the clock for disabled students by promoting segregation in special schools.

National says that it will drop what it describes as "Labour's ideological emphasis on mainstreaming", and will expand special schools and encourage special school satellite classes.

National shows a blatant disregard for the research that clearly shows segregated special schools and classes disadvantage disabled students both academically and socially, and fail to prepare them for adult life in the community. It is time to put an end to segregation in education, and bring the small number of disabled students still remaining in segregated schools into their community schools where they belong.

National's use of the long outmoded term "mainstreaming" reflects a very poor understanding of developments in education for disabled students where the focus is now on inclusive education. Inclusive schools are ordinary neighbourhood schools that welcome all children, and teachers in inclusive schools are given the support they need to teach all children well. Disabled children who attend inclusive schools are better educated, have friends, are well known in their community, and are better prepared to participate and contribute as adult members of society.

National's characterisation of "mainstreaming" as a Labour Party ideological fad and as a reduction in choice is insulting to the numerous schools, students, families, researchers, and advocacy groups who have worked hard for years to build an inclusive education system that supports the right of all children and young people to learn together and to learn well.

National appears to have already forgotten about the recently ratified UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which commits New Zealand to developing an inclusive education system at all levels so that students with disabilities receive support within the general education system.

National's policy also undermines the NZ Disability Strategy which promotes appropriate and effective inclusive educational settings as a foundation for reaching its goal of a fully inclusive society.

National's policy shows that the party is completely out of touch with developments in the area of education and disability. Its time for those who are looking backwards and advocating for segregation to step aside, and allow those who are looking forward to continue working towards an inclusive education system that benefits all students.


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