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Choice In Education For Disabled Children

3 April 2012

Choice In Education For Disabled Children Not A Reality

Finding suitable schooling for disabled children in New Zealand is not a level playing field for parents, according to new research from CCS Disability Action.

The Families Choices: Choosing Schools for Disabled Children research suggests that the choice of education for disabled children may in fact be an “illusion” for some parents.

The research reveals that for the majority, the process is emotionally stressful (60%), time-consuming (33%), financially draining (29%) and negatively impacts siblings (35%). Very often parents also have to enrol their children in distant schools (32%).

“In theory, a wide range of educational choices are available to parents of disabled children,” says CCS Disability Action Chief Executive David Matthews.

“However, based on this research we can’t ignore the fact that for many parents, there is limited choice for their children’s education and indeed, choice in education is nothing more than an illusion.”

The research explores education choices available to families who have applied for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, which provides support for students who have the highest need for support during their education.

The study found nearly half of the 217 respondents felt they have “not always had real choice” between schools. Almost a quarter of those who had not been able to enrol their children in the school of their choice reported an “unwelcoming” atmosphere, lack of special services and poor equipment and physical access.

The research revealed that when choosing a school, the most important factors are availability of necessary facilities to support the child’s learning needs (51%), school reputation (46%) and attitudes of principals (45%) and teachers (44%).

“A crucial factor in schooling decisions for many families is the attitude of the school principal and staff,” said Mr Matthews. “Yet we have many stories of families feeling unwelcome, even discriminated against due to lack of understanding and knowledge of disability and special needs.”

This issue also forces many families to choose to move children to different schools for reasons such as lack of teacher awareness of a child’s needs (27%), parents feeling disrespected (24%), poor attitudes of the principal (22%) and the teacher (21%).

The research also highlighted the significant barriers children with disabilities face including having a delayed start at school (38%) and being unable to realise their potential (36%).

Parents and caregivers have indicated that in order to improve the process of choosing schools for their children, they want better information and advice, more support and for the legal and funding issues to be addressed, said Mr. Matthews.

IHC claims that the education system is failing disabled pupils. With the support of the Human Rights Commission, IHC has bought a Human Rights Tribunal case against the Ministry of Education.

“This research adds further support to their case,” says Mr. Matthews.

“We are continually told that New Zealand has been committed for many years to inclusive education for disabled children. This research brings into question the strength of this commitment.”


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