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Overcoming The Challenges In Special Education

Overcoming The Challenges In Special Education
Hon Heather Roy, Associate Minister Of Education
Friday, October 23 2009

Hon Heather Roy speech to launch the Curriculum Exemplars for Learners with Special Education Needs; Brentwood Hotel, 16 Kemp St, Kilbirnie, Wellington; Friday, October 23 2009.

Good morning ladies and gentleman, and thank you Margaret for your warm welcome. As Associate Minister of Education, it is a pleasure to be here today.

Together the Narrative Assessment: A Guide for Teachers and The New Zealand Curriculum Exemplars for Learners with Special Education Needs will support teachers to identify, broaden, and deepen understanding of what students can do; to develop effective teaching and learning programmes for all students; and to recognise and respond to their progress.

I would like to thank everybody who contributed to the development of these important resources. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the commitment and support of members of the Advisory Group since the project's inception in 2006.

I would also like to congratulate the innovation of the team of parents, teachers, and advisors, led by Missy Morton and Sue Molloy of the project team at UC Education Plus, based at the University of Canterbury.

Finally, I feel it is important to recognise the power of collaboration between schools, students, parents, teaching teams, and curriculum advisors in the development of the exemplars being showcased today.

The New Zealand Curriculum is for all students - irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, beliefs, ability or disability, social or cultural background, or geographical location. The key competencies, learning areas, and effective pedagogies form the framework and context for all assessment practices.

There is currently a small group of students with such significant learning disabilities that they are likely to learn long-term within level one of the New Zealand Curriculum. There has been a shortage of assessment resources for this group of students that enable ongoing learning. Many of you have, I know, worked for a number of years to tackle this shortage.

The Narrative Assessment Guide and Curriculum Exemplars being launched today address this gap in assessment resources for students with very significant learning disabilities. These resources can be used by teachers to focus on what students' learning looks like when opportunities are maximised, and possible learning pathways within the New Zealand Curriculum are identified.

I frequently say that education is not ‘one size fits all' and these students are no exception: every one of these students has unique strengths and needs. They require individualised, carefully-tailored teaching and learning programmes that use assessment activities to inform the next steps. With the right support, students frequently exceed expectations and surprise everyone with their progress and achievements.

Those who know the student best must work together to support them through the Individual Education Programme (IEP) process. Many people - school teams, students, peers, family, whanau and community - can, and do, contribute to this assessment information as demonstrated in the curriculum exemplars being released today.

The IEP process allows parents and teachers to assess the fine-grained progress of students with the highest learning disabilities against National Standards. Meanwhile, Boards of Trustees will continue to report on this small group of students separately through their charters and annual reports.

Great teachers use a range of assessment approaches, drawing on multiple sources of evidence as they plan and provide teaching and learning programmes. I've heard about some of the assessment resources that many schools have developed and adapted, and I know some have been involved in developing the resources showcased today.

I have been Minister responsible for Special Education since March. I know I'm not telling you anything you don't already know when I say that special education is an area filled with challenges and at the same time is an area of great rewards.

Despite these challenges, I am always impressed by the commitment of those who work in the area. I am equally impressed by the commitment of many in the wider education sector. They might not have ‘special education' in their job title or job description, but they are motivated to do the best for all students.

A seismic shift has taken place in special education. Children with special education needs are no longer isolated and tucked away from their communities. Slowly, but surely, we are making progress. We're recognising that all of our children and young people belong to local communities, and that the education environment has to fit the child and their community - not the other way around.

But there is still much more to be done. That's why the Government is currently reviewing how special education operates in New Zealand.

We need to know what works in special education. The Special Education Review is an opportunity to look at whether the money in the system is being spent wisely. This is an opportunity to explore what works best, and to make decisions for the future based on research and evidence.

The Review of Special Education is underpinned by the following principles:

• Reaching potential.
• Fair and consistent access to resources and services.
• Value for money.
• The right to high quality education and professional services.
• Choice.
• Parental involvement, and shared responsibility for working for the best outcomes.

Some students with special education needs achieve great outcomes. The challenge is now to ensure that more students achieve in this way. How do we develop policy, practice, programmes and schools that add value to the work of committed teachers, practitioners and principals?

It is these challenges that we seek to address and overcome through the Review of Special Education. The Terms of Reference for the Review were announced in September this year and the issues being examined include:

• access to schooling.
• access to the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme (ORRS).
• accountability and making best use of resources.

I signalled that a discussion document covering the issues identified in Phase One of the Review would be available for feedback in late November. The Education sector has indicated, however, that this is not ideal timing as it will clash with busy end-of-year activities and the summer break.

As I want the education sector to give careful consideration to the issues and options within the document, I have decided to delay its release until the start of the 2010 school year. This deferral will not impact on the scope of the review. Schools and others who wish to respond to the document will have at least six weeks at the start of 2010 to consider it and make a submission and I still expect to be able to conclude the review by July 2010.
This decision will not compromise the Government's commitment to provide more students with additional support through the extension of the ORRS scheme. In 2010 an interim approach will be used to allocate funding and resources, while the Special Education Review will inform the full roll-out in 2011. I will provide further details to the approach for 2010 in the near future.

With the future in mind, I would now like to formally open the curriculum exemplar website - This website has been thoughtfully designed to be accessible to people with a range of abilities and disabilities. For example: I see that there are text transcripts of all video clips, and options for using either the mouse or keyboard for navigation.

Again, I would like to commend the project and development teams on developing these important resources. The curriculum exemplars of assessment and learning are set in a range of school settings to cater for all students. They are also set in all eight learning areas of the New Zealand Curriculum.
The Exemplar Wheel - developed by the project team with the student at the centre and surrounded by the key competencies, learning areas, and effective pedagogies of the New Zealand Curriculum –is a great tool and highlights the importance of putting the student first.

Finally, I'd like to present copies of the Narrative Assessment Guide to members of the project and development team. I look forward to seeing the results of your work through the progress and achievement of students with special education needs.


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