Hide: Annual Conference of the Special Schools Principals
11 November, 2011
Annual Conference of the Special Schools Principals’ Association (SEPANZ)
Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.
I am sure that you have all found the conference informative and will be putting a few things in your back pocket to take away and incorporate into your work.
Just over a year ago, I stood before you, new to the role of Associate Education Minister, and still learning what makes the special education sector tick.
And now I know the answer: it is people like you, who everyday make a difference for students with special education needs, their parents and communities.
Thank you for the work you do, and for the work you will continue to do in the future.
It’s also now a year since the launch of Success for All – Every School, Every Child.
Success for All – Every School, Every Child sets out Government’s vision for an inclusive education system.
An education system where all schools are open and welcoming to all students.
An education system where students with special education needs can successfully enrol, participate and achieve in the academic, extracurricular, and social life of their school.
An education system of confident schools, confident children and confident parents.
If all students can participate and achieve at school, then their community benefits. And if we can improve our local communities, our larger society is better for it.
Success for All – Every School, Every Child has set out changes to make this happen. These changes have already begun and will ensure every child can learn and succeed wherever they go to school.
We are building on what is working well. For example by supporting and encouraging special schools as part of the Outreach Service.
We have also identified areas where we know that we can do better. For example, we know that good transitions make a difference. We have developed best practice guidelines for schools to use and we will continue to look for ways to improve transitions for students from school.
In 2009, ERO found that 50 percent of schools were doing a good job of including students with special education needs. This is not good enough.
I have set a target for schools to improve their performance. By the end of 2014 we expect 80 percent of schools to be doing a good job of including students with special education needs – with the rest well on their way.
In order to achieve this target, we need to change more than what we do. We also need to change the way that we think about special education.
Special education must be seen as a support for students, and not a destination. The destination for all students must be success.
We need to stop thinking about special schools and regular schools as separate and start thinking about education as a network – interacting parts acting together as a whole.
I note that the theme for this year’s conference is Communicate with Me and I think that is really appropriate. Education requires communication: between students and teachers; between teachers and parents; and between the Ministry and schools.
And it is through such communication that we ensure that the education system is inclusive of all.
We need everyone in the system to work together to achieve the vision of Success for All – Every School, Every Child
Communication is a huge part of Success for All – Every School, Every Child, which is the result of the Ministry listening to the views of the education sector during the Review of Special Education.
For example, during the Review many families and schools told us that the uncertainty of ongoing funding for students enrolled in the Reviewable Resourcing Scheme was stressful.
We have now removed that uncertainty, and transferred all these students to the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme so that parents and schools can have greater certainty about ongoing funding.
We were also told that for some people the application process for ORS was too complicated.
In 2011, we introduced a streamlined application process for students with very high and ‘obvious’ needs. This change is expected to benefit around 100-200 students per year.
One of the exciting features of Success for All – Every School, Every Child is a re-focused specialist teacher outreach service.
We are looking at ways to better support and encourage special schools to provide specialist teacher services to ORS funded students in regular schools.
This means more students with special education needs will be able to receive specialist teaching in their local school.
The outreach service is a partnership model between schools with expertise in providing for very high/high needs students (such as special schools), Special Education and the student’s enrolling school.
From 2012, there will be an updated guideline and I know that some of you have worked closely with the Ministry to develop these. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Outreach Service working group for your time, knowledge and enthusiasm.
I know that the Ministry appreciates your contribution and I am sure your involvement will make the Outreach Service stronger and more successful.
The Outreach Service will not only support students with high needs, but also make your skills available to a wider pool of teachers and students.
Another initiative that I recently had the pleasure of launching is the revised guidelines for individual education planning - Collaboration for Success.
We know – and the research is clear – that students with special education needs – in fact all students – make progress when those who know them best plan and work together.
The individual education planning process is one such opportunity.
Collaboration for Success is clear about the importance of partnerships – the need for everyone who knows the student well to work together. It affirms the crucial roles of students, parents and whānau.
The guidelines also remind us that every student is an active and capable learner.
Now, more than ever before, we’re listening to students. We expect students to have a say in setting their learning goals. We encourage them to assess their own work; recognise when they are successful; and pin-point where they need help.
And for all this, good communication is key.
Before concluding, I’d like to remind you about the Special Education Study Awards and Scholarships offered each year for many of our specialist roles.
Each year, the Ministry supports some 200 individuals with their training in any one of a number of specialist areas.
Applications for 2012 have recently closed but you should keep an eye on the Ministry’s website for details of future awards and scholarships.
Success for All – Every School, Every Child represents a significant shift in the way we approach how we support parents and students with special education needs.
When the right services and support are in place at the right time, students, their families, and schools can have confidence in an inclusive education system.
In the past, we have been all too keen to treat students with special education needs differently, denying them, and ourselves, of the gifts they have to offer.
New Zealandis a better place, and we are better people, when the most vulnerable among us are valued.
I’m proud of the work that has been done so far, and I’m happy to have played a part in this. I am aware there is still a lot of work to come.
I know that we can achieve a truly inclusive education system and I know that it will be worth the effort.