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Special School cuts short-change students

27 August 2012 MEDIA STATEMENT

Special School cuts short-change students

National’s decision to close down half of the country’s Residential Special Schools is all about saving money at the cost of students who need these schools the most, Labour’s Special Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.

“Closing down half the Residential Special Schools will cost us in the long-run. We’re far better off investing in getting these kids back on track while they’re young rather than forking out to lock them up when they’re adults.

“I’m appalled that the Minister has made this decision without visiting these schools to see for herself how they operate. I have visited all four schools and I’m very open about the fact that my perspective has changed completely as a result.

“This is another class sizes-style decision where Hekia Parata focusses on costs not our children.

“The Ministry of Education’s discussion document made it very clear this is about saving money. According to that document it costs about $84,200 per year to educate a student at a residential school, whereas the new ‘wrap-around’ model the Minister speaks of costs $29,000 a year. These kids are getting short-changed,” Chris Hipkins says.

“Residential Special Schools support students with complex behavioural needs and/or intellectual disabilities. Through a residential placement these pupils learn valuable life skills that can equip them better to cope when they return home. It’s not about ‘institutionalisation’ it’s about intensive intervention to get kids back on track.

“For some families, Residential Special Schools provide desperately needed respite that allows them to order their family circumstances and deal with any dysfunction. Consistent and focused support on a 24/7 basis can be the key to successful behavioural change.

“Labour believes in an inclusive education system that meets the needs of every child. For the vast majority of kids, inclusion means attendance at their local school, supported where necessary with extra resources to ensure they can fully participate in all aspects of school life.

“But while we would love to see every child fully participating in mainstream classrooms, the reality is that some students need extra assistance. Labour believes that there is an on-going place for Residential Special Schools within the education system. One size does not fit all,” Chris Hipkins said.
ends

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