The new National Party decision to spend an additional funding for special needs students is welcomed by teachers but falls far short of meeting the actual needs that are there.
A lack of appropriate consultation
By Peter Corlett
After considering the announced $359 Million IES (Investing in Educational Success) proposal announced by the Prime Minister, the teachers at local primary schools overwhelmingly voted to reject further engagement with what they say has been a very flawed process.
Of concern was the lack of proper consultation with the sector over what would be required to implement such a policy. Even although the teachers’ professional body, NZEI (New Zealand Educational Institute) , attempted to engage through participation in the working group that followed the IES announcement, it became clear that the process did not allow any significant change other than job titles, to what had already been announced.
Protesting about the flaws in the IES
Friday 5th September saw over 60 local teachers, principals and parents gathered outside National MP Nathan Guy’s office to declare their concern that the IES would do nothing to help children with difficulties in schools.
While they welcomed the focus on the education and additional funding, they expressed a view that the $359 million should be spent in a way that would directly benefit children. Their preference was that some of the $359 million should be used for assisting special needs children through providing adequate resourcing and for additional teacher aides in classrooms.
Put more emphasis on children with special needs
Around 3% of NZ children have high level special educational needs, but only about 1% receive ORS (Ongoing Resourcing Scheme) funding, so schools are forced to use the operating grant to try and meet those needs.
The new National Party decision to spend an additional funding for special needs students is welcomed by teachers but falls far short of meeting the actual needs that are there. For one local school last year the sum of over $30,000 was spent for teacher aides to enable high needs children to remain at the school since the funded hours provided through the special needs budget were inadequate. The result was the $30,000 was unavailable to meet the resourcing needs of the other students.
The government has finally acknowledged that they have underfunded special education during their time in government. The message from primary teachers to the government was Spend it on the kids.
Who’s playing politics?
While the government claims that NZEI’s stance is playing politics with education, it appears that the too little too late decision to put more money into special education of our most vulnerable students weeks before an election is indeed “playing politics with education”.
It is notable that the promise to put $72 million extra into special education over four years, isn’t as positive as it looks. The funding includes $10 million a year in new funding, but $8 million a year is in fact re-prioritised from within Vote Education, meaning cuts in other areas.says local NZEI branch president Peter Corlett,
Nor would the new funding result in additional jobs. The policy may not necessarily mean significantly more teacher aides will be employed in schools, but rather there will likely an increase in the number of working hours for the existing 15,000 teacher aides.
Holding signs declaring their concerns, the crowd received many toots of support from passing motorists.