Petition to keep special needs units open delivered

By Kate Shuttleworth

Photo / Kate Shuttleworth
Photo / Kate Shuttleworth

Parents of children at special needs units in Auckland and Wellington delivered a petition to Parliament today calling for the Government to keep special needs units in mainstream schools open.

Children with special needs delivered the 12,600 signatures to Green MPs Mojo Mathers and Catherine Delahunty, Labour MP Chris Hipkins and New Zealand First MP Barbara Stewart.

The petition calls on the Government to reconsider the way it funds teachers in special needs units, which would allow children with special needs to remain in them.

It also calls on the Government to increase individual funding for children with special needs through the Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS), allowing schools to be able to afford to pay a teacher in its special needs unit.

Parents' spokesman Meredydd Barrar said four special needs units in Auckland and one in Wellington faced closure.

'It's all on a very ad hoc basis and schools don't know if they can maintain their units from one year to the next."

The Government had not said it would close down special needs units but had stripped them of their teachers.

The Ministry of Education was not immediately available to say whether any units had closed.

The Ministry of Education has restructured school clusters that specialist learning and behaviour teachers work in, requiring them to work in other schools in that cluster.

Special needs units with teachers allocated to them have been told if they want to remain open they have to fund the teachers themselves.

Jesse Rivers, 7, who has Down syndrome and autism, will be forced from his special needs classroom at Fernlea in Wainuiomata.

His mother Rhonda Rivers said he would either have to be mainstreamed at Fernlea or go to another school.

Fernlea principal Walter Gordon said the ministry was not actively supporting children in units.

Fernlea school has three children with special needs in its unit.

Dorothy Stewart has had two children who have attended Ranui Primary School's special needs unit. She said it would be impossible for her son Adon to attend a mainstream school.

"How can a child who is physically 13 but mentally 6 be taught algebra, when they are only learning their two times tables. They get picked on, it doesn't work.

Green's disability spokeswoman Mojo Mathers said she attended a special needs unit in a mainstream school as a child.

"I want all of these children to have what I had, because it makes a difference. Funding needs to be needs based and not part of contestable funds so that every child gets the best start they deserve in life.

"Our prisons are too full of people with a hearing loss or with a learning disability. We have failed them as a society," she said.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 20 Apr 2014 15:52:01 Processing Time: 1024ms