Half of NZ schools failing special needs kids - Hide

By Derek Cheng

Rodney Hide. Photo / The Daily Post
Rodney Hide. Photo / The Daily Post

Half of all schools are catering well for special education students, but the other half is failing them, a Government review into special education has found.

Associate Education Minister Rodney Hide, in his first announcement since taking over the portfolio from his ousted caucus colleague Heather Roy, today released the review during a visit to Cornwall Park School in Auckland.

The review, called Success for All - Every School, Every Child, has endorsed the current system, which puts students with special education needs into special schools, special school satellites and regular schools with special units, depending on their needs.

But special schools will be encouraged to provide an out-reach service to help support students with high needs in mainstream schools.

Mr Hide said the problem in the sector was not one of under-resourcing but of attitude. Too many schools turned away children with special needs or did not include them in regular school activities because of prejudices.

"Half our schools aren't providing for kids with disabilities, it's shocking really ... and largely [the difference] is one of attitude.

"My job between now and the next election is to show in a positive way what is possible with these kids, and that we shouldn't have a prejudice against them in terms of what they can achieve and their impact on other students. Their impact is overwhelmingly positive."

He said wealthier schools often turned away special needs students because they were in demand and had more choice in who to enrol.

"We're expect state schools to be more accommodating. We don't expect a state school to say to a child, 'we don't think you'll fit in our child'," Mr Hide said.

Special education students can have a physical, learning, hearing or vision disability. They are identified - though some problems including behavioural ones or dyslexia can be hard to detect - and then a programme is worked out that suits the family.

An Education Review Office report from June showed that half of all schools had inclusive practices for high needs special education students. But 30 per cent only had pockets of good practices, and one in five had very few.

The Government wants 80 per cent of schools to be fully inclusive of students with special needs by 2014, with the remaining 20 per cent on the way.

It has allocated an additional $69 million over four years to special education initiatives in the past two budgets.

Eleven hundred more children will get support from the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS), and a further 1,000 will be able to get specialist support in their first three years of school.

Special schools will be encouraged to provide an outreach service to provide specialist teacher support to children in mainstream settings.

"There will be more focus on teaching children with special education needs in initial teacher education," Mr Hide said.

He said the "horses for courses" approach would remain.

"It seems for some kids, a specialist school is best. It might be that they are so severely handicapped or have behavioural problems. For some kids a satellite school works because they don't have to travel so far, and for some kids they can go into a mainstream class and have specialist teachers who help."

The Government spends about $460 million a year on special education, which caters for up to 100,000 students with moderate to very high special education needs.

- NZ Herald

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