Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Fury over support changes

Lewis, Briana and Joanne Ineson. Photo / Doug Sherring
Lewis, Briana and Joanne Ineson. Photo / Doug Sherring

Schoolkids already struggling to keep up will be dealt another blow if a Government plan to merge two education programmes is signed off.

The Ministry of Education announced last month it wants to amalgamate the Supplementary Learning Support (SLS) programme with the Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) scheme next year.

Ministry special education group manager Brian Coffey said it was too early to say whether any teachers would lose their jobs.

Both programmes targeted those struggling at school, but SLS Teachers' Association president Marie Treloar said combining them was crazy.

"We do not have a problem with streamlining the services, but to demolish the integrity of the SLS service in my opinion is insane."

SLS, set up in 2003, involves trained teachers working alongside children with learning problems to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.

RTLB teachers worked for a set time, showing teachers how to help struggling pupils.

SLS teachers worked directly with pupils, as well as their teachers, until the student reached an agreed target, said Treloar.

The Herald on Sunday spoke to Treloar after she emailed the newspaper's columnist, former Act Party leader Rodney Hide.

Hide backed the Government's plans and said the SLS was always a "tack-on" policy.

"The test for the policy is what's best for the students. Putting the resources into the RTLB will provide better accountability and a better service for the students."

Coffey said a review of special education two years ago showed both programmes supported struggling pupils, but in a way that made it complicated for schools to know who to approach to get support.

"The amalgamation will bring together the two specialist teaching roles that are supporting students with learning and behaviour needs, rather than duplicating those systems across a cluster of schools."

The pupils previously in the SLS programme would still receive help that met their needs, said Coffey.

The programme would cater for more pupils and there would be more emphasis on working alongside teachers, speech-language therapists and families.

The proposal was not about saving money as the same funding remained available, he said.

Briana's success

Briana Ineson made great strides with the Supplementary Learning Support programme.

The 10-year-old Patumahoe girl had learning difficulties but did not qualify for extra help from the Ministry of Education.

For the past five years, she had two hours of one-on-one support each week.

The programme had been "absolutely brilliant" said mum Joanne Ineson as Briana has learned to speak properly, and her reading, writing and maths have improved.

- Herald on Sunday

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