Anna is a reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Pressure for special needs funding

Graeme Lind, chairman of Education Tauranga, visited special needs students at schools in Japan.
Graeme Lind, chairman of Education Tauranga, visited special needs students at schools in Japan.

Specific funding needs to be allocated for special needs co-ordinators in schools.

That's the view of Education Tauranga chairman Graeme Lind after returning from Japan, where he and Tauranga special needs co-ordinators visited special needs students.

Mr Lind visited four schools in Japan with co-ordinators from Oropi School, Greenpark School, Tauranga Boys' College and Pillans Point School.

"The first school was Hitachi Special School, which caters for students with both physical and emotional disabilities," he said.

The school had 131 students and 92 teachers.

"In Tauranga, we would be catering for all these students in the mainstream. The difference between New Zealand and this school that we noticed was in the ratio of trained teachers to the number of students, and the limited resources.

"In [Hitachi Special School] the focus is on trained staff working with the students, as opposed to technology and other resources.

"What we did see was lots of adults supporting students in music, life skills and physical activities."

Mr Lind said in New Zealand, funding for special needs co-ordinators was taken from the normal staffing entitlement.

Mr Lind suggested a school with a roll of 350 should be allocated a special needs co-ordinator, and that schools with a smaller roll should be staffed proportionally with higher roll numbers given more.

He said special needs education was "unfortunately an area of growth", and the 2016 Budget had not recognised "the importance of appropriate funding".

"I think it's still putting a Band-Aid on it and not really addressing our needs," he said.

The 2016 Budget allocated $42.1 million of operational funding to services for students with special needs over the next four years.

"The extra funding will extend the personalised Intensive Wraparound Service for students with complex behavioural and learning needs, enable more students to access the ongoing resourcing scheme, and increase teacher aide hours to support classroom teachers of students with high learning needs," said Education Minister Hekia Parata in a statement.

Ms Parata said additional funding for those students had increased 29 per cent since 2009.

"A strong education helps students become more independent and better able to participate in and contribute to the community," Ms Parata said.

Tauranga Boys' College special needs co-ordinator Rachelle Stratton, who attended the Japan trip, said there were similarities in the Japanese and New Zealand special needs student programmes but they did differ in class sizes.

"They had a lot smaller classes, sometimes only four students, and one-to-one assistance some of the time.

"They put a lot more resource into funding people instead of buildings."

She said the lack of technology used in some of the schools in Japan was interesting.

"There is a real push in New Zealand to find technology that can assist kids to communicate," Mrs Stratton said.

She said she would like to see an increase in teacher aide pay, "and training them up to give more kudos" to make it a "really valuable position".

"In Japan the teacher aides were trained professionals. It would be really neat to see that here."

Education funding:

* Vote Education will receive an additional $1.44 billion over the next five years. This includes: $640.5 million in operating funding over the next four years, $727.3 million in capital funding and $75.1 million in operating funding in 2015/16.

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