Disabled pupils miss out

By Gary Hamilton-Irvine


Rotorua principals and a local mother have hit out against a lack of funding for children with disabilities.

Rotorua's Paula Sutton, a mother of three, is trying to gain teacher aide funding for her 11-year-old son, who was born with a rare condition affecting his skull.

He received major surgery as a baby and now struggles to concentrate in school, suffering from a short attention span.

His family applied for teacher aide funding through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) in Year 2 but were declined and he is now well behind at school.

Mrs Sutton said it was heart breaking to see him struggling without the proper help.

"A teacher aide would make a huge difference for him.

"We have trialled it a little bit with someone going and sitting there with him [in class] and we were getting some progress," she said.

"But unless you pay for it yourself there is no funding."

Mrs Sutton said it seemed there was nothing for children in the mid-range of special needs.

"It's very scary for him. He has said to me 'how am I going to go to JPC [John Paul College] next year without a teacher aide?'."

The Ministry of Education said it received 1934 applications for ORS funding, which includes teacher aide support, between January 2012 and May 2013.

Ministry of Education regional operations deputy secretary Katrina Casey said of those applications 1311 were successful - about 68 per cent.

She said successful applicants would receive special funding until they were 21, or until they left school.

However, Rotorua Principals Association president Lorraine Taylor said many schools did not go through the long application process for ORS funding because they knew students were not eligible.

Mrs Taylor said unless you were at the extreme end of a disability you would be discouraged to apply for ORS funding or would simply be declined.

Sadly, she said, there was next to nothing for children with mid-range disabilities where funding was desperately needed.

John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said, to his knowledge, about 1 per cent of students with special needs received ORS funding.

He said the other 99 per cent had to rely on support from other funding sources, like special education grants.

"That is so manifestly inadequate we would be doing a disservice to students with special needs if we relied on that solely," he said.

He said the Ministry of Education needed to extend the funding criteria for students with high needs, especially for those students in the mid-range of special needs.

"I think it is an absolute disgrace that this is our priority, learners and the Ministry say they need to be supported ... but there is nothing to support them," he said. "We are currently having to use secondary income to provide support for our students with disabilities."

There are currently no reviews being held by the Ministry of Education to change or extend special needs funding.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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