Stephanie is a senior reporter for the Rotorua Daily Post.

Learning support pilot for Waiariki-Bay of Plenty

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Rotorua Principal's Association president and Ngakuru School principal Grant Henderson.
Rotorua Principal's Association president and Ngakuru School principal Grant Henderson.

A new service to improve the way families access learning support for children with special education needs will be piloted in the Waiariki-Bay of Plenty region.

The pilot was announced by Education Minister Hekia Parata today at the Special Education Principals Association New Zealand conference in Wellington.

It involves a new "service delivery model" that will provide a single point of access to liaise with families and schools, through an 0800 number, email or online tool, and help them get the support they need promptly.

Rotorua Principals' Association president and Ngakuru School principal Grant Henderson said the announcement was exciting, but more details were needed.

"At the moment, parents are somewhat disenfranchised from the process until they find out whether they are getting funding or not.

"If this pilot means families will have a place they can go that will theoretically lead them to support systems, then that will be great."

Mr Henderson said if the pilot enabled parents to be more actively involved in the process of getting extra support, then that was a good thing.

"The truth will be in the detail but at this stage it does sound exciting if it helps our young people more."

He said Rotorua had a history of being chosen for pilot programmes due to its diverse cultural and educational aspects.

"To be chosen for this pilot says a lot of good things about our area and it will be interesting how it pans out."

Local director of education Ezra Schuster said consultation last year showed families found the current system "too complex to navigate".

"The pilot will also include local learning support teams to triage services. Learning support plans will be developed in collaboration with schools and families and a lead practitioner will be assigned to each child accessing learning support for the first time to ensure support plans are delivered and reviewed.

"Waiariki-Bay of Plenty Communities of Learning have identified learning support as a focus to help them address existing achievement challenges. This will include better collaboration between schools," Mr Schuster said.

"About 80 per cent of the region's schools are now in Communities of Learning and this will make it much easier for schools to work together to ensure children get the right services. It will also make it easier to ensure that when children move schools, their development plans move with them."

The pilot, starting at the beginning of 2017, will test, measure and evaluate the changes before it is implemented nationally later next year.

"Our intention is a world-class inclusive education system that places progress and success for every child and young person at the heart of teaching and learning," Ms Parata said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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