A successful campaign against a failure to include parents in an overhaul of the special education system has seen an extra 33 meetings held around the country.

One of the petition organisers says being heard has left some parents more hopeful about future changes, or at the very least grateful "for the acknowledgement we exist".

Parents with children who have high needs began the campaign in June, after the Ministry of Education launched its update of special education.

Officials held meetings with more than 2200 people around the country as part of the consultation process. However, of those, only 183 were parents, who feel they have been deliberately excluded.


One mum, Glenis Bearsley, told the Herald she only heard about it because she was a teacher and managed to sneak in the "back door".

"They're not including us, they're alienating us. But yet they say we need to work together."

At the same time, a Herald investigation into special education found the demand for services is exceeding what's available, with some parents pushed to paying for their own teacher aides or resorting to homeschooling over safety fears.

The system was fragmented and over-complicated, with many parents struggling to get access to support for their kids.

As the petition gained speed, the Ministry of Education agreed to have more forums. Dozens of parents then contacted their local education office to ask for the meetings to be set up.

The Ministry of Education's Katrina Casey, head of sector enablement and support, said it also circulated invitations to parent and others through schools and early childhood centres and through education sector bulletins.

Thirty three additional forums were held around the country. By the halfway mark late last month, around 250 extra people had attended.

"The bottom line is that we are interested in hearing from anyone at any time who wants to discuss how they think improvements can be made," Ms Kasey said.


"No decisions have been made yet about what improvements will be made to the special education system."

Whanganui mum Sue Kenny, who helped organise the petition, said she felt the meetings had helped.

"Some parents would think it's just ticking the boxes. Where I am locally I thought they were a lot more responsive that at the one I attended as a teacher. I thought they listened to us better," she said.

Mrs Kenny said the reaction to the forums was a mixed bag, and while some were positive, others were sceptical.

"At the very least it was acknowledgment that we existed."

The aim of the update is for children and young people who need extra support to be able to progress and achieve to their full potential - throughout their education.

It will look at the whole education system including our responsibilities - from early childhood, through primary, secondary and tertiary education.

Last month Parliament's Education and Science Committee announced it will also examine the experience of thousands of students with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders as they progress through school.

The inquiry was announced after a briefing from the Ministry of Education and a request from the Green Party.