Lack of investment in Special Education leaves schools to cope on their own

9 December 2015

Senior teachers have told Parliament’s enquiry into dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism that there is a growing number of students who are not getting educational needs met because of a lack of  investment in trained experts to support them.

Karori West School principal Janice Shramka and deputy principal Janice Jones told the Education and Science Select Committee that there are huge waiting lists for students with special needs and in many cases schools are left to cope with little or no support.

Speaking in support of the NZEI Te Riu Roa submission to the enquiry, the teachers told of situations in their own school where, in one case, a five year old boy with severe needs languished for six months on a wait list for a Speech Language Therapy because the Ministry of Education did not have enough staff.

They said it was only through the extreme pressure they put on the Ministry that the boy eventually got the help he needed by ” jumping the queue”.

In another case, they spoke about an 11 year old boy with severely disruptive behaviour, who despite strong advocacy from the school, has not yet had a single visit from an educational psychologist.

They said there was a serious need for more investment in trained experts, such as education psychologists and speech language therapists.

NZEI Te Riu Roa has also called for more recognition and investment in the role of the SENCO (Special Education Needs Co-ordinator) in schools.

“The role of a SENCO in a school is usually undertaken by a senior teacher and often they do not receive extra training or time to advocate on behalf of diverse learners,” said Janice Jones, Karori West deputy principal and SENCO.

“We also need more investment in secure, ongoing employment for teachers’ aides and Ministry-employed support workers.

"These people play a vital role in supporting schools but are low paid with insecure employment conditions."

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