An Education Review Office report released yesterday revealed that New Zealand schools are becoming more inclusive. The findings have been welcomed by the sector however some groups say more funding is needed to support students with special needs, so that all schools can become fully inclusive.
The report,Inclusive practices for students with special needs in schools, found that 78 per cent of schools in 2014 were found to be mostly inclusive, up from 50 per cent in the previous ERO report on inclusiveness in 2010.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said schools could be proud of the progress they’ve made.
However primary teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa says inclusiveness is not the same as having adequate funding to meet children’s needs.
NZEI National Executive member Lynda Stuart said approximately three per cent of students have high special education needs but funding is rationed to just one per cent.
“That means that 20,000 children miss out on assistance,” she said.
“It is great to see that ERO has noted a significant increase in inclusive practices, but it is very hard for teachers to meet the needs of every child without the necessary support, whether it be funding or specialist personnel,” said Stuart.
CCS Disability Action chief executive David Matthews agreed.
“A lack of funding is a reoccurring issue and so is difficulty accessing support from the Ministry of Education. While more funding is not always the answer, all students should be getting the support they need to thrive at school. If this is not happening then we need to look deeper at our funding and support systems,” said Matthews.
Denise Torrey, president of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation says while good progress is being made, more funding is needed for 100 per cent of schools to be fully inclusive.
“What we must continue to do now is keep pushing for more special education funding and support in our schools because 100 per cent of children with special needs deserve the best education we can offer them,” said Torrey.
Torrey said funding needs to linked with real need, and not some arbitrary measure.
IHC New Zealand agrees we need 100 per cent inclusiveness in schools and said the ERO report shows that half of schools are not promoting or monitoring achievement for children with disabilities.
IHC currently has a case before the Human Rights Review Tribunal about the failure of government to ensure inclusive education for all children in New Zealand. In preparing for this action, IHC has surveyed a large number of families, teachers and other education workers.
“We know that many disabled children just aren’t welcome at their local school,” says IHC Director of Advocacy, Trish Grant. “Where children are accepted on the roll, many are being sent home for part of the day because a teacher’s aide is unavailable. The children also often miss out on activities like swimming, sport, camp, after school programmes or even just project work within the class.”
Minister Parata acknowledged that more needed to be done.
“We know there is still more work to do. There are schools that are absolute exemplars for their colleagues. I look forward to the day when all schools are confident that they offer the best,” she said.