A report highlighting the barriers children with disabilities can face at school shows the urgent need to increase funding for inclusion in schools and professional training of teachers and teacher aides, NZEI Te Riu Roa says.
YouthLaw Aotearoa this week released Barriers to Education in New Zealand: The Rise of Informal Removals of Students in New Zealand, which claimed that students with special education needs were “grossly over-represented” among those children who are informally removed, or excluded from schools.
“Every child has the right to access to the best education possible, and there is no excuse for children to be excluded from school, informally or formally, because of their disabilities,” NZEI president Louise Green said.
“YouthLaw’s report has raised the same concerns NZEI has been raising for some time, including a lack of guidance for schools in how to ensure children with disabilities can thrive, a lack of initial teacher education and ongoing professional development for educators, and the need for both better funding and greater funding support.
“A sensible solution would be to provide each school with a dedicated special needs coordinator, or SENCO, to help identify children who need additional support and ensure that educators are capable of providing it, and that the funding is there to back that up.
“In addition, teacher aides should be provided with specialist training so they know how to give children the support they need, and new teachers should given much more initial teacher education in how to teach children with complex and special needs.
“It’s one thing to say that education should be inclusive of all learners; it’s another thing to fund schools, and train educators, so they are equipped to meet every child’s needs,” Ms Green said.