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Facilitation week starts with a bang

A rollout of new learning support coordinators in 2020 is the first outcome we’re hearing about as teachers and politicians sit down to mediate, hoping to avoid further strikes. 

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would fully fund 600 Learning Support Coordinator positions in 2020 – a big win for children and a big win for teachers and principals.

Having a funded Learning Support Coordinator (also known as a Special Education Needs Coordinator or SENCO) position in every school has been a core claim in the NZEI Te Riu Roa It’s Time Kua Tae Te Wā campaign for collective agreement negotiations.

Lynda Stuart

NZEI President Lynda Stuart says the need for more support for children with additional learning needs has never been greater.

“This announcement signals a positive start to the week of facilitation with the Ministry over primary teacher and principal collective agreements, because our claim for this role was an important one for members, as well as for kids and their families.

“It’s a constructive response from the government to the fact that the number of children with complex needs is growing while the Learning Support Coordinator/SENCO job is currently being done on top of or squeezed in around the day job of principals, deputy principals and classroom teachers.

“We also want to thank the principals and teachers in our collective agreement negotiation teams, member leaders and every member who has had conversations with their school communities to drive home the importance and urgency of this campaign,” she said.

“This announcement potentially enables schools to release highly capable people into these roles and improve inclusion for all students. Although the current teacher shortage will make finding an additional 600 teachers challenging, the creation of this role will help support teachers and school leaders and reduce their workload — so making the job of a teacher better supported and more appealing.

Despite the current teacher shortage, NZEI agrees with the Government’s position that the role must be filled by qualified teachers employed in and by schools. Those filling the roles need to be close to children and their whanauunderstand the process of teaching and learning and be able to build capability in other teachers and education staff.

Ms Stuart was also pleased that the need for professional learning and development was recognised and looked forward to involvement in the design and rollout of this. No doubt this will be raised during facilitation this week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern insists the $217 million investment will be a win/win for communities. 

“These coordinators will not only help unlock the potential of thousands of children with learning needs, they’ll free up teachers so all children get more quality classroom time to learn.

“A big concern I hear regularly from teachers is the amount of time they spend trying to get support for children with additional needs. The new Learning Support Coordinators are a win-win; kids with both high and moderate needs will get on-the-ground support, parents will have a specialised point of contact and teachers will have more time to teach.

“This $217 million investment over four years follows a major spending increase in Budget 2018, and brings the extra funding the Coalition Government has put into learning support to half a billion dollars. That is a huge investment in our first year into supporting both our kids and our teachers.

“One in five New Zealand children has a disability or other learning and behavioural needs and it’s been too hard, for too long, for them to get support at the right time. Learning support has been neglected for more than a decade.

“The Coalition Government has listened to the parents and students who’ve asked for more support, and teachers who have been calling for this new fully-funded role.

“Learning Support Coordinators will be key people at the heart of a new learning support model, developed by Associate Minister of Education Tracey Martin, through her draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan,” said Jacinda Ardern.

The announcement delivers on a number of the 26 recommendations from the Labour, New Zealand First and Green parties’ minority report to the Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism Inquiry in the last Parliament. It is also consistent with the Labour and Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Tracey Martin said today’s announcement would go a long way to delivering for those students with additional and diverse learning needs.

“The Government is progressing its plan to ensure every child with barriers to learning has access to the tools and professionals they need,” Tracey Martin said.

“For too long these students have been poorly served by an underfunded system. Our targeted investments, along with our work to streamline the support system, will reduce the issues parents and teachers face and lead to better student wellbeing.

“These coordinators will be a specialised point of contact for parents with someone who understands their child’s unique learning needs. They’ll also provide expert assistance for teachers.

“They will work alongside classroom teachers to ensure all students with needs – including disabilities, neurodiversity, behavioural issues and giftedness – get the support they should expect.

“We’ve been piloting and refining the new Learning Support Delivery Model in a number of places and regions and the goal is to have it ready to be rolled out across the country by the end of 2019.

“Funding for the coordinators will give parents, teachers and schools absolute certainty of our commitment as we work towards implementation.

“Feedback from public consultation, which has just closed, will inform what the final job description looks like and the appropriate ratios for both urban and rural schools. This will also inform the final number of coordinators.

“We are deliberately taking a two-phased approach to rolling out coordinators across all schools. We’ve inherited a significant teacher shortage and implementation of the new role in full from the beginning of 2020 would place huge pressure on the education workforce supply.

“Planning for the second phase will be worked through once this first tranche of coordinators is in place and a clearer picture of medium and long term workforce needs emerges.

“Today’s announcement is designed to allow schools as much time as possible to prepare for the new role,” Tracey Martin said.

Facilitation at the ERA is ongoing this week and began on Monday at 10:30am – the rolling strike is still proceeding.

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