In the lead up to International Day of Persons with Disabilities this Friday, NZEI Te Riu Roa is shedding light on the under-resourcing of the learning support sector by encouraging educators to sign up to their campaign, Ngā Aukaha All in for Tamariki.
“Currently, many tamariki are missing out on the support they need due to severe underfunding and extremely long wait times for support services. This puts additional pressure on educators in schools and classrooms,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa President Liam Rutherford.
On average, one third of Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS) applications are rejected, Rutherford points out.
“With regards to ORS funding, what we are hearing from educators and parents is how the criteria is very narrow and applications for this much needed support take an extremely long time.”
Primary teacher and parent, Margie Askin-Jarden says, “I cannot fathom how an inclusive education system excludes some children from accessing what they need because their needs may fall outside current criteria for service. I cannot fathom why some disabilities attract support where others do not.
“Neither of my boys are on track to leave high school with any NCEA qualifications. Learning support has not been flexible or responsive enough along the way to be able to provide their schools with anything other than well-meaning advice.”
The aim of the Ngā Aukaha All in for Tamariki campaign is to ensure each child in Aotearoa feels connected, supported, and valued at school or in their early childhood education.
The campaign demands include:
- Funding a dedicated Learning Support Coordinator or SENCO in every school and early childhood centre
- Expand the ORS criteria and increase the funding available so that it is based on need, rather than a fixed amount of funding
- Increase dedicated teacher aide funding in early childhood centres and schools. (Currently, just two thirds of teacher aide hours are funded by Ministry of Education learning support).
- Increase the number of specialists (e.g. psychologists, physiotherapists and resource teachers) to meet student need.
- Develop and provide greater professional development (including career pathways) and specialist opportunities for educators to develop their understanding of learning support, including Initial Teacher Education.