Lukewarm response to learning support budget announcement

NZEI Te Riu Roa said that the Budget 2023 will need to unlock sufficient funding to address inequitable access, understaffing and unmet needs in learning support if proposed reforms are to succeed. 

After Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti released the Cabinet’s decisions on the Highest Needs Review at Berhampore School in Wellington, the school Principal and NZEI Te Riu Roa Vice President Mark Potter said that the government’s commitment to a bold overhaul of the current system was strongly welcomed given decades of underfunding, but this vision would only be achieved with a substantial boost to learning support in Budget 2023. 

“Throughout the year, teachers, specialist educators and whānau have been involved in the Ngā Aukaha learning support campaign. They have put the case to MPs to support the five clear solutions so that all tamariki can access the support they need to thrive.” 

“As Cabinet has noted, for every seven students who receive high needs supports there are around three who may be missing out. The direction announced today is promising, but we know that in order to achieve the system change the government and all of us are seeking, funding will need to be urgently provided to deliver increased numbers of specialists, teacher aides and learning support coordinators or SENCOs in all schools and early learning centres.” 

Mark Potter said it was important the proposed connector role didn’t duplicate existing roles such as Learning Support Coordinators, which only 2 in 5 schools can currently access and should be equitably allocated. 

“Cabinet have also noted that there is a significant shortage of specialists to meet the current levels of demand in the system. Improving wages and working conditions is critical to fixing this.” 

“We look forward to seeing more detail, and to working with the government in shaping the building blocks for a truly inclusive education system.” 

Meanwhile, Cherie Taylor-Patel, President of NZPF said: “Special education services have been in chaos for decades. It is heartening that finally we have an approach that is practical, based on reality and makes sense.

“The mixed model approach creating partnership between student, whanau and school is exactly the right approach for our students with highest needs,” she said.

In a statement, NZPF said that a new funding model is promised but it will be of no use unless it funds dedicated Learning Support Coordinators or SENCOs for every school and funds specialist psychologists physiotherapists and speech language therapists for all regions. This means a rethink of the training options currently offered teachers and trainee teachers.

We have a shortage of these experts and need to consider those teachers and trainee teachers who have a special interest in learning support, and provide them with training opportunities so that we can have the necessary experts available in our schools,” said Taylor-Patel.

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