Tamariki need more learning support roles, new findings reveal

Only 2 in 5 schools can currently access Learning Support Coordinators and the evaluation should now unlock funding for more of them, NZEI Te Riu Roa has said.

Tamariki are missing out on getting the learning support they need to thrive, according to a new evaluation of school learning support roles. Learning Support Coordinators (LSCs) are an in-school roles that ensure learners with disabilities, neurodiversity and other additional learning needs get the help they need.

When government announced the roles in 2019 they said further roles would follow once the evaluation process had been completed. This has now happened, and so we need to move on ensuring all schools have access to them, says NZEI President Liam Rutherford:

The Learning Support Coordinator evaluators said that schools they spoke to value the contribution of LSCs, but many were mindful that they have a resource that other schools with similar or more needs do not. They said this was unfair, and they’re right.

“Tamariki can thrive when their teachers, principals and support staff are well supported and fairly paid with the time to teach.  Where they also need additional learning support – it needs to be accessible, and for many it’s simply not available.”

Liam Rutherford says the report’s findings that Māori medium schools told reviewers  the model did not work for them was an important point that needed to be picked up urgently in considering what learning supports are available in schools:

“Any future decisions around learning support needs to ensure that secure work for those supporting tamariki is paramount.  Government is currently considering their response to both the Highest Needs Review and new ways to fund teacher aides, a chronically insecure workforce. Ensuring regular secure work for all in this sector must be a key focus.

Melanie Webber, PPTA Te Wehengarua President, also said:

“The intention behind this initiative is great, but the way these positions have been allocated unfortunately adds to the inequities among schools in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

She explained in a statement that the LSC roles were introduced in 2020 to improve schools’ response to the one in five learners who have learning support needs. The role is designed to add capacity and capability to kura/schools and clusters of kura/schools (clusters) to better meet the needs of students with mild to moderate, neurodiverse, or high and-complex learning support needs.    

Melanie Webber says that many dedicated and extremely skilled specialist teachers work as Learning Support Coordinators in secondary and area schools:

We just need more of them. The model needs to allow schools more flexibility to have a dedicated Learning Support Coordinator within their school, to meet the needs of the students and community.  

“The evaluation shows that to be more effective there needs to be a leadership role, better professional development and a career pathway. These are points that have been made consistently by PPTA since the role was first announced.  

“The evaluation highlights what our members have been telling us that working across a diverse range of schools in a cluster, including with Māori medium and special character schools is extremely difficult, especially when there are long distances between them.  

Melanie Webber adds that the evaluation shows that the high level of skill and experience that LSCs are bringing to their work is making up for issues with design and infrastructure support. “These teachers need to have better recognition to keep them in these roles.”  

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