Special Education Dismissed By National At Campaign Launch

Unsurprisingly, Special Education is not high on the priority list for National if they are to be re elected after the 2017 General Election.

The total investment into education is $379 million across a variety of different policies. So where does Special Education fit into it all? The $379 plan doesn’t speak a whole lot to Special Education. It certainly doesn’t tackle the issue of disabled learners being unfairly discriminated against.

Instead, National have promised that every child will get the opportunity to learn a second language.

Wagner Defends PM: “There Are Thousands Of Disabled People”

On Sunday, Minister for Disability Issues Nicky Wagner said that Prime Minister Bill English was a great supporter of the disability community.

“Today, he made Enabling Good Lives the centrepiece of the National Party’s campaign launch. He said that there are thousands of disabled people in New Zealand and that National respects their capabilities.”

Wagner says that the second language option used in schools could be New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). However, Wagner didn’t provide any concrete promises.

Special Education Dismissed By National At Campaign Launch

There are far more pressing issues at hand in regards to Special Education in New Zealand. A simple promise to ‘deliver’ on Enabling Good Lives and provide the opportunity for learners to learn NZSL is not enough.

Disabled children need a fairer access to education. This starts with better education for teachers and support staff, but it also needs to be tailored to the needs of each individual. For example, the needs for a student with a physical disability are often entirely different to those with an intellectual disability.

Does National’s plan enforce schools to enrol students with additional requirements? No. Does it tackle the issue of principles bullying parents into getting their disabled child out of school? No.

The time old argument that the education system has made is that teachers are not equipped to ‘deal with’ children with special education needs. Well, get them equipped, and fast. National’s plan doesn’t put any pressure on schools to change their current attitudes toward taking on learners with disabilities.

What’s clear is that there is no tolerance of increased needs and additional support requirements by the education system. The bare minimum amount of funding has to stretch across the board, and often Special Education sits right at the bottom of it all.

National has promised little, to no assurance that this won’t continue if they get re elected come September 23rd.

Looking at New Zealand’s Unfair and Inaccessible Special Education system

Is it really too much to ask that disabled children and teenagers have fair access to education in New Zealand?

No it’s not, or at least it shouldn’t be. But the battles that thousands of families are fighting right now suggests that parents are struggling with the education system and that disabled children are secluded from mainstream education more in 2017 than ever.

Seclusion from classrooms, issues with school principles’, bullying in the playground, or a shockingly low education on disability for mainstream school teachers.

The issues facing these parents are not limited to this – there is also the gross lack of funding for thousands of children with intellectual and physical disabilities. Those who are lucky to secure funding often find it to be inadequate. The ORS Funding system needs to be drastically changed, and fast.

It’s hard to diagnose the reason for all these problems in a single article, but as a disabled person myself, I’ve realised recently that really shocks me.

That realisation is that you could successfully the system hasn’t improved from my days in education. It’s actually gotten worse, far worse.

You don’t need to look any further than IHC’s court case surrounding the seclusion of people with learning disabilities to see that the system has had significant problems that stretch well beyond a decade.

My Personal Observations About The Education Systems’ Effect On Disabled People

I began my journey at school back in the late 90’s, ultimately finishing in the late 2000’s.

I was never secluded from any of my classes, though I did face significant barriers (and more than a few foul attitudes) from teachers in the PE department who simply couldn’t grasp that I had a significant muscle-weakening disease that meant no matter how much physical activity I did, the strength was never going to grow back by some miracle!

Back in those days, I also noticed that some of my disabled peers who had intellectual disabilities were included in the classroom as much as possible. One boy had Autism, another had what was clearly a significant speech and behavior disorder, and one girl was visually impaired.

But for as much as memory serves me, all of us in ‘the disabled clan’ were in the classroom, and included in general activity most of the time.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

I know of kids that only have physical disabilities that spend most of their school days occupying what they call “the special unit” and are actually segregated from their non-disabled peers as much as possible. Socially, kids and teenagers with disabilities are isolated and find it extremely difficult to communicate with their non-disabled peers as well.

A big reason for this is because of how the education system labels students who have disabilities. You might as well put a sticker on their foreheads that reads “I AM DISABLED AND MUST NOT BE APPROACHED”. The disabled students aren’t left to be normal students with the appropriate supports in place, they are signalled out and identified as being different and needing “special” requirements.

Young people already label themselves and put their image into certain categories enough as it is, we don’t need the system adding more of the same. But yet, it seems that it continues to do so.

It’s shocking to me that unless someone studying to become a teacher chooses to select a unit standard (as part of their study) that teaches about disability, they can go right through and complete a degree without showing any knowledge about how to teach a child with special education needs.

How this is possible is beyond me.

Many of those ‘qualified’ teachers are the ones now complaining about having to take additional time to help out students in their classrooms with learning difficulties.

So rather than change the system so it is inclusive, it seems that the easier answer is to ship disabled learners into a special curriculum of their own.

I know there are a lot of other factors at play here, not the least of which is the uniqueness of each individual situation. But surely, this is why having additional resources and more teacher aids in the classrooms is so important.

Isn’t that what the special education system has a duty to do?

Learners with disabilities, whether physical or intellectual, need to have all the resources and support available to achieve a fair education that provides opportunities to progress in life.

It’s not a matter of anything other than basic human rights – and that is the greatest crime that the current system has notched onto its belt. What’s more, this reality is another sign that New Zealand continues to fail its agreement to uphold the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.



MOE and Disability Groups not doing enough for Inclusive Education

A recent outcry from parents of disabled children has re-enforced the terrible reality that once school education concludes, the battle gets that much harder and that much more unfair.

The Ministry of Education may claim to have the correct systems for a successful transition out of school and into tertiary education or employment in place. The current system of transition, or lack thereof, simply isn’t working for the majority of disabled New Zealanders in education. Just giving the families information isn’t enough, it should be the job of the Ministry to ensure that outcomes are being met, because if not, how is the system truly inclusive as a whole?

Nobody should be forced to stay at school until they are 21 years old. Having to do so is disabling, and the future implications are dire. All this fails to mention that is also NOT inclusive at all.

Employers will look at the time a person spent in school, and many won’t distinguish the difference that a disability plays in that. Parents of disabled children are being forced to do a major disservice, but in a lot of cases it still remains the only viable option they have.

The choice doesn’t enable independence at all; however the alternative is just as unfair. That alternative would see the disabled person sit at home each day, or they’d attend vocational services that do nothing to enhance their future prospects for employment, or a meaningful social life for that matter.

The real problem here isn’t the Ministry, or even a lot of the schools for that matter. The issue is the same that it has always been, once the child turns 18 there is next to no support for them. There is too much focus on the child and not the adult, but it’s when someone becomes an adult that the need for equal education and fair opportunities at employment become that much greater.

This is clearly an ongoing discussion and one that isn’t new to anyone. Better systems need to be put in place and a greater amount of accountability must occur. If this doesn’t happen, disabled people will continue to fall through the cracks of the education system.

Banning Seclusion Rooms came too late for some disabled students

Seclusion is unacceptable in any school, and recent incidents continue a sorry trend for the Ministry of Education.

In the aftermath of what happened at Mirimar Central School, there is no question that better measures need to be put in place on how to deal with challenging behavior in the classroom. Clearly, Mirimar Central School was ill-equipped to manage some behavioral issues that occur with disabilities like Autism. Continue reading Banning Seclusion Rooms came too late for some disabled students

ORS Funding to be reviewed by Government

Students over the age of 18 who want to enter tertiary education may be left with less support than what is currently available.

The Government will review the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme in the near future as radical changes to Special Education are set to continue.

The Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, or as most people commonly know it, ORS Funding, will likely be significantly reduced for students with disabilities over the age of 18. Continue reading ORS Funding to be reviewed by Government

Government’s update to Special Education is a major blunder

It’s out with the “special needs” and in with the early prevention. But National’s latest approach to education for disabled New Zealanders is a joke of the highest order.

Special education in schools is likely to be the biggest loser in a proposed change released today by the Government. Minister for Education Hekia Parata says that the term ‘special needs’ singles people out and creates a barrier to a fully inclusive education system.

To further quote her words, Parata said that by concentrating on learner’s deficits, students become marginalised in their education. Continue reading Government’s update to Special Education is a major blunder