‘Special needs education’ – sooner or more?

The Herald reports that ‘Special needs’ term singles out students and will be scrapped – Government

The term “special needs” education is likely to be scrapped because of concerns it singles out students.

They don’t say what it will be called but that’s only a minor point.

More money will also be spent on preschoolers to try and help them as early as possible – likely meaning less funding for special education at school.

The possible changes are outlined in a Cabinet paper released by Education Minister Hekia Parata as part of an “update” of the system focused on high-level changes.

The Ministry of Education has been struggling to meet growing demand as the school-age population grows and there is better and earlier identification of needs.

Last year about $590m was spent on special education. No change in overall funding is proposed in the Cabinet paper – but how and when funding is spent will be overhauled.

Initial work will focus on:

• Reviewing the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) that provides support for students with the highest levels of disability.

• How help is provided for speech disorders like stuttering and oral language delay, to work out how things could be improved if help is provided earlier.

• “Clustering” services and removing sometimes arbitrary eligibility criteria. For example, the intensive wraparound service is currently limited to children aged 8 to 14, when “early intervention might be more beneficial in the long-term”.

But Opposition parties are not happy.

Labour’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins…

…said early intervention should not come at the cost of cutting support for school-age children with special needs.

“It is short-sighted and stupid…I absolutely agree that the government can do a much better job of identifying and supporting children with additional learning needs earlier.

“But depriving older kids of the support they so desperately need is no way to accomplish that.”

Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty…

…said the proposals would not help.

“The Government is proposing to shift money around, and short change children and young people over the age of seven. Everything I have heard shows the need for more support, and more funding, across all age groups, not less.”

Their proposed approach is to spend more to achieve more.

But Education Minister Hekia Parata said…

…evidence showed that providing learning support early in a child’s life had a much greater impact.

“We want to make sure that the over $590 million we’re investing in additional learning support is being spent in the most effective and impactful way possible so that kids get the best chance to achieve educational success.

If learning and behavioural problems are identified earlier and dealt with effectively then there should be less need for some of those children at least as they get older.

But identifying special needs students earlier who still need assistance throughout their education could cost more.

It is difficult to know what will be the most cost effective approach.

But identifying and addressing educational issues with children as early as possible should be the starting point.

Some of the cost savings won’t happen until much later, when they become adults. If learning difficulties are resolved early it could help avoid unemployment and crime, including expensive imprisonment.

But it will be difficult to measure, and it may be changed if a Labour-Green government decide that it isn’t the best approach.

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22 Comments

  1. Geoffrey

     /  23rd August 2016

    This programme, as reported, seems to overlook those with exceptional ability whose needs are also not met by the mainstream. These students, whose “special” needs might arise from a learning difficulty that blocks their attainment of their learning potential, will if ignored, often become bored, frustrated and disruptive. If managed appropriately, they become the movers and shakers of the future. New Zealand cannot afford to fail to capitalise on such talent. It is vital to the future prosperity of the nation.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  23rd August 2016

      I don’t see how this can be addressed-I mean the pupils with exceptional ability. There can never be a system that caters for every individual unless the pupil/teacher ration is 1-1.

      Be realistic. Unless the taxpayer forks out astronomical amounts of money, there will never be a public education system that suits each pupil exactly.

      Reply
  2. David

     /  23rd August 2016

    After 8 odd years of this government investing more tax dollars in the least advantaged through numerous programs you would think newspaper editors would get a clue and actually ask their staff to investigate and report rather than just going to labour and the Greens to bag it, just a bit tiresome hence why we are here.
    What National are doing is being carefully watched globally with the way they are investing now for results to be seen in 20 years time and it deserves more grown up coverage.

    Reply
    • alloytoo

       /  23rd August 2016

      National’s approach of coupling new data analytics with a willingness to invest today for better future outcomes offers a rare opportunity to introduce a generational step change.

      I note that the loudest objections are coming from groups with entrenched interests in the poverty industry claiming they know better, well clearly they don’t, time for something new.

      Reply
    • Quite David. Grown up conversation? This is the NZ press and the revolving leader Opposition we’re talking about. It’s just more of the same negative nay-saying and pinched weasel words. The impression I get, is that :ab/Greens NEVER have anything to offer the conversation that remotely looks vaguely constructive.

      Reply
  3. duperez

     /  23rd August 2016

    The notions are fine. Identify kids who need help early in their lives, invest in helping them for their best development, and in doing so, minimising long term investment needing to be put in.

    What about the kids who aren’t in pre-school to be identified? (Is pre-school to be compulsory?) What about late developers? What about the kids who chuck chairs around classrooms at eight or ten years old as the culmination of years of the environments they’re living in or some hell in their lives. Will there be resources available to schools?

    What about the burgeoning number of kids arriving at schools with “weird” conditions the result of who knows what – parental drug and alcohol use, other chemicals, whatever.

    On the surface it sounds good but teachers already at their wits end dealing with behavioural and learning problems and getting ORS funding for deserving kids have good reason to be wary about Minister Parata’s big plan. With the same resources available, when she tips the scale to the early childhood end further up they’re high and dry.

    Reply
    • alloytoo

       /  23rd August 2016

      If the government gets it right, those children in the circumstances you describe are very likely to be identified as high risk already.

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  23rd August 2016

        Are you differentiating those “at high risk” from those with “special needs?”

        The groups are different and those in the second one are more likely to be identified.
        Subjectivity is obviously needed to determine the first group. (In New Zealand “high risk” means brown skin, solo parent, family violence, father having been in jail and so on.)

        Transience and other factors mean that some difficulties are not evident early or do not arise until later years.

        Reply
        • alloytoo

           /  24th August 2016

          However some of the key causes of difficulties later in life might well be be identified early, allowing intervention before difficulties arise. This is the essence of the governments investment approach, spend a little now, to save a lot later.

          It’s almost certain that the current data set of risk factors has many missing, however you have to start somewhere. This approach during it’s nascent phase, it has tremendous potential, disparaging it not immediately meeting potential today is just churlish.

          Reply
  4. Zedd

     /  23rd August 2016

    Ms Parata is just ‘towing the party line’; PRIVATISE it all… cut costs & maximise profits (similar to their plans for private prisons.. now failing too) they just cant help their blinkered view on society.. ‘its all just another private business opportunity !’ 😦

    The cynical ‘zedd monster’ rises again 😀

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  23rd August 2016

      Yes, Zedd. Minimize costs and maximise efficiency and results. Anathema to the Left but bread and butter to private enterprise. How sinful.

      Reply
      • Zedd

         /  23rd August 2016

        @AW

        each to their own.. BUT there are certain ‘industries’ that I think should not be ALL sold off, to the highest bidder: Education, Prisons, Police etc.
        they should be Govt. services, funded for all kiwis.. NOT private enterprises for only those ‘rich folk’ with their ‘snouts in the trough’.. “Oink Oink” sez I&I 😦

        BUT youz on the RIGHT just dont seem to really get it ??? :/

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  23rd August 2016

          What we don’t get is your destructive delusion that ownership matters and results don’t. We say give ownership to whoever gets the best results with it.

          Reply
        • Zedd

           /  23rd August 2016

          ‘Minimise costs & maximise efficiency..’ you mean like : starting fight clubs & drug dealing in PRIVATE prisons ?? 😀

          OH DEAR.. :/

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  23rd August 2016

            Are pretending these are not rife in public prisons or are you just ignorant?

            Reply
            • Zedd

               /  23rd August 2016

              @AW

              NO.. but I do know they are not part of the ‘Business plan’ in Govt. run prisons ! 😀

              Come on Alan.. we all know that as soon as you privatise.. the RULES go out the window & PROFIT comes before everything else.

              …probably similarities in Private Schools too ? :/

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  23rd August 2016

              You and the Left obviously don’t know that making a profit continuously requires providing quality product and service. Sad, because none of you will ever do it and ever experience the satisfaction and camaraderie that comes from doing it well.

  5. Zedd

     /  23rd August 2016

    oh yea of little faith..

    btw; ‘camaraderie’ (or Comradeship).. you’re nearly sounding like a ‘COMMIE/lefty’ ?? 😀

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  23rd August 2016

      No, just illustrating the depth of your ignorance.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  23rd August 2016

        Camaraderie doesn’t mean being comrades in the Communist sense.

        It’s ‘Oh, ye of little faith.’ ‘Oh, yea (yes) of little faith’ is meaningless.

        Reply
        • Zedd

           /  23rd August 2016

          btw; my Collins dictionary defines ‘Camaraderie’ as exactly : Comradeship.. where I believe the communists take the word from… but obviously not the only way of using it 😀

          Reply
  6. Geoffrey

     /  23rd August 2016

    I guess you have never seen a well-resourced and able teacher in action. It is possible for every student to benefit from tailored attention. Painting everything bland and condemning under-achieving gifted students to “average” results is shamefully wasteful.

    Reply

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