The Learning Support Coordinator announcement

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Minister of Education Tracey Martin announced a school based Learning Support Coordinator programme, with funding for up to 600 coordinators (who will be trained teachers) to be funded from next year’s budget spread over four years, as a ‘first tranche’ in dealing with special learning and behavioural needs in schools.

Generally this looks like a good plan, but it may be spread thinly as there are four times as many schools as there will be coordinators. Ardern has ‘promised’ to double the number of coordinators if the budget allows.

From Prime Minister’s speech to 2018 Labour Party Conference

Today, I am announcing that we’ll be employing a new workforce of approximately 600 Learning Support Coordinators to work alongside teachers across the entire country.

Their job will be to make sure that children with extra needs are identified.  They’ll work alongside classroom teachers to ensure kids with high and complex physical needs get the support they deserve.

This will be a game changer for those children.

It will be a game changer for teachers, who’ve been crying out for these roles, so they’re freed up to do what they do best – teach.

And it’s a game changer for those children who don’t need additional learning support, who’ll get more quality learning time with their teachers.

These coordinators – similar to what we now call SENCOs – are part of a new way of doing things and have been developed by my New Zealand First colleague and Associate Minister of Education, Tracey Martin, through the draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan.

But teachers have been urging governments for some time for this kind of role to be dedicated and fully funded. And for good reason.

At the moment schools ask their existing teaching staff to do the work of Special Education Coordinators.  But teachers tell us this is a drain on their time and takes them away from their classroom teaching.

That’s why these coordinators will not only do that job for them, they will also support teachers, with professional advice and guidance about how to teach children with additional needs.

But more than that – these new roles will give parents a single point of contact with someone who understands the needs of their child, and will advocate for them as they move through their time in the school.

This is a big change.

It will mean investing $217 million over four years – and these 600 fully funded Learning Support Coordinators are just the start.

Beehive release: New workforce a game-changer for kids with learning needs

An odd headline, describing it as a ‘workforce’.

The Coalition Government will fund a new workforce of educational professionals who will work in schools to ensure children with diverse learning needs get the support they need to learn, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

In a game-changer for students, parents and teachers, approximately 600 Learning Support Coordinators will be employed as early as the beginning of 2020. This will be the first tranche of these positions.

They will work alongside teachers, parents and other professionals to give our students the individualised support they deserve.

The new Learning Support Coordinators are a win-win; kids with both high and moderate needs will get on-the-ground support, parents will have a specialised point of contact and teachers will have more time to teach.

“This $217 million investment over four years follows a major spending increase in Budget 2018, and brings the extra funding the Coalition Government has put into learning support to half a billion dollars. That is a huge investment in our first year into supporting both our kids and our teachers.

“One in five New Zealand children has a disability or other learning and behavioural needs and it’s been too hard, for too long, for them to get support at the right time. Learning support has been neglected for more than a decade.

The announcement delivers on a number of the 26 recommendations from the Labour, New Zealand First and Green parties’ minority report to the Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism Inquiry in the last Parliament.  It is also consistent with the Labour and Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement.

“Learning Support Coordinators will be key people at the heart of a new learning support model, developed by Associate Minister of Education Tracey Martin, through her draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan,” said Jacinda Ardern.

Tracey Martin said today’s announcement would go a long way to delivering for those students with additional and diverse learning needs.

“The Government is progressing its plan to ensure every child with barriers to learning has access to the tools and professionals they need,” Tracey Martin said.

“For too long these students have been poorly served by an underfunded system. Our targeted investments, along with our work to streamline the support system, will reduce the issues parents and teachers face and lead to better student wellbeing.

“These coordinators will be a specialised point of contact for parents with someone who understands their child’s unique learning needs. They’ll also provide expert assistance for teachers.

“They will work alongside classroom teachers to ensure all students with needs – including disabilities, neurodiversity, behavioural issues and giftedness – get the support they should expect.

“We’ve been piloting and refining the new Learning Support Delivery Model in a number of places and regions and the goal is to have it ready to be rolled out across the country by the end of 2019.

This has been an issue since special needs children and those with learning difficulties have been integrated into schools. They can take a lot of time from teachers from general teaching, and can be disruptive in class.

Sounds good as a start, but it will take a couple of years to get it up and running.