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‘Substantial investment’ needed to address complex school challenges - principal

Author
Michael Neilson,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Nov 2022, 3:35pm
Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti visits students at Berhampore School in Wellington to announce the results of the Highest Needs Review. Photo / Michael Neilson
Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti visits students at Berhampore School in Wellington to announce the results of the Highest Needs Review. Photo / Michael Neilson

‘Substantial investment’ needed to address complex school challenges - principal

Author
Michael Neilson,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Nov 2022, 3:35pm

A principal says a plan to ramp up support for high-needs learning in schools is only “opening the door” to the growing challenges and will need “substantial investment” to hold it together.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti today announced the findings of the Higher Needs Review, conducted over the past year drawing over a thousand submissions and which she said would assist about 30 per cent of all pupils.

Tinetti, who was a principal at Tauranga’s Merivale School before becoming an MP, said she had seen first-hand the importance of supporting children with high needs.

“We know that this is one of the most broken areas in education,” she said at Berhampore School in Wellington.

“It is something that not only the sector has been crying out for change, but also the families of the young people who have been underserved within the system.”

The Government spends $1.2 billion a year on learning support, yet lots of those with the highest needs were missing out, she said.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti visits students at Berhampore School in Wellington to announce the results of the Highest Needs Review. Photo / Michael Neilson

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti visits students at Berhampore School in Wellington to announce the results of the Highest Needs Review. Photo / Michael Neilson

Tinetti said the new system would tailor support to students - involving the student, whānau and school - with a flexible funding model. Teaching staff would also get better access to learning and development.

However, there was no funding attached nor any estimates of the resourcing needed, raising questions from the sector already straining under overworked teachers and staffing shortages.

Tinetti said the review had identified the “next steps” and a business case would be delivered by June next year outlining what the changes in the system would look like, including the resources required.

Before then though Tinetti said she expected the system to start “moving in that direction”.

“I have already signalled that this is a substantial change and so we need to fund this in a way that we probably haven’t got our heads around just yet.

“Capacity building of our current workforce is also critical in this.”

Berhampore School principal Mark Potter said he’d been working in the system since 1989 and some of the ideas in the review they’d been requesting for “a long, long time”.

“We’ve been waiting for decades. There are reviews about reviews in learning support.

“The system does not cater for every child, it has been too long driven by very basic formulas that outline what you can get, and then that’s up to you.

“I’ve been around long enough to have seen children that haven’t had their needs met, and the damage that happens in the whānau they are left to pick up the pieces.”

While he was “hopeful”, Potter said he was not certain yet how successful it would be.

“We’re not sure if it has the glue that will hold it together... the resourcing, the right people in the workforce.

“It is going to be huge. if it is going to be as big as we are hoping.”

He said it would require “substantial investments” and increases in staffing.

“You’re talking millions, and we have 2500 schools in New Zealand, all of them facing challenges about meeting the needs of more and more diverse children. So it’s very hard to put a finger on it.”

He said rather than starting with a figure though, it was better to “put the needs of the children first”.

“That will determine how big that figure will be.”

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti visits students at Berhampore School in Wellington to announce the results of the Highest Needs Review. Photo / Michael Neilson

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti visits students at Berhampore School in Wellington to announce the results of the Highest Needs Review. Photo / Michael Neilson

Asked how many students this would affect, Potter said 30 per cent quoted by Tinetti “will just open the door to realise how much more we need to do”.

“You go to a country like Finland, 50 per cent of the children are designated as needing learning support somewhere in their school career. So 30 per cent is really just still going towards the higher needs.”

Post Primary Teachers’ Association president Melanie Webber said they were “excited” by the progress but the “proof in the pudding” would be the resourcing that came with it.

“It’s an absolutely urgent need for this change. It’s been heartbreaking for teachers to see the lack of support. So it’s really hard when you’re seeing that in your classroom, and you’re unable to access it for them.

“What we really really want is that professional learning and development so that when we have a student in front of us, we know how best to respond.”

Webber said much work also needed to be done around the teaching workforce.

“What we need to be doing is working to ensure that we have those teachers and currently, we don’t.

“We are losing teachers at a terrible rate. People are not coming into the profession, and people are not staying in the profession. So we need to be addressing those concerns.”

One of the key concerns from the education and disability sector through the review had been around funding for autistic student support, the Ministry of Education’s Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS).

Research has found autistic children are three times more likely to be stood down or suspended from school than children who aren’t autistic. However, those who receive ORS funding and support are no more likely to be suspended or stood down than the general population.

Tinetti said the lack of support for neurodiverse children was what prompted the review, but any extra funding decisions would come from the business case next year.

The review has come out of the Learning Support Action Plan which runs until 2025.

 

 

 

 

 

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