Hekia Parata has her head buried in the sand when it comes to the pressure that schools are under as they attempt to cope with an increasing number of children with severe behavioural and other learning support needs, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins.
“Almost every school principal I talk to lists coping with pressures around child behaviour and supporting children with additional learning needs amongst their biggest challenges.
“School principals have pointed out that if they expel a student, when that student enrols in another school, they are able to get a much more generous level of support than the school that expels them in the first place would be offered. It’s no wonder they’re considering expelling students so that they get them the support they need.
“Schools are increasingly having to rely on their operational grant funding to provide individual students with the support they need, putting their already stretched budgets under even more pressure. The whole situation hasn’t been helped by the funding freeze implemented in this year’s Budget that has seen funding for most schools going backwards in real terms.
“It gets worse. When performance data highlighted that the number of students receiving special education communication services, behaviour services or ORS-funded services within the required timeframe was declining, they just deleted the performance measure from their Annual Report completely. Deleting the data doesn’t make the problem go away.
“The level of direct support schools and early childhood services are provided through the Ministry of Education has also been slashed. For example, the number Education Support Workers employed by the Ministry halved from 275 FTE in 2008 to just 134 FTE in 2015.
“Meanwhile the Ministry of Education’s spending on consultants and contractors skyrocketed from $4 million in 2008 to $35 million in 2015. Hekia Parata says these are ‘operational issues’.
“I say they are clear signs of a government that has its priorities all wrong. Labour will redirect funding to frontline staff working directly with schools and children. Every child in New Zealand deserves to get the support they need so that they can succeed in education. They aren’t getting it under National, they will get it under Labour,” says Chris Hipkins.