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Safe schools for everyone

by Catherine Delahunty

In my seven years in Parliament working on education I have been approached by students, parents, and teachers about the endless problems that they face with getting learning differences identified early enough in schools. The other major issue that has been raised is getting the right support that includes all students. A quality education system is committed to equity and meets the needs of all of its children

The Green Party has initiated a Parliamentary Inquiry into dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders in schools in New Zealand. The Education and Science Select Committee has agreed to a request of mine to investigate the identification of and support for students facing these significant challenges.

Recently 104 Northland principals took part in a survey on Special Education and Behavioural Concerns, with more than half of them saying there are not enough resources or assistance provided to deal with the issue.

As far as we know:

• 13,000 children between 2-14 have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum disorder (including Asperger’s syndrome),
• autism is estimated to affect 40,000 people,
• dyslexia is estimated to affect 70,000 people, and
• dyspraxia is estimated to affect 70,000 schoolchildren.

These figures are speculative because the identifying of these learning issues has been so contentious. There need to be strong processes and support in place to enable these learners to make the most of their educational opportunities. Investigations at an early level of education are important before students may become discouraged from education at higher levels.

Of particular concern has been the inequality in access to support for these conditions. Decile 10 schools are seven times more likely to get Special Assessment Conditions assistance than students in Decile 1 schools. It can cost well over $700 to get these special assessments done. Some parents can afford to get their kid assessed or get the extra support from school, but there are too many families that are missing out.

We need to stop the underfunding, and get on with building safe schools where all tamariki can all learn. Genuine inclusion does not have “benign” neglect, or bullying of students with learning differences. It is about our attitudes to learning difference improving, as well as the Government needing to invest consistent resources into schools. A decent society starts with decent and fair access to education.

I urge a wide range of parents, schools, and teachers to participate and engage in the Select Committee process that is going ahead. You know what works best for kids and their learning difficulties so we need to hear from you. Your experience is important so let us know what you need.

You can make a submission to have your experience heard using our submission guide

Other Ways to submit to the Committee

  • Submit online at Parliament’s website here.
  • Email your submission as an attachment to . Include your contact details and whether you’d like to speak in front of the Committee in the body of the email.
  • Freepost two copies of your submission to Committee Secretariat, Education and Science, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6011

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