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Access: Safe schools for everyone

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  • steven crawford,

    An important detail, is “special assessment conditions” for NCEA. That’s mentioned below.

    Labour on dyslexia and learning difference

    The Labour Party stands for an inclusive education system in which every New Zealander is given the opportunity to achieve to their full potential. We recognise that everyone is different, we all learn at different rates, and we all have different strengths and abilities.

    Every school a great school

    Every New Zealand child has the right to attend their local school and to have any individual learning needs they may have catered for at that school. Labour wants to ensure that every school is a great school, and every teacher a great teacher. We will invest heavily in teacher professional development, including programmes that equip teachers to cater to the diverse range of learning needs our students have.

    Equal opportunity for all

    Labour is increasingly concerned about the growing inequality within our education system. No one should have their options limited because of the part of society they are born into. Labour is committed to addressing the issue of child poverty.

    Equal access to support

    We have been vocal in raising concerns about unequal access to Special Assessment Conditions for NCEA candidates and have made clear out commitment to ensuring that every student gets the support they need, regardless of what school they attend. No student should be denied access to SAC because their parents are unable to pay for the specialist assessments required to apply for it.

    A change to special education funding

    Labour is concerned that the current funding system for special education relies too heavily on individual learners meeting the criteria imposed by the system, rather than the system catering for the individual needs of each learner. We want to turn that around so that every student with an identified learning need gets the support necessary for them to achieve to their full potential.

    Chris Hipkins
    Education spokesperson
    March 2014

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I have to say, I am dissapointed in the Green Party's lack of attention to detail on this.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Whilst the airways are cloged with flags flapping. I might as well start on my essay about dyslexia, and other things.

    But first, I was wrong about the Greens ‘lack of attention to detail’. Insensitive is the more suitable word. I am aware that the Green Party have detailed policy’s which pledge various amounts of money here and there. As do the other political partys.

    What’s insensitive about asking for submissions to a select committee hearing on dyslexia, dyspraxia and autistic spectrum disorder? Nothing, when it doesn’t add to general misunderstanding about these things. I get tired of being told that my words are jumping around on the page.

    Ok before I get started on this, I need to claim SAC status. I am dyslexic and writing anything of substance takes a long time. It’s highly unlikely that my submission will be completed in time to be submitted to the select committee. This is going to be a post submission. Let’s call it the post – sub dyslexic essay. The draft is going to be developed in these comment boxs, as paragraphs, which will eventually be cut and pasted into some word processing software. Then after I check all the spelling, it’s going onto a piece of paper.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to steven crawford,

    Steven, thanks for your comments and I do hope you send something into the committee. Date for submissions closes on Friday. What I suggest you do is that you write something very brief to the committee via the parliamentary website before that. You can then ask to make an oral submission and then you have a chance to talk to the committee in person in a few weeks' time, or you can also send in further information. Just register your interest by 2 October and then you are in the system.

    In defence of my old school friend Catherine. It is a great victory for an opposition member to get such an inquiry as the government holds the majority on select committees so it is unusual such an opposition request is taken up by the committee. The government members would have limited and defined the terms of reference which is not as wide as some as us would like, so Catherine is encouraging people to tell their stories about any aspect of special education. She has been very busy in the last couple of weeks encouraging as many people as possible to submit to the committee so probably why she hasn't commented on the thread here..

    Mainly because of her work the Greens had the most developed policy on inclusive education at the last election. However, National's simple policy of 800 more teacher aide hours got a lot more publicity. Labour's Chris Hipkins has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes too. The whole area of special education is very complex and even the language is contestable - eg special v inclusive.

    So keep at it. The committee will learn a lot from hearing about your experiences.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Kirsty Johnston from the Herald has done some great journalism on this issue. Here is her latest contribution

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    In defence of my old school friend Catherine. It is a great victory for an opposition member to get such an inquiry as the government holds the majority on select committees so it is unusual such an opposition request is taken up by the committee.

    Such a pity your old schoolmate couldn't continue her high profile advocacy on behalf of family carers and request, nay demand, a select committee (or higher) inquiry into the PHDAct (2) and the abominable Funded Family Care.

    There is a plethora of statistics and documentation to support such an inquiry, not to mention a HRRT Decision AND two High Court Decisions AND two Appeal Court Decisions that clearly show the Government has blatantly trampled roughshod over disabled people and their family carers' rights. Then there's the UN Monitoring Committee's report....

    And justified this breach of NZBORA and the HRA using false and misleading data.

    So, Catherine...if you're reading this....send me a text/email and I'll be happy to put together a package for you to present to the Health Select Committee.

    I am now completely cynical about such initiatives.

    PS...what happened to IHC's complaint to the HRRT re: special education?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Catherine isn't on Health select committee so has no influence there unfortunately. The IHC complaint continues its slow progress through the legal system. They are not happy about delays

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Date for submissions closes on Friday. What I suggest you do is that you write something very brief to the committee via the parliamentary website before that.


    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to steven crawford,


    Well done!

    For what its worth....reading your comments over the past few days, your 'cut and paste' option would be's oral submission to the SC from you would carry much weight.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Thankyou Rosemary and Hilary. This is a realy big deal for me. There is a hell of a lot of emotional bagadge traveling with communication disabilities.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • Berinthia Binnie, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    cut and paste’ option would be fine…

    Too true Rosemary, and on that note I have cut ‘n’ pasted my submission from the last review and resubmitted it to the committee. Everything I wrote last time is still live so where is the harm in repeating myself……

    That said, it is just a talkfest. The CYF’s enquiry has hit the nail on the head. The bureaucracy eats the money while the frontline starves.

    Since Sep 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Berinthia Binnie,

    The bureaucracy eats the money while the frontline starves.

    Hah! And here I am taking timeout from writing an official complaint about our NASC.

    We have had an uncomfortable relationship with this bureaucracy for some years.

    Finally come to a head.

    So its onto 'word' and yet another letter that no-one will really read.

    So, we will 'cut and paste' from some of the many other letters we have futilely writ over the past....shit...nearly a decade, and 'insert' most recent issue in the appropriate place.

    Well, maybe not in the _most_ appropriate place....but in the text, somewhere.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Kirsty Johnston from the Herald has done some great journalism on this issue. Here is her latest contribution

    I hope she's not in for the chopping block.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5439 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    I hope they realise her value and how widely respected she is.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • Berinthia Binnie,

    Well, maybe not in the _most_ appropriate place….but in the text, somewhere.

    Yes indeedy, if you didn't laugh you would cry ; )

    Since Sep 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    This can only give high-decile schools an even bigger reason to cherry-pick and widen the education gap. FFS.

    Student achievement to be used to fund schools under new model

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5439 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    One in Five on Radio NZ covered many of the issues. Good contributions from Catherine, Giovanni Tiso and many parents

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Further to my point, I'm curious to know how many disabled students are at high decile schools like Auckland Grammar, if there are any at all.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5439 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    When it comes to claiming funded support during exams, etc, there are heaps apparently.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19735 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I read an article several years ago which said there were about 100 students in a special unit in Auckland Grammar. They weren't allowed anywhere near assessments (as they couldn't risk the league tables). I guess they were in-zone students they couldn't persuade to go elsewhere. Not sure about the current situation though.
    And National Standards in primary are now compulsory for all students including those on ORS, and schools are not allowed to report anything about those with special needs in their league tables. So schools with higher numbers of children with special needs, who are unlikely to achieve on these one-size-doesn't-fit-all standards, have league tables which look worse than schools which can persuade special needs kids to go elsewhere. Just one of the several incentives in the system for schools to exclude kids who might require more resources.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • Nat,

    I regret that I did not make the deadline for submissions to this.

    Our son was diagnosed with ASD as a result of observations by our DP at a (Decile 8) primary school in West Auckland not long after he had started school. I can now compare our experience within the NZ education system to that in Australia and the States (albeit at the different ages and stages of our son, and given the specificity of each school). We payed for the private consultation to get this diagnosis (about $400 IIRC). It was always clear that he would not qualify for ORRS.

    In NZ, I felt the support existed (if you were a sufficiently articulate and proactive parent, which is an obvious disadvantage to those kids who don’t have such parents). Our school was very accepting of diversity, almost to the point of blowing it off. They had a dedicated Special Education coordinator, and were very willing to work with parents to create goals and strategies to meet the kids’ needs. It was however somewhat informal (for those kids who did not meet the criteria for ORRS and/or who did not have an IEP), and I felt like I drove a lot of the plan. If we had stayed, I was going to suggest a few things: mini school-driven IEPs for all special needs kids, as well as a special needs parent strategy and support group.

    In Australia, we filled in a form to say our son has ASD, and that was the last we ever heard of it. They supposedly had what was called a Learning Support team within the school, but our son never had anything to do with them. We never knew whether this was because he was doing fine, or whether there were many more urgent cases, or whether he just hadn’t registered on their radar.

    In the US, our son has an IEP. He has access to a speech therapist, a psychologist, and a resource teacher for organisation and study skills. It is a very formal process, backed by legal obligations of the school district. When the team meets, the school principal attends, and her emphasis is on the skills needed for his future schooling and beyond. If I ever run into any of our son’s team at school, they are keen to tell me about his achievements, and check if we have any concerns. It feels very supportive (even if the motivation for the support is a legal obligation).

    In the US, all demographic data is included in the test score reporting (race, special education, poverty (by way of free-lunch statistics)).

    I hope this is of interest!

    Seattle • Since Jun 2011 • 52 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Thanks Nat. I am currently trying to find out if any country is doing things well for our children. Sounds like your US experience was good, although I have heard that it varies by school districts. Also that in areas with lots of charter schools the underfunded public school system is left with the special needs and other kids who require more resources.

    Did you have to have a DSM diagnosis? Do other children with special needs at the school get the same level of intervention?

    By the way when my son was at primary school in Wellington before the days of ORS he had a 6 monthly assessment meeting at which the principal, psychologist, SLTs and classroom teachers (and me the parent) attended. The SLTs were on site and saw him everyday in the classroom and the Ed Psych regularly visited. Together they decided the level of resourcing and intervention he needed for the next 6 months. So NZ could do it, and could again.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • Nat, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Yes, it absolutely does vary by school district. I hoped my comment about school specificity made it clear that I was aware of that. We are privileged by all demographic measures. (Although we were too in Australia, so that’s no guarantee).

    I just finished reading The Prize by Dale Russakoff: a fascinating account of the Newark school district, in which charter schools are gradually replacing public schools, with the very effect that you describe. This is despite the awareness and attempted mitigation of bias of school choice being towards engaged parents. I thought of your “Wicked Problem” posts when I was reading the book. In Newark, part of the failure was the policy makers’ and philanthropists’ failure to realise how wicked the problem really was.

    ETA: we have carried the diagnosis we got in NZ with us. I don't think that even mentions the DSM, but I could check that.

    Seattle • Since Jun 2011 • 52 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    This has almost nothing to do with ASD, sorry.

    Read this carefully: dyslexia can make you a better teacher

    magazine article | Published in TES Newspaper on 12 January, 2001 | By: Gerald Haigh

    Gerald Haigh explains how what might seem to be a major handicap in teaching can actually be a positive experience.

    Every public performer suffers a variation of the same nightmare. You stand there before a sea of expectant faces but you just cannot deliver. Louise Anderson, an art teacher at St Thomas More RC High School in North Tyneside, says that’s how it is when you’re a dyslexic teacher and you first get your class list.

    “I got this list with all these names,” she says.” And I couldn’t read and pronounce them.”

    It’s not that she can’t read. It’s just that a page of text is daunting, and something she’d rather tackle in her own time in private. Now, with confidence in her ability to do her job, she gets one of the pupils to help her – someone who is delighted and empowered by the knowledge that this excellent teacher, capable of the most exquisite work and with a gift for passing it on, has learning problems of her own.

    Anderson is the classic example of dyslexia: the problem was unrecognised in her early learning years, and she was continuously having to prove herself.

    Then, eventually, she was mentored, taught and encouraged by people who understood her problem.

    At her primary school in Scotland, dyslexia was never mentioned. “I went to extra reading with the special teacher. My parents were quite concerned, but the head said I was a just a bit slower than the others and needed extra attention.”

    In high school, some light started to dawn, but only dimly. “The English teacher saw that my sentence structures weren’t right. He sent me to the SEN department and I saw the educational psychologist. They said I was slightly dyslexic, but not to worry. Even then, the word didn’t get round all the teachers, so in maths I was in the bottom set with the kids who didn’t want to bother. As a result I failed my maths.”

    Determined to get into higher education, she went south of the border. “I went to an open day at Sunderland. They accepted me straight on to the degree in art and design, specialising in stained glass and photography.” Art course or not, there was always going to be reading and writing to do, and it’s clear she had to work very hard. “It was a struggle, but they were absolutely the best for support.

    “It was not until university that I was properly tested by the Dyslexia Institute, who found I was, in fact, severe. The university gave me all I needed and backed me up 100 per cent. I had a word processor, a regular appointment with a personal tutor to look at my written work, and a counsellor.”

    She got a good degree – a 2:1 – which gave her great satisfaction after her school experience. Teaching came into the frame when, as a student, she did a session as artist-in-residence in a primary school. She then enrolled on the PGCE course at Sunderland and spent much of her time at St Joseph’s RC comprehensive in Hebburn, Tyne and Wear. There she worked with head of art Steve Wells who, as luck would have it, turned out to have reading and writing problems of his own.

    “I’ve never been formally diagnosed as dyslexic,” he says. “I was educated in the Sixties, a classic case of a child who was verbally bright but I had real problems when it came to writing anything down.”

    He believes that, in common with other bright children, he simply found ways of working round his difficulties. “It was mainly by doing things over and over again. It took me ages to write anything – I always seemed to scrape through with essays and so on, just beyond the minimum mark to pass, which I found frustrating.”

    There was certainly little in his schooling to help. “One thing that’s clear to me now is that we were taught in a very didactic way. If you didn’t fit in, then tough.”

    Through his whole career Wells has sought the difficult route, taking a succession of further degrees and diplomas. “I forced myself to do academic work. I wanted to practise writing. If you don’t have to do it, then you don’t.”

    This, then, was the head of department who looked after Anderson in the final stages of her PGCE course. “I knew we had to make sure she qualified because she had masses of potential,” he says.

    He immediately spotted her dyslexia. “I could see all the classic signs I had seen in myself: a real fear of writing, worrying about the essays she had to write, hesitancy to read in front of the class. I talked to her about it and when she said she had difficulties I was able to say ‘Well, so I have I’.”

    It was the reassurance she needed. “The relief came across her face – the recognition that someone understands. I told her that it’s not a problem, it just means we have to work out ways of dealing with it, and if we can do that, it will never be a problem again.”

    Wells helped her with practical ideas that he’s worked out over the years. “I got her to build up a bank of sentences which would describe children’s attainment – a whole series that she could fall back on. I gave her frameworks for writing.”

    Now in her second year, Anderson continues to be well supported. She’s been given voice-recognition software, for example. “The special needs department have been so supportive I last year when I was struggling to write my reports, our special needs co-ordinator said I should have come to her before.”

    The striking thing about both these teachers is the empathy they have with children who have differing learning needs. Wells sees it in terms of realising that children learn in different ways. “You have in front of you lots of children with lots of learning styles. That means you have to teach in different ways. The less able child is particularly dependent on the kind of teaching they receive. If the teacher is not sympathetic to their learning needs, they are not going to fulfill their potential.”

    Anderson, too, talks of trying to present material in a range of ways, “making it easier and accessible, so children are using all their functions and not just sitting and listening”.

    Wells has carried this quest into his work as a senior examiner in GCSE art. “I wanted to make my exam papers more readable so that students would know exactly what they were asked to do, regardless of reading age. I increased the type size, for example, from 12 to 14 point.”

    Both teachers exhibit huge understanding, not just for dyslexic children – nor, indeed, just for children with learning problems – but for all children in all classrooms. In Wells’s case, 23 years into his career, it is now a burning passion. “I have to find ways of making my subject accessible to all the children, whether gifted or with educational problems. I am charged with that responsibility, and I will do that whichever way I can.”

    At Sunderland University, where Anderson studied to be a teacher, lecturer Barbara Riddick, researcher into dyslexia, recognises the empathy which the dyslexic teacher brings to the work. “They say it’s made them better teachers. They talk of empathy and motivation. As one of them said, though: ‘It would be nice to have that understanding without being dyslexic’.”


    Every dyslexic person does some covering up, and teachers feel more vulnerable than most. Steve Wells recalls learning assembly readings off by heart, and both he and Louise Anderson have always avoided blackboard writing, or prepared it in advance and carefullly checked it.

    But a dyslexic student needs to be open about the problem if he or she is going to get financial and practical support. The Disabled Students Allowance is worth significant sums – £4,155 as a one-off grant for equipment, and a general allowance of up to £1,385. There’s also a non-medical helper’s allowance of up to £10,505 a year to pay for a reader or a typist.

    So the advice is to be upfront about dyslexia on the application form. Equal opportunity legislation means it shouldn’t affect the application process.

    Getting the local authority to play ball, though – they have to approve the allowance – can be difficult. Lindsay Peer, education director of the British Dyslexia Association, says: “Local authorities are very different in attitude. It’s an unfair situation in that it depends on where you live. And some universities will intervene with the authority, where others don’t.”

    Louise Anderson is in no doubt about being open. “I put it in my support statement when I applied both for my university place and my job.

    “I had a friend who was a primary head and she advised me that people would respect me for being open and honest.”

    At her job interview, her head expressed some concern about writing reports to parents, but this, too, has been a matter of care and support. “Don’t bottle it up,” she says. “Speak to somebody. I was lucky, I had Steve, but you’ll find somebody you can trust, somebody who’ll take five minutes to help you.”

    Are all education departments as supportive as Sunderland? It’s not easy to tell. Barbara Riddick has researched the area but still finds it difficult to get the true picture.

    “The departments are between a rock and a hard place,” she says. “There’s emphasis on numeracy and literacy skills and extra tests and, on the other hand, there are human rights and equal opportunity issues.”

    What students and their parents can do, clearly, is use the Sunderland level of support – the mentoring, the counselling, access to IT – as a benchmark for asking questions in other places. Riddick says: “One of the most helpful things is having as a main tutor or mentor someone sympathetic to dyslexia or even dyslexic themselves.”

    And dyslexic teachers should remember they are not alone. Wells says: “In the art world especially there are probably more teachers like myself than would care to admit it. We find alternative ways of expressing ourselves. A lot of young people have an art teacher as a favourite teacher, and I think that’s why – I think they see bits of themselves there.”

    British Dyslexia Association 98 London Road, Reading RG1 5AU.Helpline: 0118 966 8271 Email: info@dyslexia Web:

    So, there you go, that’s what dedicated art departments in schools are all about. One of the main problems, is convincing schools that the sorts of people with the skills to staff them, are as valuable as the other teachers.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

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