New workforce a game-changer for kids with learning needs

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.

“These coordinators will not only help unlock the potential of thousands of children with learning needs, they’ll free up teachers so all children get more quality classroom time to learn,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“A big concern I hear regularly from teachers is the amount of time they spend trying to get support for children with additional needs. 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 Coalition Government has listened to the parents and students who’ve asked for more support, and teachers who have been calling for this new fully-funded role.

“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.

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.

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.

“Today’s announcement of funding for the coordinators will give parents, teachers and schools absolute certainty of our commitment as we work towards implementation.

“Feedback from public consultation, which has just closed, will inform what the final job description looks like and the appropriate ratios for both urban and rural schools. This will also inform the final number of coordinators.

“We are deliberately taking a two-phased approach to rolling out coordinators across all schools. We’ve inherited a significant teacher shortage and implementation of the new role in full from the beginning of 2020 would place huge pressure on the education workforce supply.

“Planning for the second phase will be worked through once this first tranche of coordinators is in place and a clearer picture of medium and long term workforce needs emerges.

“Today’s announcement is designed to allow schools as much time as possible to prepare for the new role,” Tracey Martin said.