LAUNCH OF PHASE TWO OF SPECIAL EDUCATION 2000Education
NAENAE INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL, WELLINGTON
Thankyou for your warm welcome and introduction to your school.
Naenae Intermediate is I am advised a successful school - it just keeps on growing, and I congratulate you on that. I'm looking forward to checking out your special education facilities today to get a taste of the positive approach you are taking with your special education students. When I first took over the Education portfolio - it has actually been 15 months now but believe me at times it seems a lot longer - at that time I made it clear I would be taking a very close interest in Special Education, and in trying to find a resolution to the problems that have plagued this area of public policy for a long time. I have been pushing hard to get enough resources and a good robust special education policy which will give a consistent and predictable level of special education support with the maximum amount practicable of parental choice. It is against that background that I would like to let you in on the details of the next step of Special Education 2000, the Coalition Government's special education policy.
Phase Two of Special Education 2000 will provide, assured and consistent resourcing for students with high and very high education needs throughout the entire time of their schooling. The policy is exciting and progressive and reflects our solid commitment to improving education. In last year's Budget we began this journey. We agreed then to provide another $55 million over three years for the Special Education Grant to help students with moderate learning and behavioural difficulties. This Grant - SEG as it is known in the bureaucracy - puts resources in the hands of schools to decide how best to respond to the needs of those with what is described as moderate needs. The means and priorities for addressing these needs are best determined at the local level.
Phase Two of Special Education 2000 moves the policy on and responds specifically to students with high and very high education needs. Here education needs vary enormously both between individuals and schools. Consistent approaches are needed for this group.
A lot of people find it hard to pin down exactly what the very generic term `special education' means.
Anyone informed in this public policy area will know very well we are dealing with a wide range of needs - the characteristics of, and solution to, the needs of students with very high, high, moderate or low needs are all very different. It is a complex picture. And it will not be solved by slogans acting as solutions.
Not only is there the range of needs - there are qualitative differences within the range itself. There are students whose needs are ongoing like those who are severely deaf, vision impaired or with a severe disability. And then there are those students who need programmes that get results over a limited period. I'm talking here about students with severe behaviour problems. These sorts of kids are those whose behaviour in the classroom reaches crisis point and it is just impossible for them to be handled.
The students targeted by Phase Two of Special Education 2000 cover a wide cross section - the one thing they have in common is their high or very high special needs.
The new Special Education strategy I am announcing today has five key parts.
The first centres on the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme.
Students who have ongoing special education needs will get guaranteed funding which follows them wherever they go to school and throughout their schooling. This is a big step forward and will replace the system now where sometimes support has to be applied for every six months.
The second part centres on those students who get the best results through an intensive programme over a set time period. This part of Special Education 2000 will deliver for students with severe behavioural difficulties and for those with significant speech or language difficulties in particular.
We are still in the throes of making final decisions about these initiatives. What we are looking at for students with severe behaviour difficulties is the concept of Behaviour Intervention Support. Here teams of specialists in behaviour management would work to reduce the incidence of severe and challenging student behaviour and respond quickly to students in crisis situations. We are also considering setting up centres for extra support to provide short term programmes for some students whose severe behaviour can't be managed in schools.
Thirdly, we will be giving more help to children with special education needs in their early childhood years. We are looking at increasing services to provide more co-ordinated and specialist advice and support, and teaching and paraprofessional support to children under five.
The final two components include professional development and training on special education for boards of trustees, principals and teachers on special education needs and monitoring and evaluating the programme to make sure it works.
Special Education is a complex area, and to make sure we have the process right we will conduct a trial-run of the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme to establish the eligibility of students with ongoing needs.
The test-run will be conducted over the next three months and once completed final decisions will be made about the proposed initiatives and on the shape of the resourcing for all high needs students targeted in the Special Education 2000 policy.
Indicative funding will be revealed in this year's Budget, but we want to make absolutely sure we have a fair and transparent way of establishing eligibility before we announce the scale of our response.
I hope that by running briefly through the threads of Phase Two of Special Education 2000 I have given you an insight into what we are planning. I will leave copies of this newsletter which fleshes out the broad ideas.
As I said when I began, I have personally devoted considerable time to special education policy. The Government is determined to correct the current inequities in special education support so that regardless of where the child lives, or whether he or she is in a special school, special education unit within a regular class, they have access to an appropriate range of services.
My Treasury colleagues are prepared to get in behind with a substantial amount of support, but that detail will I am afraid have to wait for the Budget.
Thankyou again for allowing me to visit your school. All the best with your efforts to respond to the needs of your special education students.