Parents frustrated at lack of support for higher needs kids

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2014

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Children with learning difficulties are missing out, with a lack of funding forcing educators to focus on children with behavioural problems instead, parents and principals say.

"If a kid is destroying classrooms . . . you take them before a kid who has difficulty with spelling," Masterton Primary School principal Sue Walter said.

Walter is the manager for the resource teacher learning and behaviour (RTLB) cluster in Wairarapa and Upper Hutt.

She said that if a child couldn't be taken on by the service, sometimes the Ministry of Education could refer them to specialists such as clinical psychologists and speech therapists. But there was often a long wait, and tight funding meant priority was usually given to children with behavioural, rather than learning, problems.

Wairarapa mother Michelle Barre, whose six-year-old son Brody has a developmental delay, shared her frustration.

"The school has been a really good advocate for [extra support] but all the way they get roadblocked, they get told no room, not enough funding, not enough people."

Brody attends Mauriceville Primary School, north of Masterton, and principal Rebecca Stevens said while Wairarapa's RTLB staff were excellent, they were stretched. "You need to be very, very high needs to get a look-in."

Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey said funding for special education had risen by about a quarter in the past five years to $530 million. Rural areas received more RTLB teachers per head than others.

"How services are allocated at any one time depends on which children have the greatest needs."

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