Call to reverse special needs education cuts

Last updated 13:56 18/10/2012

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More than 12,000 people have urged the Government to reverse changes which are closing special needs units around the country and forcing children with disabilities into mainstream education.

A petition was today handed to opposition MPs at Parliament from the Labour, Green and NZ First parties.

Many special needs units were closed about a decade ago but some remained open by pooling funding for special needs teachers by forming clusters of schools in their area.

Spokesman Meredydd Barrar said the Ministry of Education had now prohibited that practise.

"Therefore no teacher, no units. The ministry glibly says the schools can carry on the unit if they want to but where's the money? There isn't enough funding."

Four special needs units in Auckland have already closed, one in Wellington is under threat and there are others around the country which may be unable to stay open, he said.

"It's all very ad hoc. Schools don't know whether they can maintain their units from one year to the next."

The ministry was being called on to increase the funding of its "ongoing resource scheme" for special needs, Barrar said.

"Then these moderate special needs kids who are now missing out could be funded properly and schools or clusters if they wished, could set up units."

For many children the mainstream system was entirely appropriate, he said.

However, parents of those in the special needs units where their children "flourished" were distraught at the closures.

Labour's associate education spokesman Chris Hipkins said his party was concerned about the Government's approach to education which involved announcing decisions not listening to those affected by its decisions.

That was also evidenced in its reform of Christchurch schools, he said.

"Special education had been particularly hard hit under the current government. It's not getting the resources it needs."

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