Salisbury School has to fight for survival

Last updated 13:12 26/05/2012

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The Ministry of Education could close Salisbury School in Richmond in a "rushed" move to a new model for special education based on irrelevant research, the school's board of trustees says.

The ministry wants to replace the current model of special education with a "wrap-around" model, with students living at home and being managed by a range of agencies.

As a result, one or more of the country's four special schools may be closed at the end of the year. Affected boards and their communities have until June 15 to offer submissions to the plan, with an initial decision expected on August 15.

Any school facing closure would have until September 12 to present "final reasons" for why it should stay open.

A final decision will be announced in October.

Ministry special education group manager Brian Coffey visited Salisbury School on Thursday to meet with staff and hear their concerns.

He said schools such as Salisbury had done a good job, but the ministry wanted the kids to have an experience in their local school.

"We wouldn't be doing this change at all if we didn't think it was the best for kids."

He said the ministry needed to be respectful of those teachers and other staff who would be impacted, but that would not drive the decision in the end.

"Change doesn't work if you're trying to meet too many needs," he said.

He said the move to a wrap-around service for special education was based on experience with the closure of Waimokoia School in Auckland, as well as research from special education expert David Mitchell.

But board of trustees chairwoman Helen McDonnell said none of the evidence the ministry was using was directly applicable to the teenage girls the school cared for.

"We're going to a new model but there's no evidence from the ministry about teen girls," she said.

Staff were also concerned about the speed at which it was taking place, with a short consultation period with the people affected.

"It's almost like this is an experiment, it's kind of alarming really," she said. She said a wrap-around model could become a "fragmented, frustrating nightmare" for families.

"It means you're bombarded with a whole lot of care providers. We're concerned that the theory doesn't translate to reality.

"The whole education review talks about education for all, for a small proportion that this won't work for, they will fall through the net again.

"All these concerns will be going into the submission."

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