Govt urged to reverse school closures
Closing McKenzie Residential School will create irreversible problems and huge disruptions to mainstream classes, a professor says.
University of Canterbury College of Education professor Garry Hornby said the Ministry of Education needs to reconsider its decision to close Yaldhurst's McKenzie school and Salisbury Residential School in Nelson.
''Not only for the sake of these vulnerable young people and their families, but also to spare the inevitable disruption in the mainstream schools that these children will attend if the closure of these two special schools goes ahead,'' he said.
Hornby has more than 40 years experience working with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.
For the last eight years he has researched former McKenzie pupils.
Attending a residential school saved many children from ''complete meltdown''.
Residential schools are an essential part of providing support for children with learning and behavioural difficulties ''whose needs were beyond the capacity of mainstream schools to cope with,'' he said.
''Not having these schools as a last resort option for these very vulnerable children would put enormous stresses on the mainstream schools they will attend and on their families in trying to cope with them at home.
''This decision ... will create many problems and will be just about impossible to reverse if it is carried out, as expertise that has taken many years to develop will be lost.''
The wrap around service, that will replace the schools, could work for some children.
However, those with the highest needs could slip through the net.
''Effectiveness of the wrap around service will also depend on the ability of mainstream schools to cater effectively for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties,'' Hornby said.
''This will require the training of all mainstream school teachers and the development of school organisation, so that they all have clear structures for identifying and providing appropriate programs for pupils with special educational needs.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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