Registration requirements 'bureaucratic nonsense' for experienced special needs teacher

Eighteen-year-old Bridget Earnshaw is home-schooled. She is taught by speech language therapist and special needs ...
EMILY MURPHY/FAIRFAX NZ

Eighteen-year-old Bridget Earnshaw is home-schooled. She is taught by speech language therapist and special needs teacher Stephanie Dunkin.

Bridget Earnshaw has developed a special bond with her teacher, but now she's going to lose her.

Life is not easy for the Christchurch 18-year-old, who has non-verbal autism and severe dyspraxia​.

She is intelligent, but not everyone treats her that way. Her home-based classroom is dotted with posters, including a world map, mathematic equations, and facts about the universe. 

Bridget learns a range of subjects, including social studies.
EMILY MURPHY/FAIRFAX NZ

Bridget learns a range of subjects, including social studies.

She is a deep-thinker, with a great sense of humour and an ability to light up the room, teacher Stephanie Dunkin says. 

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A excerpt from the teenager's social study book says it all: "People called me dum dum because I don't talk. They don't try to understand me . . . it is prejudice."

The 18-year-old is learning words in French.
EMILY MURPHY/FAIRFAX NZ

The 18-year-old is learning words in French.

Dunkin is publicly-funded to work with Earnshaw for five hours a week through the Ministry of Education's ongoing resourcing scheme. Any additional hours are paid for by the family. 

The bond between the pair is obvious. Earnshaw met Dunkin when she was aged 6. Dunkin began teaching her a couple of years later, and played a key part in home-schooling her in recent years especially. 

News Dunkin can no longer teach has been "devastating". 

Bridget is particularly talented at mathematics.
EMILY MURPHY/FAIRFAX NZ

Bridget is particularly talented at mathematics.

Due to registration requirements imposed by the Education Council two years ago, Dunkin is unable to renew her practicing certificate. 

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The Education Council advised her she would need to take a $4000 12-week refresher course at Waikato University in Hamilton.

Teachers who have not taught for six years are required to complete refresher courses, as are teachers who have not met "certification requirements after six years". 

Dunkin – who has a 6-year-old son – could not complete the course as she needed to be home for her family, "not to mention the cost", she said.

Even if she could, she would not do the course. The students she works with have very high and complex needs. As a qualified speech language therapist, she does not see the point in doing a course with only a "tiny mention of special needs".

She said it was more suited to people who wanted to teach in mainstream schools, something she was not interested in.

That means Dunkin will be out of a job in January, and Earnshaw's mother – Jo Field – will need to find a new teacher.

Field said the Education Council's requirements were "stupid bureaucratic nonsense".

"She is not going to be employed . . . just because she doesn't have a piece of paper."

Education Council deputy chief executive Lesley Hoskin said the refresher course added value to teachers' skills and gave the public and the profession an assurance they were up to date. 

Hoskin acknowledged there were a "small group of teachers" for which the Teacher Education Refresh programme did not work so well.

An expert group had been brought together to "look at how we can maintain the principles of high standards for all teachers, while supporting the needs of the workforce", he said. 

"We expect to make an announcement on developments very soon." 

 - Stuff

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