Special needs students 'missing out'

Last updated 05:00 03/12/2013

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South Canterbury schools are eager to accept students who have special needs, but limited funding makes it difficult.

The New Zealand Council of Education Research found that almost 40 per cent of primary school principals surveyed said there was insufficient support for students with special needs in their schools.

South Canterbury Principals' Association chairman Dave Armstrong said the concept of being inclusive is "good for the student, for the school and for the community".

"But the reality of providing the service that these children need can be more challenging than it needs to be."

Mr Armstrong understands there is a limit on government funding, but importantly, there are children who are not getting the support they need.

"The funding is based on priority, and some miss out. The school is left to do its best with normal resources."

Mr Armstrong approves of the Government's policy, which aims to have 100 per cent of schools inclusive of special needs students by next year, but questions whether there are enough resources to support it. "[The Government] can't have their cake and eat it too; they can't have special needs students in mainstream schools and not fund it."

IHC director of advocacy Trish Grant said providing adequate support for special needs students is "up there with the top issues schools deal with". "Many principals tell us they need more support from the ministry to do this well. That's not just money, but teacher training, and training of teacher aides."

Ms Grant and the IHC have lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission because they believe excluding special needs students is discrimination.

"Some students have to go home at lunch time because there's not enough funding to pay for someone to be with them. Some can't go on school camps - that is discrimination."

Ms Grant said the Government was at risk of not meeting its own targets over the issue. "Unless the Government is serious about New Zealand having a world class inclusive education - and resources schools appropriately to enable them to meet the needs of all children - the Government's own target of 100 per cent of schools demonstrating inclusive practices by 2014 will not be achieved."

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- The Timaru Herald

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