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Special ed needs overhaul: report

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/09/2016

Many children with disabilities are being denied a proper education in New Zealand and the sector needs a shake-up, a community legal advice service says.

Youth Law's report Challenging the Barriers has found there are problems with the structure, funding and systems for accountability in the special education sector.

It says some children with disabilities are being excluded from extra-curricular activities, not being allowed to enrol at local schools, not receiving enough support in class and are being suspended or excluded from schools for reasons relating to their disabilities.

Among the issues it identified with the system included:

* Ministry of Education-led service funding is "fragmented and unnecessarily complicated" making appeals and applications difficult for families

* There are no compulsory courses for teachers on supporting students with high needs

* Current National Standards do not provide a reliable measurement of the achievement of students with disabilities

* There is no enforceable right to education, with complaints not always being dealt with appropriately.

The report calls for wide reforms of the sector to address those issues, along with increasing funding for schools.

"If we want young people to be engaged members of our communities, we need to provide them with a meaningful education," Youthlaw general manager Vanushi Walters said.

"Failing to do that can take a heavy toll on these young people and society as a whole."

The government last month proposed shifting special needs funding towards younger students.

But Mr Walters said the changes would just mean "funding will simply be shifted around" the sector.

"Greater funding and support is required for children, young people and the schools who work hard to support them."

The report also found New Zealand's lack of specific legislation around protecting disabled children's right to education may be in breach of United Nations conventions.

A 2013 Statistics New Zealand Disability Survey found about 24 per cent of children with disabilities had an unmet need for help with schoolwork.

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