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Government’s update to Special Education is a major blunder

It’s out with the “special needs” and in with the early prevention. But National’s latest approach to education for disabled New Zealanders is a joke of the highest order.

Special education in schools is likely to be the biggest loser in a proposed change released today by the Government. Minister for Education Hekia Parata says that the term ‘special needs’ singles people out and creates a barrier to a fully inclusive education system.

To further quote her words, Parata said that by concentrating on learner’s deficits, students become marginalised in their education.

The update will implement changes that see more of a focus on pre-schoolers. The aim is early prevention, not help to a child with a disability. This decision comes off the struggles that the Ministry of Education has been having to meet growing demand.

Numbers of disabled learners are increasing, and it appears the Government may now regret going mainstream.

Early support for disabled children can lead to a better education, but it doesn’t mean that the disability just disappears after age seven. In many, if not all cases, a child with a disability will need Special Education support right throughout their time in education.

This paper released today mentions nothing of tertiary education either.

We can all agree that disabled learners of all ages need support. The Government is right when they say that more attention needs to be put on pre-schoolers so that the education system can identify people who need help when they get to school.

Where the Minister is wrong is in her assumption that this will make a greater impact. The only way early intervention, from a financial standpoint, will make a greater impact is if the funding and support continues throughout the education journey.

All told, this proposal adds to the continued failures the Government has had with Special Education. The Ministry of Education wins again, and not for the first time, the next move has been to ignore adding extra resources across the board.

More funding was required here, not a change in where it’s used.

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