6 Oct 2008

Principals call for review of special-needs support

4:11 pm on 6 October 2008

The Ministry of Education is being accused of turning its back on children with disabilities and special needs.

School principals in Northland say education in the region is in crisis because hundreds of children who meet the criteria for extra support at school are not getting it.

The Tai Tokerau Principals Association, which represents more than a 150 schools, says children with disabilities and behaviour problems are not getting the support they need.

The association's president, Pat Newman, says those who need help include children with cerebral palsy, hearing loss and severe behavioural problems.

He says learning failure and chaos in the classroom are increasingly seen as a result of the current situation and is calling for the ministry to review its criteria for special-needs support.

Mr Newman says one child with Asperger's syndrome yells and swears constantly, but has support from a teacher's aide for only nine hours a week.

He says half of Northland's schools are decile one to three, but special needs funding is based on population rather than need, and that should be reviewed urgently.

The Ministry of Education says it accepts the concerns of Northland principals about the state of special education - and is looking into the way it funds it.