Parents pay for teacher aides and support at one in 10 NZ primary schools

Whangaparaoa mother Merryn Straker was paying $4000 a year in 2015 so that a teacher aide could spend more than the ORS-funded 11 hours a week with her son Oscar, who has cerebral palsy. Photo / File
Whangaparaoa mother Merryn Straker was paying $4000 a year in 2015 so that a teacher aide could spend more than the ORS-funded 11 hours a week with her son Oscar, who has cerebral palsy. Photo / File

Parents are being asked to pay for at least part of the cost of teacher aides and support for their children at one in every 10 state primary schools, a new survey has found.

The survey of special needs co-ordinators at 572 state and integrated primary, intermediate and special schools by the NZ Educational Institute has found that parents help to fund support for their children at 57 of the schools.

More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of the special needs co-ordinators (“Sencos”) said their schools did not have enough resources to ensure that all students could participate fully in school, forcing some students to attend only part-time or when a teacher aide is available.

The Government spends $690 million a year on support for “target student groups” but the Labour, NZ First and Green Parties all advocated spending more before last year’s election, including “uncapping” the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) which is currently capped at about 1 per cent of students.

Greerton Village School principal Anne Macintosh said this week that her school faced a deficit of $118,482 because ORS funding for its 26 ORS students was inadequate.

Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh has told Chris Hipkins that her school has run out of money to top up Ministry of Education funding for its 26 ORS-funded students. Photo / File
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh has told Chris Hipkins that her school has run out of money to top up Ministry of Education funding for its 26 ORS-funded students. Photo / File

Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Children’s Minister Tracey Martin have promised to take an “action plan for learning support” to Cabinet by October and are seeking public input at two “education summits” in Christchurch this weekend and in Auckland next week.

The survey found that 92 per cent of primary schools have a register of children with special needs, listing 20,424

children across the schools who have registers – an average of 15 per cent of the roll in each school.

As expected, only 1307 students across all schools, or about 1 per cent of all students, get ORS funding.

The others are listed as receiving funding from:

• The Special Education Grant, which is paid to all schools based on their rolls (10,018 children);

• Ministry of Education resource teachers for learning and behaviour (2114 children);

• Parents (241 children); and

• Accident Compensation Corporation (111 children).

NZ Educational Institute president Lynda Stuart, the principal of decile-1 May Rd School in Mt Roskill, said the parents were not necessarily paying for teacher aides.

“There would be some parents that pay for support for their children, but there are a number of interpretations around that – be that parents paying for things like Kip McGrath, or is that something more specialist even than that,” she said.

“In my experience I have hardly ever seen that, but that would be because the parents I’ve worked with wouldn’t have the disposable income to be able to do it. There are areas of inequity around that.

“What we are after is quality public education that ensures that children get their needs met whatever their needs may be within the education system, so we are not wanting to see that.”

Lynda Stuart, pictured with May Rd School students Bronson Tipama'a, left, and Jumaanah Vahora in 2014, says schools don't want to see parents having to pay for teacher aides. Photo / File
Lynda Stuart, pictured with May Rd School students Bronson Tipama’a, left, and Jumaanah Vahora in 2014, says schools don’t want to see parents having to pay for teacher aides. Photo / File

Asked whether they agreed that “my school has the resources needed to ensure that all students can participate fully in school,” 23 per cent of Sencos strongly disagreed and 46 per cent disagreed – a total of 69 per cent.

Asked how many students “do not receive adequate support/funding”, 44 per cent of all Sencos said there was inadequate support for up to a fifth of their schools’ rolls, 22 per cent said it was inadequate for between a fifth and two-fifths, and 7 per cent said it was inadequate for more than two-fifths of students at their schools.

Schools are not required to have Sencos, and 48 per cent of the Sencos said they did not get any release time specifically for their Senco work. Most are also deputy principals or hold other roles on top of their Senco work, and only 10 per cent are fulltime Sencos.

Just over half (57 per cent) said they had some relevant professional development before taking on the Senco role and 74 per cent after taking the role.

But only 19 per cent said they were completely confident in their ability to carry out the role, and 61 per cent said they would be interested in obtaining a Senco qualification if one was available.

Source: nzherald.co.nz (2nd May 2018)

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