Greerton Village School students make a plea for more funding.
Providing education to children with special learning needs has left one school $125,000 in the red.
The decile 2, Greerton Village School has highest number of special needs children at any mainstream primary school but catering for so many students has left the school in debt.
Parents have even resorted to opening a Give-a-Little page to fundraise money to pay teacher aides and help meet the two-year deadline to repay the debt.
Principal Anne Mackintosh says the school attracted high numbers of children requiring learning support because parents were discouraged to enrol their child at other schools.
Now, seven per cent of their roll requires funding from the Ongoing Resource Scheme and many others require learning support.
"We became a bit of a victim of our own success," Mackintosh said.
"Because we support inclusion and our treasures never feel they miss out. They do everything from swimming to kapa haka."
To curb the rising number of students the school had to put in place an enrolment zone to slow down their student intake. This stopped students being encouraged to enrol in their school outside of their zones.
On September 22 the Coalition Government announced sweeping changes to the way learning support was organised in the draft disability health action plan designed to create better pathways for students.
Submissions to the select committee also identified parents being discouraged from enrolling their children at certain schools.
"Some parents report their child has not been welcome and/or allowed to attend for full school hours; or that their child has been excluded from education opportunities outside of the classroom," one submission read.
Mackintosh says the reason for this is purely financial. Inclusion comes at a cost, with teacher aides being funded by the Ongoing Resource Scheme - a fund that allows teacher aides to be hired.
"Sometimes children are only allocated 10 hours of teacher aide but in reality need more or even full-time," she said.
"We go through all the hoops and try to fight for additional funding."
Mackintosh said the additional hours ate away the school's budget but it was done for the betterment of the children. The school passed 15 years of audits and has had no financial mismanagement issues.
"The problem is just the funding for the number of children we have," Mackintosh said.
After going to the Ministry of Education the school was told to cut costs by $100,000 which will mean the loss of at least five teacher aides. The school has already cut the budget to the bone and even gone without rebuilding their junior playground which had to be dismantled years ago.
Ministry of Education's deputy secretary sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said the two-year repayment plan was arranged to allow the school to stay cash-flow positive.
"Regarding your question about claims parents are being discouraged from enrolling their children in certain schools, every child and young person has the right to education," she said.
"We know though that some parents and whānau experience challenges in having their children's needs recognised and supported."
Associate education minister Tracey Martin said too many children have been missing out on the support they need.
"Once finalised, the Disability and Learning Support Action Plan will provide a clear structure and path for delivering this help.
"The goal is that we have an inclusive education system where children and young people with additional learning needs, including disabilities, are welcome, and where their achievement, progress, wellbeing and participation is valued and supported."
The announcement came on top of a March announcement of an additional $272.8 million over four years to learning support.
Erika Harvey's child Piper attends Greerton Village School and says their existing model of inclusion and learning support has transformed her child
Piper has severe autism but since changing to Greerton Village School she is no longer being excluded.
"You always want to have hope for your children but before coming to this school, I wasn't sure there was much," she said.
"She doesn't feel like she is missing out or different.
"They let her do everything from kapa haka to even being on the school radio."
Mackintosh is hopeful the changes will make a difference for schools like hers the promote inclusiveness but said resources are the key issue. "From the new changes, which took effect in July, we've only received about $5000 more and we are grateful for it," she said.
Stuff : https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/107264172/greerton-school-principal-school-in-financial-issue-due-to-learning-support
Passionate about Inclusion, Collaboration, Innovation and making a difference.
co-creation & engagement specialist