Tracey Formosa-Archbold has not worked since her son started school.
Kaden Murray, 12, has severe oro-motor dyspraxia, meaning his speech is delayed. He has also been diagnosed with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and an intellectual disability.
Kaden was granted Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding from the Ministry of Education when he was 4. It provides support for students with the greatest learning needs.
"You think, 'That's great, that will mean he's got all the support he should have at school', but he doesn't," Formosa-Archbold says.
It was "always a battle" getting teacher aide hours approved.
"When he started school, he had quite severe separation anxiety. So for the first two years when his teacher aide wasn't with him, I had to be with him."
Formosa-Archbold still has to be available for Kaden at his current school in Christchurch, in case he has a panic attack or behavioural problem when an aide is not by his side.
"I just haven't worked, I didn't work. There was no way ... And it's not just when his anxiety is high. He'll struggle, they'll call me. Being available to him at school has just been part of the way it is.
"The school doesn't have the resources to manage your child if they need that extra one-on-one. If they've got the aide there, that's great, but I don't know anybody that's got a full-time [one]."
THE PROBLEM WITH ORS FUNDING
ORS funding is categorised by two levels of needs: high and very high.
To meet approval criteria, students must have either ongoing severe difficulty in learning, hearing, vision, physical or language use/social communication, or moderate-high difficulty with learning, combined with high needs in two of the other four areas.
ORS funding allows the ministry to provide specialists, additional teachers, aides and support items to students, to help their needs.
About 1 per cent of students receive ORS funding.
Cathy Johnston, whose son Mitchell, 11, has ORS assistance, says she worries about her friends more than herself.
"A number of my friends have got special needs kids, and they're not quite as severe as Mitchell, but for whatever reason it's been incredibly frustrating for them to get [aides].
"I can't say the same for other families, unfortunately, but for me it's been extremely positive ... I just wish some of them would get the kind of help that I receive."
Erika Harvey, whose daughter Piper, 7, has ORS funding, says the "extremely narrow" criteria mean parents end up battling each other over the limited pool of money.
Children who need help, but are not "the most severe", end up falling through the cracks and never improving unless parents seek outside assistance, she says.
"Look at half of the people who have done amazing things for the world – they've been autistic. Why the heck are we not supporting these children?"
While technically illegal under the Education Act, schools also use "creative ways" to pass off potential students they know will not have or get ORS funding, Harvey says.
Piper's school, Greerton Village School, is on the opposite side of the problem, as one of the "magnet" facilities being "punished" for taking in more children than it can financially handle.
It is operating on a $118,000 deficit, Harvey says, due to the demand for aide support requiring additional hours having to be funded on top of what has been granted by the ministry.
"The funding model is so skewed. It actually promotes exclusion ... The issue is from years and years of neglect and underfunding. It's snowballed into this crisis."
Harvey does not understand how New Zealand reached this point.
"I just had a call yesterday from a parent who has three children who are autistic. She just tried to kill herself because she can't handle it and she feels like a failure.
"It breaks my heart, I'm just getting emails from parents who are suicidal and their mental health is going, they're losing their house because they have to work. They have to choose between a job and giving their child an education - these are choices that people shouldn't be making."
A HISTORY OF NEGLECT
University of Auckland professor Missy Morton, whose research specialises in disability studies in education, says New Zealand has a history of neglecting its disabled community.
When she first entered the field, Morton worked in psychiatric facilities, including Dunedin's Cherry Farm Hospital and Auckland's Māngere Hospital, where people with disabilities lived alongside patients relocated from lunatic asylums.
"There were kids there that didn't go anywhere. They lay on the floor of the ward, they didn't have their own clothes, they didn't have physiotherapy or occupational therapy, they were institutionalised in every sense of the word."
People in those institutions "experienced a lot of abuse", she says.
Most of those facilities closed only about 30 years ago, around the time of the 1989 Education Act, which said all children could go to school.
"There's still people who are in our system as educators who don't believe these kids belong at school. If you don't see somebody as a student, it's hard to believe that you can actually teach them.
"Sometimes no amount of evidence is going to change stereotypes. But for most people, continued exposure and interaction, I think a lot of people are fearful of some kind of difference, and when you actually get to know somebody as a fellow human being, they're much less fearful."
A big part of the de-institutionalisation movement was making sure people were integrated with the community, however many schools still had a special needs unit physically separated from mainstream blocks, which created an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, she said.
"Some schools have overcome that, they've re-purposed some of those rooms and made sure that kids without disabilities spend a lot of time in those rooms, but you have to work really hard."
NO-ONE HEARS THE COMPLAINING'
New Zealand Down Syndrome Association president Shelley Waters says there is "inadequate" teacher training in the learning support area.
The Government needs to "take more responsibility" for funding specific learning support training for teachers, at an undergraduate level and with postgraduate professional development, she said.
Morton says current opportunities for such development, and teacher education, is "quite variable depending on where you train and when you trained".
A former Wellington special needs unit teacher of 10 years, who does not want to be named, says she left her job because she didn't agree with what untrained aides got away with.
She made complaints about mistreatment of students from aides. However, those employees, who often did not have formal job descriptions and were hired without qualifications, continued to do "what they felt like doing".
"If you saw what was happening ... your toes would curl. The most appalling thing is these students can't talk for themselves so they actually don't have a voice. So no-one hears the complaining. Anyone can do anything they like to, and with these students and there's no consequences."
Teachers come into the industry with high hopes, but leave exhausted and frustrated, she says.
"You do it for years and years and years, and the thing is it's like pushing sh.. uphill. If your management is not listening to you, and the aides are doing what they want to do, and you're trying to do the best you can for the students, you're getting nowhere.
"In the end, you give up."
COMPLETE OVERHAUL NEEDED?
Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero says it is vital that discussions about the future of the education system focus on ensuring inclusive education is "not a nice-to-have, but every child's right".
Tesoriero referred to statistics from the 2017 June quarter Household Labour Force Survey, which reveal 42 per cent of disabled New Zealanders between the age of 15-24 are not in employment, education or training.
"This is an indication that our education system is not as inclusive as it needs to be," Tesoriero says.
"An inclusive education system where children are supported to receive, participate and achieve to their full potential can change this outcome for disabled people."
Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey acknowledges there are "some challenges" with the system.
Demand is increasing for learning support due to population growth and earlier identification of needs, she says. There are also more children with "complex, and in some cases enduring needs".
The ministry is implementing a new learning support delivery approach, Casey says.
The new approach includes having single support plans for each young person to achieve their learning goals, more flexibility to create responsive support, providing families with support to navigate the system, and better facilitating connections between local education and service providers.
But Disabled Persons Assembly national policy manager Esther Woodbury says issues cannot be resolved by having a learning support division alone.
"There needs to be a total cultural shift within the Ministry of Education for all students to be able to experience the lifelong benefits of belonging, participating and succeeding in an education system which actively values them."
An inclusive education system is possible, but there needs to be co-design from the disabled community, Woodbury says.
"The whole education system needs transforming and rebuilding. Decades of reviews and tinkering have not solved systemic and structural problems which negatively affect students, families and schools.
"The change we need to see today is a large-scale move away from the segregation of disabled people in special schools and special units. Disabled people are part of our society, our communities. It is time for our communities, and specifically our education system, to figure out what that actually means."
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin says the system has been "chronically underfunded".
There were problems around the way support services are structured, and gaps in data collections "which mean we don't currently fully understand the extent of the need".
The Government invested $273 million in this year's Budget in learning support, and is developing a Disability and Learning Support Action Plan, she says.
"This action plan will ensure that resources are allocated based on an individual needs assessment for each child, and that all students receive the individual support they require to succeed."
Martin hopes to have a draft out to talk to stakeholders about "in the next few weeks".
IHC director of advocacy Trish Grant says the plan is based on consultation done by the previous Government.
"Unless you've got good prevalence data, unless we know how many kids in New Zealand require additional support to learn, and you base your resourcing framework on that data, then you're setting up kids to fail and schools to fail."
The Budget granting funding for an extra 1000 ORS-approved students is "propping up a flawed framework".
"Total reform ... will be years in the making. Meanwhile, these kids and schools are not getting what they need."
All new teachers should have the capacity to teach all new learners, Grant says.
There should also be better reporting from schools to ensure students' achievements are visible, and can be held accountable by the Education Review Office, she says.
"If they don't deal with these systemic problems, a new model is not going to do anything. A new model will further entrench the problems from the past that we know are deeply rooted in systems that don't work for diverse learners."
The issue concerns human rights, and the fact it has gone on for so long is a "disgrace", she says. "Let's not hide behind rhetoric, we need real action ... These kids have been waiting since 1989, even before that, for a fair deal.
"We don't need another system for these kids. These kids deserve a better response from the whole system."
From Sunday Morning, 10:04 am on 3 June 2018
Erika Harvey & Anne Mackintosh on Radio NZ Sunday Morning
In 2016-17 more than 9,000 high-needs students were funded by the Ministry of Education through its "Ongoing Resourcing Scheme" or ORS. ORS subsidises the wages for teacher aides. The average number of children receiving ORS funding equates to just over 1 percent of the school-aged population. But Greerton Village Primary School in the Bay of Plenty has 6.2 percent of its 380 students requiring ORS funding and has a $118,000 shortfall in wages. Principal of Greerton Village Primary School is Anne MacIntosh and Erika Harvey is the parent of an autistic daughter at the school.
Ministry of Education experts have visited Greerton Village School to discuss funding concerns raised parents and staff.
The experts met with the decile two school on Friday to address the funding model to help with its pupils with special needs.
Principal Anne Mackintosh said she was encouraged by the ministry's positive response and that experts were prepared to listen and see the challenges firsthand.
"They have got faces to the numbers now," she said. "We have had our voices heard, that is the first step."
Mackintosh said the experts were shown a video from parent Erika Harvey which explained the challenges parents of children with special needs faced.
Three parents of children with special needs also spoke about their experiences.
"It was very good to hear from our parents who are living it day in and day out," she said. "It made it more real."
Mackintosh told the Bay of Plenty Times the school would have to cough up more than $118,000 to fund a shortfall and said the ministry was "very much aware" of the school's funding difficulties.
She said they discussed additional funding towards increasing support for teacher aids as part of the Budget 2018 announcement but "we are not sure what that is going to look like".
At the meeting, Mackintosh said the school had proposed to set up a pilot scheme for 2-3 years and had scheduled another meeting at the school to go through details with the head of learning support on June 7.
"It is about inclusive education. We are an authentic and inclusive school," she said.
Parent Erika Harvey was also encouraged by the meeting and was happy the ministry got to meet the children personally.
Harvey's 7-year-old daughter Piper is autistic and is a pupil at Greerton Village School.
"No one ever meets these children. When I applied for funding for Piper no one came to meet her," she said.
"It was all done on a piece of paper. I had to relive the darkest hour of the darkest day just so she has more opportunity with her education."
Harvey said a video she made exploring the funding challenges helped to shine a light on the issue and had so far been viewed by more than 20,000 people.
"It is really driving awareness," she said.
Harvey hoped the ministry would consider more funding for Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) children at the school and nationwide.
"For every parent who doesn't get adequate funding for their child we have to think about leaving our fulltime jobs," she said. "Every child deserves an equitable education."
Ministry of Education deputy secretary of enablement and support Katrina Casey said the ministry would continue discussions with the school to look at ways of supporting an inclusive approach to education.
"We are working with the school to better understand their finances and identify options to address their concerns," she said.
6:40am Friday 01 Jun, 2018 | By Kerry Mitchell email@example.com
A Bethlehem mum’s heartfelt plea to mum-to-be Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to fix the “broken” funding model for special needs students has struck a chord with parents throughout New Zealand.
Erika Harvey’s 7-year-old daughter Piper is autistic and is one of 24 special and high-needs students at Greerton Village School – more than double the number most schools have.
The school is facing a $118,482 funding shortfall this year to cater for these students – a sum it is having to fund from its operational grant instead of long-overdue upgrades of its infrastructure.
Last month Erika wrote an open letter to Jacinda Ardern asking her to fix the funding model which she, and thousands of other parents with children with special needs throughout New Zealand, believe is promoting exclusion of their children from school.
She followed this with a petition and, in the past week, the release of a moving video showing what inclusive education at Greerton Village School looks like.
The school enlisted Erika, a business consultant, to help share its plight.
“Most of what I learned I didn’t know, and I have a special needs kid. I wrote the letter hoping to get our pregnant Prime Minister’s attention because we have to change this broken funding model,” says Erika.
“We’ve got schools that are actually excluding children because it’s too expensive, and they’re winning because they get to spend their operational budget on whatever they like.
“Then we’ve got schools like Greerton Village which are fully inclusive, but are losing out because they can’t afford to buy new computers or replace the playground.”
The Ministry of Education provides funding for special and high-needs students through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). Around one per cent of students receive this support at any one time and the funding covers services and support such as specialists, teacher aides and consumables that aid learning.
The funding for teacher aides is for a limited number of hours, however, and Greerton Village School has increased the hours of support it offers due to the extreme needs of its students, and a desire to give its “treasures” the best education possible.
It employs 21 externally-funded teacher aides and a further two are funded by the school board. The funding shortfall this year is expected to be $118,482.
There has been a glimmer of hope, however, with high-level Ministry of Education officials from Wellington visiting the school last week to discuss the possibility of the school being involved in a pilot project to look at a new funding model.
Erika presented the video at this meeting, which was attended by both educators and parents of special needs students.
“I wanted them to see exactly how their decisions affect schools and children. These people are making decisions about us but are going home to their normal lives and leaving us to pick up the pieces.”
Erika’s inbox was “flooded” with emails with stories from other parents around New Zealand after her open letter to Jacinda Ardern was published and some of their comments appear in the video.
“What is happening in our school is happening across the entire country. This is a big problem and I think people need to know about it.”
Erika points out that ORS funding only covers children with the most severe learning needs. Many others who suffer from mild autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other learning difficulties receive no support at all.
“For me to receive ORS funding I have to write the worst things you can imagine about my daughter. You have to write about their darkest day.
“The main criteria is ‘can they feed and toilet themselves and control their behaviour’. The minute your child can open a packet of chips and learn how to wipe herself, she’s screwed.
“It’s so backward. To me, there is a huge opportunity to help all children with additional learning needs to be contributing members of society, instead of only focusing on the most severe. There are tonnes of children falling through the cracks.”
Greerton Village School principal Anne Macintosh says she was “very encouraged” by last week’s meeting with the Ministry of Education
“They came receptive and ready to listen. There were no promises made, but we’ve got a further meeting set down for June 7 to set out our proposal for a pilot scheme.
“We’re being innovative and looking at solutions – not necessarily looking for a cash hand-out, but we will need support in the short term.
“We passionately believe in inclusion and these treasures bring so much into our school. Our kids are learning about acceptance, responsiveness, tolerance, compassion and respect. The only rub is the money.”
Erika believes Piper is the poster child for what successful inclusion looks like.
“When she first started school at Greerton Village she was non-verbal, violent and always taking off her clothes. My daughter is now a totally different child and that is because she goes to a school that hones in on her skills and is truly inclusive. The difference in her after two years is crazy. They are amazing.”
You can read Erika’s open letter to Jacinda Ardern here: https://www.piperslove.com/pipers-journey/dearjacinda
Original Article can be viewed:
The Budget boost to education has been dubbed as "vast improvement" for a Tauranga primary school currently struggling with financial woes.
Thursday's Budget included an extra $1.6 billion over the next four years in operating funding and $334m in capital funding to address rising demand, fund 1500 more teachers and raise teacher-aide funding.
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh hoped the Budget boost would relieve the school's struggles under increasing financial pressure. Mackintosh told the Bay of Plenty Times the funding model meant to help with its large number of high-needs students was "broken".
"It is a start. I mean it will never be enough but it certainly is a vast improvement. It is very encouraging, it is a step in the right direction," she said.
"It depends when it [the budget] is initiated whether it will be in time to help us in our current situation," she said.
Mackintosh said the $370m to fund 1500 new teacher places by 2021 was also encouraging to help ease the "desperate need" for teachers.
A total of $272m was also announced for learning support such as teacher aides, Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS) and early intervention.
Business consultant and parent Erika Harvey's seven-year-old autistic daughter attends Greerton Village School and was pleased the Budget included an extra 10 per cent in ORS funding.
However, Harvey was concerned how the $272m was allocated and hoped there were major structural changes being made to support children's learning to broaden the criteria.
Harvey had written an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about funding woes at the school and will meet education representatives at the school next week.
Te Puke mother-of-three Monique Lints was pleased to see funding put into crucial services that were important in providing children a better future.
"Especially being a mother of a special needs child it is good to know I can send him off to school and know he is going to be taken care of," she said.
The Ministry funding rate for teacher aides will increase from an hourly rate of $16-$18 in 2019/2020 to $20 an hour by 2022.
Associate Minister for education Tracey Martin said the additional amount will bring the government contribution up to at least the minimum wage and reduces the pressure on schools.
Inspired Kindergartens principal Peter Monteith would have liked to see a bigger increase in "backline funding" for early education centres.
Monteith said the government had signalled an additional 1500 teachers for schools, but nothing to address the critical shortage of qualified teachers in the early childhood sector.
Monteith's said if three new centres were to be built in Tauranga "we could fill them".
Additional reporting NZME
BUDGET 2018: EDUCATION
• $1.6 billion more in operating funding and $334 million in capital funding.
• Education budget will be $12.26b, up from $11.85b last year.
• $395m to build new schools and classrooms. Includes $62m for Christchurch schools rebuild and $332m nationwide.
• $204m for a 1.6 per cent increase to schools' operational funding and to cover school roll growth.
• $370m to fund 1500 new teacher places by 2021 ($70m more than National funded).
• Early childhood education: $590m to fund more places and a 1.6 per cent funding increase for ECE centres from January 2019.
• $272.8m for learning support such as teacher aides, ORS and early intervention.
A Budget increase for preschoolers with extra learning needs has been welcomed by two education leaders in Tauranga, but they are both hoping for more support come Thursday.
So is one local mother who says the new funding is "hardly a drop in the bucket".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Thursday's Budget would include an extra $21.5 million for the early intervention service over the next four years, about $5.4m a year.
The service provides early intervention in behaviour, learning, and speech and language support for children under 5.
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said the increase would halve the current waiting list of preschoolers needing additional learning support.
Peter Monteith, principal of Inspired Kindergartens (formerly known as Tauranga Region Kindergartens), said he was pleased the early childhood sector was "finally getting some traction".
"Hopefully this is just a first step, but it's good that early childhood is being recognised because we've been the Cinderella of the education sector. As the Prime Minister says, the earlier you intervene, the better the options are for children."
Monteith said it would be interesting to see what impact the extra funding would have in kindergartens, as the number of available hours of learning support had been significantly reduced in the past.
"If there is more staff and that reduces waiting times, that's all good, and if there are more resources for teacher aide support, that's all good too. It's all very positive, but we'll be reserving judgement to see how it actually delivers on the ground.
"Given the policies of the three parties in Government, there's an expectation that there will be something reasonably significant for early childhood in the Budget."
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said she was "over the moon" about the preschool budget boost announced on Sunday.
"It is such a great start. Putting in additional funding and support in the early years will have huge rollout benefits for all."
Greerton Village School is struggling under increasing financial pressure and says the funding model meant to help with its large number of high-needs students is "broken".
Ministry experts are travelling to Tauranga this month to meet with the primary school over its concerns.
"Being the eternal optimist, I am very hopeful that there will be additional support for all treasures across our country and that a fair and positive outcome will also result from our meeting with the Ministry of Education on May 25," Mackintosh said.
Business consultant and parent Erika Harvey, whose autistic daughter Piper, 7, attends Greerton Village School, said the $21.5m boost was "hardly a drop in the bucket".
"I am hopeful that broader support is announced Thursday so schools (like Greerton Village) aren't punished for being inclusive and instead are rewarded with the funding they need to continue."
She said the funding model for learning support was broken and structural changes were needed.
"Not all disabilities are physical, so the model needs to change to stop so many who are already falling through the cracks. We've got to do better."
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said the Budget increase would see an extra 1750 children receive help this coming year and contracted early intervention service providers would support an additional 150 children with the highest needs.
"Within two years this number will increase to an additional 200 children."
However, the numbers are small when compared with more than 13,000 preschool children who received an early intervention service in 2015-16 for reasons such as speech delays and autism.
Ardern said on Sunday that this week's Budget would contain a major funding boost for a significant package of learning support initiatives.
The extra money for early intervention was only "one of the components of the package".
A longer-term "action plan" for learning support is also due to be taken to the Cabinet in October.
- Additional reporting: NZ Herald
By: Scott Yeoman - Bay of Plenty Times
Ministry of Education experts will travel to Tauranga this month to meet with Greerton Village School over its funding concerns.
The decile-two primary school is struggling under increasing financial pressure and says the funding model meant to help with its high-needs students is "broken".
The Bay of Plenty Times reported just over a week ago that the school would have to "top up" a funding shortfall of $118,482.26 this year, according to principal Anne Mackintosh and board of trustees chairwoman Desiree Burborough.
The money would have to come from the school board's operational grant, the pair said.
They said the hours of support for high-needs students had to be increased over and above what was funded because of their extreme needs and health and safety issues.
The ministry has now asked to meet Mackintosh on May 25.
Its deputy secretary of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said it had been working with the school for some time and would continue to do so.
Casey said the meeting would include subject-matter experts from the ministry's regional and national offices.
"It's really important that we are all on the same page about the situation at the school and are giving the school all the information they need."
The ministry provides Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding for special and high-needs students to help pay for teacher aides whose support is decided according to a child's learning needs.
Greerton Village School has 24 ORS-funded students, 10 more than 2016, and at least five other students have "challenging behavioural needs". More high-needs students are expected to join the school before 2019.
Having 24 ORS-funded students at one school has been described as "incredibly high" by another school leader and the ministry has said it is a "relatively high number" for a primary school of its size.
Mackintosh said having a meeting planned with the ministry was "really encouraging".
"I'm really delighted that they're going to come and visit and have a meeting with us and they're coming to see our school in operation and all the wonderful things we do for our kids," she said.
"They'll be able to see first-hand what our situation is with our treasures."
"I really feel more supported, and I really believe that they are genuine in their efforts to try and come to some solution for our issues."
At a meeting with local ministry staff late last month it was suggested Greerton Village School would have to slash $100,000 off its wages, Mackintosh said.
And if the school could not do that, the ministry said it would help them do it, she said.
Business consultant and parent Erika Harvey, whose autistic daughter Piper, 7, attends Greerton Village School, was at that meeting.
"It was almost like: Too bad, if you don't do it, we're going to do it, that's the only solution, end of story," Harvey said of the wage-cut suggestion.
She said making those cuts could lead to health and safety problems because some of the children need the teacher aide support to stay safe at school.
It could also mean the school would have to turn away children who needed extra support because they would not be able to afford it, Harvey said.
The Bay of Plenty Times asked the ministry about the $100,000 wage-cut suggestion and whether that was still its position.
"As the meeting hasn't yet happened we're not in a position to be able to talk about possible outcomes that might fall out of it," Casey said.
Bay of Plenty Times
By: Sandra Conchie and Scott Yeoman
A Tauranga school struggling under increasing financial pressure says the funding model meant to help with high-needs students is "broken".
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh and Board of Trustees chairwoman Desiree Burborough told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend the school would have to "top up" a funding shortfall of $118,482.26 this year.
The money would have to come from the school board's operational grant, the pair said.
The Ministry of Education provides Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding for the school's 24 special and high-needs students to help pay for teacher aides whose support is decided on a child's learning needs.
However, "the hours of support have to be increased over and above what is granted due to their extreme needs and health and safety issues", Burborough said.
The school has 24 ORS-funded students, 10 more than 2016, and at least five other students have "challenging behavioural needs". More high-needs students were expected to join the school before 2019, Mackintosh said.
"This adds additional pressure while we strive to do the best we can."
The school has 21 externally funded teacher aides working with the children with significant needs. It also employs other teacher aides (two fulltime equivalents) who are funded by the board.
In November, the school received a discretionary lump sum grant of $10,000 after a Ministry of Education official visited. While they were grateful, Mackintosh said "it was a mere drop in the ocean".
She said ORS funding levels had remained the same for years "yet teacher aide wages have risen". Mackintosh said there was a difference between the hourly rate used to calculate ministry funding and what Greerton Village School was paying teacher aides.
Schools employ teacher aides and decide their hourly rate but the ministry contributes towards that.
While invited to apply for further funding by upgrading some ORS-funded students to ''very high'' needs status, she said that was an "arduous" and time-consuming" process.
Mackintosh and Burborough described the current funding model as broken and inadequate and met with the ministry to discuss it.
The "million-dollar question" was what the school would do if it failed to get extra funding. It could not legally turn away any child living in its school zone.
Business consultant and parent Erika Harvey, whose autistic daughter Piper, 7, attends the school, was asked to investigate and later sent an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calling for a taskforce to be set up to solve the problem. She also launched a petition.
Harvey said helping special and high-needs students, including Piper, to become inclusive members of the school had put "intense" pressure on the school's finances.
"Piper at 5 was still in nappies, had violent outbursts, couldn't communicate, and she was not only a danger to herself but other students and teachers as well," Harvey said.
This was no longer the case, she said.
"My once angry, non-verbal child can be found each morning on the school radio, singing songs in assembly, and participating in other activities including the kapa haka group."
Harvey believed the school had become a victim of its own success, with families moving into the area to send their children there.
Western Bay of Plenty Principal Association vice-president Matt Simeon said, apart from Tauranga Special School, 24 ORS funded students at one school was an "incredibly high" number.
"I know of a few schools that have eight, 10 or maybe 12, but 24 would compound the problem, especially given the minimum wage for teacher aides has risen to $16.50 an hour," he said.
The ministry's Katrina Casey said it was working with the school to get its finances back on track and would continue to support it.
"As part of this process we will be looking into the amount of funding the school is receiving in relation to its ORS students and ensuring it is accurate."
She said schools varied greatly in the number of ORS-verified students, but Greerton Village had a "relatively high number" for a primary school of its size.
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said the Greerton Village School community was not alone in being under ORS-funding financial pressure.
"We've inherited a problem with ORS funding, and with funding for those children who don't meet the strict ORS criteria," she said.
"I'm working with Education Minister Chris Hipkins to see if we can get extra funding for this in the budget."
Funding - by the numbersFor Term 1 of 2018, Ministry of Education records showed Greerton Village School would receive more than $73,000 in teacher aide funding across several initiatives.
Those included: In-class support ($4600), behaviour service ($2000), school high health needs fund ($4800), language learning initiative ($400) and ORS ($62,000).
Greerton Village School received 2.9 full-time equivalents of additional teacher time for their students who are verified into the ORS, the ministry said.
The school received $28,900 of Special Education Grant funding in 2018, which is delivered in its operations grant and is being used to help top up the ORS funding.
Greerton Village School accesses specialist supports from the local Ministry of Education Learning Support (speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, education psychology, special education advisers).
I didn’t expect to be here. To be honest, I don’t think any mother expects to join the club I’ve found myself in.
You see, I was just like you once. I was at the top of my career, eagerly awaiting my scans to know everything was okay with the miracle I had growing inside of me.
I remember the first time I felt my baby move. I’d lie awake at night imagining the fun we’d have together. At this stage of my pregnancy, I was just like everyone else.
Piper came into the world unexpectedly on January 1, 2011. Before we knew it, she was almost 2 years old.
Suddenly she stopped copying words, couldn't grip a spoon, and started crawling instead of walking. It's a feeling you can't describe when your gorgeous, perfect child goes from hitting all their milestones to hitting themselves and others, letting out ear-piercing screams for no apparent reason.
People stare and make snide comments, assuming you are a bad parent. The close friends slowly disappear, and your antenatal group no longer invites you to play dates. Your whole life slowly starts to fall to pieces and you’re left wondering how you got here.
After a long battle, Piper was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. At 5 years old, she was still in nappies, had violent outbursts, would strip all her clothes off when she became overwhelmed, was a flight risk, couldn’t communicate, and was not only a danger to herself, but other students and teachers as well.
We were lucky to receive high ORS (Ongoing Resource Scheme) funding, but people who had never met her only allocated 10 hours of school support a week. How could she self-manage the remaining 20 hours of the 30-hour school week? We sought a review countless times, but were denied.
Eventually, I was forced to leave the fulltime career I had worked so hard to achieve due to the lack of support from the government. This had serious financial implications for us.
However, I’m not writing just to talk about my family; we are only one of the many families in New Zealand on this journey.
I’m writing because we need help. My daughter's mainstream school is facing huge financial pressure due to the current funding model.
They have 24 ORS funded students and follow their legal obligation of providing an inclusive education to all children, never closing their doors to a child with special needs. This has left them with a deficit this year of $118,482.26.
Here's how. A school receives $18.47 per hour for an ORS funded student before the deduction of GST, holiday pay, sick leave and ACC, leaving $15.90 as the actual per-hour cost.
The average teacher aide (TA) wage at my daughters’ school is $19.47, due to the specialist skills some students require. This difference of $3.57 per hour for a large team of TAs paid over 45 weeks of the year works out to a deficit of $118,482.26 this year alone.
It seems that the schools who follow the law of inclusion are punished by being unable to meet their financial obligations. Yet schools who resort to managing these high-need, ‘expensive’ children by excluding them for disruptive behaviour are rewarded. The system is broken.
My daughter is an example of how drastically a child can improve when fully supported by an inclusive education system.
My once angry, non-verbal child no longer takes her clothes off in public, and can be found each morning on the school radio or singing songs at assembly. She is obsessed with Māori culture, participates in kapa haka and has recently joined the school's singing group.
All children deserve the same right to flourish.
I know there isn't a golden bullet to solve this, but if we continue to do the same thing and expect a different result, then we are mad.
I’d love to see a taskforce established that includes representatives from finance, principals from significantly affected schools such as the one mentioned above, teacher aides and a couple of parents like myself.
As a business consultant, I’m used to looking for new models to solve old problems and I’d be willing to work with you and others to get the job done!
Erika Harvey - Piper's mum
The full version of this letter can be read here. Erika Harvey ispetitioning Government to fully fund inclusive education - read more and sign here.
‘Every child in New Zealand deserves the support they need so that they can succeed in education,’ said Labour during the election campaign. Now it’s time to back up those words with real funding for children with autism and other special needs, writes Erika Harvey.
I didn’t expect to be here. To be honest, I don’t think any mother expects to join this club that I’ve found myself in. You see, I was just like you once. I was at the top of my career eagerly awaiting my scans to know everything was okay with the miracle I had growing inside of me. I remember that first feeling when she moved and how I’d lie awake at night imagining the fun we’d have together. The family adventures we’d go on, the friends she’d make, answering all those silly questions kids have about life. When I was six months pregnant I saw a child screaming and hitting his mother while I was out shopping. The mother spoke calmly and asked if he wanted to leave. I couldn’t believe she didn’t even discipline him for acting like that! I knew I’d never be a bad parent like her, when my child was born.
At that stage of my pregnancy, I was just like everyone else. Piper came in to the world unexpectedly with my water breaking on 1/1/11 and before we knew it, she was almost two years old. Suddenly, as if someone flipped a switch, she became lost inside herself. She stopped copying words, could no longer grip a spoon, and started crawling instead of walking. It’s a feeling you can’t describe when your gorgeous, perfect child goes from hitting all their milestones to hitting themselves and others. When you try and catch their head before they slam it against a concrete floor while expressing ear piercing screams of pain for hours, for what seems like no reason at all.
People stare and make snide comments behind your back, assuming you just have a brat as a kid and you’re a bad parent. The close friends you have slowly disappear, and your antenatal group no longer invites you to play dates. Not because they don’t want to, but because your child is constantly unsettled and it’s probably easier for you that way. Your whole life slowly starts to fall to pieces and you’re left wondering how you even got here.
The hardest part of motherhood, though, was when I officially received Piper’s diagnosis of autism. We immersed ourselves in education unlearning everything about parenthood we knew. We enrolled in various workshops and met others who were on their own journey through the spectrum. But no one could prepare us for what would happen once our daughter turned five and we needed to think about where to send her to school. At five years old Piper was still in nappies, had violent outbursts, would strip all her clothes off when she became overwhelmed, was a flight risk, couldn’t communicate, and was not only a danger to herself but to other students and teachers as well.
We were extremely lucky to receive high ORS (Ongoing Resource Scheme) funding, but people who had never met her only allocated 10 hours of support a week. This was inadequate for Piper and the school, given there are 30 hours in a school week. She couldn’t self-manage the other 20 hours. The school had try and find funds to make up the difference when my daughter first started, due to the severity of her needs.
We sought a review of our ORS countless times but were denied. Eventually, I was forced to leave the career I worked so hard to achieve. The financial implications for our household have been drastic. With only 10 hours of support for Piper, and no after school or holiday programmes in Tauranga for children with special needs, it was impossible for me to continue my career full-time.
A million questions go through your head when you find out you’ve moved into the special needs parent club. You try to figure out how it happened, only to realise it doesn’t matter because you can’t change the past. The only thing you can do is focus on the future, and that is why I’m writing you today.
Since April is Autism Awareness month, I wanted to explain what life is like when you become a parent to a child with autism. Most of all, though, I wanted to talk to you, Jacinda, mother to mother – so you can put yourself in our shoes as you eagerly await the birth of your first child. Truth is, there are 65,000 Kiwis on the autistic spectrum and more being diagnosed every day, and with estimates that 1 in 4 students need some sort of support in school, the chances of experiencing this firsthand are pretty high.
I’ve seen some massive flaws in the system that should be addressed, not just for children with autism but for any child that needs additional support. I understand how impossible it must be to try and splice limited funds in such a way to please every needy group, however children were a central focus to your election campaign, as they should be for every voting New Zealander. I’m tired of the blame game between a National led government and a Labour led government, only to find our pleas for help become a publicity stunt with the children of New Zealand paying the price.
We must unite, to bring material change to life in a way that will matter.
“Only a Labour Government can deliver the resources that schools and parents are crying out for and we plan to invest an additional $4B in education.” [link]
“I say there are clear signs of a government that has its priorities all wrong. Labour will redirect funding to frontline staff working directly with schools and children. Every child in New Zealand deserves to get the support they need so that they can succeed in education. They aren’t getting it under National, they will get it under Labour.” [link]
“Re-carving the same size pie amongst a growing number of needy kids will simply result in more going hungry. It’s time the National government woke up to the damage their underfunding is doing to kids’ lives and futures.” [link]
“Our goal is to uncap the ORS funding and make sure that every child in our schooling system has a right to learning support that they need and that schools are supported properly, and that those who work in our schools as teacher aides are supported and funded properly and actually have pay equity within the system they are working in.” [link]
If schools have a legal obligation to create a truly inclusive education system, what funding model is required to achieve the dream?
As a business consultant, I learned that the school my daughter attends is under huge financial duress due to the current model. It is a Decile 2 school, with a roll of 390 students from over 12 different cultural backgrounds; its catchment experiences a wide range of socio-economic disparity. It also has arguably one of the highest number (24) of ORS-funded special education students in a mainstreamed school, in addition to High Health, RTLB and special education and behavioral support requirements etc. The school’s success in assisting their ORS-funded students (to which they refer to as their ‘treasures’ because they have added so much joy to their school) is actually sinking them! Their deficit this year is $118,482 but they continue to follow their legal obligation of providing an inclusive education to all children, never closing their doors to a child with special needs. Meanwhile other schools find ways to manage these high need, ‘expensive’ children by expelling them for disruptive behavior, forcing many parents out of work and in to homeschooling.
I’d like to talk to you about the numbers.
It’s my understanding that under ORS, a school receives $18.47 per hour per student before the deduction of GST, holiday pay, sick leave and ACC – leaving $15.90 as the actual per hour cost allocated (less than the new minimum wage). Although the funding rate hasn’t changed in many years, teacher aide rates increase every year, widening the funding gap between what schools receive to pay for teacher aides, and what they need to pay in teacher aide salaries. Many schools top up the funding gap by using their operational grant, or even fund-raising via their parent support groups, but that still isn’t enough to cover the deficit at my daughter’s school.
The average teacher aide wage at my daughter’s school is $19.47 per hour due to the specialist skills some students require, leaving an average deficit of $3.57 per hour, per student, over 45 weeks of the year, including holidays for their large team of teacher aides. This means the school will have the deficit of $118,482 to meet their commitments to the students who require additional support over and above the allocated funding this year.
This school has truly become victims of their own success, with my daughter proudly one of their success stories. In the two years she has been supported by this school the change in her has been drastic.
My once angry, non-verbal child no longer takes her clothes off in public, and can be found each morning on the school radio, or singing songs at assembly. She is obsessed with Māori culture and participates in kapa haka and has most recently joined the school’s singing group. The school participates in RDA (Riding for the Disabled) and she can be found at the top of their website demonstrating her sweet and loving nature, and is an example of how drastically a child can improve when fully supported by an inclusive education system. As much as my daughter learns from the other students, they also learn from her and understand that we are all different, but all special in our own ways.
Since this school is so successful at polishing its treasures so their individual brilliance can shine, they are now attracting more and more children who require learning support. Parents have heard about this school and have started to move into the school zone so that their special needs children can attend. In some cases, they only bring their ORS children, which increases the financial burden even further.
I know there probably isn’t a silver bullet to solve this, but if we continue to do the same things and expect a different result, then we are mad. I would love to see a task-force established that includes representatives from finance, principals from especially affected schools such as the one mentioned above, teacher aides, and a couple of parents like myself. As a business consultant, I’m used to looking for new models to solve old problems and I’d be willing to work with you and others to get the job done!
Please let me know when it would be convenient to meet with you so we can truly start to work together and make the difference that was at the heart of your campaign.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Passionate about Inclusion, Collaboration, Innovation and making a difference.
co-creation & engagement specialist