By: Simon Collins
The ministry prepared an answer to a written parliamentary question for Education Minister Nikki Kaye in May asking for the approval rates of applications for Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding for students with special needs since 2010.
But when the Herald asked the ministry today to explain the declining trend in approvals, down from 69 per cent in 2010 to 57 per cent in 2015-16 and 55 per cent in the 10 months to April, the ministry said its facts were wrong.
It now says the actual approval rates for the latest two years were 65 per cent in 2015-16 and 64 per cent in the 11 months to the end of May, producing a broadly flat trend since 2010.
Katrina Casey, head of sector enablement and support, said the parliamentary record had been corrected.
“Unfortunately I have made a mistake and given the minister incorrect information,” she said.
“As soon as I became aware of this, the correct information was provided to the minister and the answer has been officially changed. It was a mistake which I regret.”
But Green MP Catherine Delahunty, who asked the original question, said the mistake was alarming.
“It’s kind of like really, who can we trust?” she said.
“Given that the parents have to go through merry hell to get this money out of them, it’s a little bit scary that the ministry got their figures wrong, because they expect other people to get it all right.
“If the parents did such a bad job of filling in forms as the ministry has done, they wouldn’t get funded.”
ORS funding pays for teacher aides and specialist teachers for the most needy 1 per cent of school students.
The corrected figures show that applications since 2010 have fluctuated between a low of just under 1400 in 2012-13 and a high of 1630 in the year to last June.
The approval rate has ranged between 62 per cent and 73 per cent, with no apparent trend up or down.
Earlier data provided to Youthlaw show that students with ORS funding are concentrated in the mid-to-low socio-economic deciles 3 to 5, where about 2 per cent of all students are in ORS.
ORS-funded students made up only 1.2 of students in the lowest two deciles, 0.7 per cent in the mid-to-upper deciles 6 to 9, and only 0.4 per cent of students in the highest decile.
Youthlaw solicitor Kenton Starr said Youthlaw could advise families on how to appeal if their applications for ORS funding are declined.
Source: NZ Herald