While thousands of teachers share pictures of the strike action today this is the picture I choose to share. Yesterday two high needs children decided to run out of a motivating, loving, and supportive classroom and cause hundreds of dollars of damage by smashing rocks into numerous outside walls. These young children were not angry or upset and a motive was near impossible to conclude.

These children and many many others come to school with incredibly complex issues, issues we as teachers are now overwhelmed with, issues teachers shouldn’t be held responsible to ‘cure’, issues that are becoming the norm in every classroom.

This is above and beyond that ‘naughty’ child that everyone remembers in their class. These kids need the highest level of support and care available to them. With 30 other little humans in our care we simply do not have the capacity in a school day to support such high needs.

The wait time for outside support and interventions for children such as these is months, sometimes years long. Countless hours to fill intervention paperwork, countless meetings, all the while teachers just have to cope as best as they can with children who need far greater support than any one individual teacher can provide.

Combined with huge workload in an undervalued profession where does that lead us?

Teachers are leaving the profession in droves:
40% reduction of new teachers entering the profession,
20% of all new teachers are leaving the profession within 5 years due to unsustainable workload, and burnout.
All while 40% of all New Zealand teachers are due to retire within the next 10 years.

A perfect storm for an absolute crisis.

Yes, a pay jolt would be an incentive for teachers to join and remain in the profession but this is not the biggest reason we walked off the job today.

We need more support in schools. We need to flood our schools with outside agencies, and critical health and wellbeing support services. Education needs to be more valued, we need to do this NOW for our kids and for New Zealand’s future.

I try my hardest to keep my work life away from social media but today for thousands of teachers this has been the day that our reality has been put into the spotlight, so here’s mine.


  1. Ashton, I wonder if you care about the dignity of the two kids that have done this. And that concerns me deeply. I see that you are willing to hold them up as an example with no thought to how this might feel for the children’s families or other families with children who run out of classrooms or damage property.

    It is also unfair because children WITHOUT high needs damage property and do similar things too.

    There is already so much ignorance in the general population with regards to the difficulties disabled kids face ,and also with regards to their disabilities, and disabled kids do not need to be stigmatized any further.

    The fact that 2800 people liked your post reminds me that disabled children are so much the minority. It feels like a witch hunt against disabled children.

    Any inclusive school will know that disabled children, with all the will in the world, will still make mistakes and to a certain extent one has to suck it up. Your casual reference to ‘cure’ and the reference to the impact on non disabled kids says volumes to me. That you claim the environment is supportive and loving is your version, it does not include the voice of the child and as always it’s the able person’s/adult voice that is the one dominating the conversation.

    Further, there is no ‘increase’ in the number of kids with disabilities in school , nothing that is not aligned with population increase. As you will see if you refer to the statistics https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/…/student-numbers/6028. Could it be , Ashton, that in fact schools have become so reliant on conformity and ability that ANY child outside this narrow box become ‘problematic’?

    But yes, we do need to look at the way education is organised in NZ and yes, training, incentives, services, data, accountability all needs to be improved. But Ashton, this is a horrible way of arguing for this – at the expense of two of your kids. The disability community has been fighting this fight for years, please join us but don’t stigmatise us in the process.

  2. Antonia Hannah is an ideologue, completely blind to anything other than that her ideas about children’s mental health, up-bringing and education must prevail, must be correct; people like Ashton Stuart are painted as reactionaries who must be condemned as they will not agree to humanistic changes to our educational system.

    May I quietly point out to Ms Hannah that when New Zealand was poorer an idea like main-streaming all children into ordinary schools would have been outright impossible, simply because of the cost involved. It was an enormous step forward when we were able to build and maintain special institutions where to take these children off their parents’ hands. In the old days life’s stark reality meant that such children simply had to be chained to a doorpost – and soon were so neglected that death soon mercifully intervened. We are actually still obliged to consider economic realities – though folks like Antonia Hannah will not accept it. For mainstreaming to stand a reasonable chance of success funding must be multiplied many times over. This must include different levels of special class-rooms in all schools – because Ashton Stuart is quite right : having performances like the ones he describes cannot be tolerated, simply out of concern for the rest of the pupils. The sacred cow of main-streaming should be critically looked at.


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