A quality public education system needs to be well funded and based on our fantastic broad curriculum. For every child to do well, our public education system needs to address poverty and inequality that are real barriers to their learning. The Government’s signalled plan to do away with the decile scheme, and their meaningless National Standards, will not address the learning challenges that many kids are facing.
If kids are hungry, sick and don’t have the support they need, then it is hard for them to learn. The Green Party is committed to a school hubs policy, where the school is the centre for a range of social services to be delivered to ensure kids can focus on learning. The Green Party would bring services to schools like free after school care and holiday programmes, school nurses, and a national lunch fund, so that teachers can get on with teaching.
Right now, thousands of our children are not getting the help they need to thrive at school, and in some cases to even attend school. Children with extra learning challenges, like autism or dyslexia, are missing out and falling behind. These kids aren’t getting the education they deserve, and their families and teachers are also stressed by the lack of support and resources for them. We have a responsibility to ensure that every child is included at school and has the opportunity to reach their potential and thrive.
Last year I initiated a Select Committee inquiry into whether the Government is doing everything it can to ensure that kids with learning challenges, and their families, are better supported throughout their education. A child’s right to an inclusive education needs to be enshrined in law so that how this happens can be worked out, and can be backed up by funding.
The National Government had frozen operation funding for schools, which has placed extreme pressure on extra learning support needs. Schools are left plugging the gap left by underfunding by taking money from other areas or letting the children who need additional help go without. Schools are being forced to cut the school support staff jobs, which cuts the access of children to school. The Green Party is calling for this money to be centralised at the Ministry of Education so that the kids who need help get it, rather than being at the mercy of Government underfunding of the operations grant.
By failing to measure the problem, the Government seems to believe it can avoid responsibility for our kids’ learning. The Inquiry showed that without national data on the needs, increased funding, more school support staff, educating teachers about inclusion, early identification, access to free specialists and enshrining in law a child’s right to an inclusive education, our broken system cannot be fixed.
Capping and rationing the funding of diverse educational needs is problematic because so many kids end up missing out. In particular, the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme and the Early Intervention Service need more funding. The Early Intervention Service needs to cut waiting lists so that children can quickly get assessed and triaged through the system. Waiting years for an assessment to get a diagnosis is particularly cruel for our youngsters. They are still going through our education system, but it could be made so much easier and more effective for them if they could get the right sort of help at an early phase.
Teacher education needs to be developed and expanded to address inclusion practice and help identify students needing specific support. Special schools need to be centres of excellence whose main role is to support the inclusion of students with high needs in local schools and provide the knowledge and skills to make sure their needs are met.
The practice of inclusion needs to be developed so that it is central to school culture and all the students and teachers understand it. The Green Party will work to ensure that every child has a right to an education at their local school that meets their individual needs and allows them to reach their full potential. That’s what it means to have an inclusive education system.
The Green Party is committed to ensuring that every kid has what they need to participate and succeed in a quality public school and in society that values the diversity of all people.