Schools and childcare centers ‘failing learners with disabilities’, says Education Review Bureau
Teachers need additional training while in school, says Ruth Shinoda of the Education Review Office.
The families of many learners with disabilities are actively discouraged from enrolling their children in early years services and schools, according to two Education Review Office (ERO) reports released on Wednesday.
According to the office, as many as one in four parents are asked to keep their disabled child at home.
“What really broke my heart was that one in three people felt they didn’t belong in school, or a quarter didn’t feel very accepted for what they did. she was,” said Ruth Shinoda of the ERO’s Education Assessment Center.
“So we have to do better. This is our real takeaway.
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The reports highlighted four areas that needed attention to improve the quality and inclusiveness of education for learners with disabilities, as the system was “still not working”.
The exclusion of this group of students had a major impact, with learners with disabilities being more than twice as likely to leave school without qualifications as learners without disabilities.
“Persons with disabilities must be fully included in all aspects of education. The curriculum, instruction and physical environment must meet their needs,” Department of Disabilities spokesperson Brian Coffey said in a statement.
The reports, ‘Thriving at school? The education of learners with disabilities in schools”, and “A good start? Educating Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Education”, found that many early childhood and school teachers lack the confidence to teach learners with disabilities, especially those with complex needs.
About one in 10 children under the age of 15 has either a physical, intellectual, cognitive or sensory impairment, or neurodiverse learning needs. This meant that teachers needed additional training to be able to meet the needs of these learners, the office found.
This work was to begin during teacher training, Shinoda said.
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Many teachers were unaware of the guidance and tools available to them or found them not easy to access, while a third of teachers thought that expectations around including learners with disabilities were not were unclear.
Other recommendations included the need to give greater priority to the needs of learners with disabilities; help empower their families by improving understanding of their rights, entitlements and how to raise concerns; and better coordination across the education system.
Improving coordination would respond to parent reports that the transition from early childhood education to school was “stressful and too complex”.
Although there is significant room for improvement, some evidence of good practice was found in schools in lower socio-economic communities and schools with high numbers of Maori pupils were more successful in meeting the needs of learners with disabilities. .
“The schools we saw that were really good at this had a whole culture of inclusion, and that stems from how they help people in the classroom, how they work together, how people value diversity, how they adapt the curriculum – there is a range of things that schools do that are ideal for learners with disabilities, and we want all schools to do that,” Shinoda said.
Department for Education spokesman Sean Teddy said he was looking at ways to improve the learning support system.
Many teachers who may not have worked with a child with a disability in the early years of their teaching practice may need additional support, including a proportion of early childhood teachers, a said Teddy.
Coffey said the Department for People with Disabilities will work with agencies to strengthen outcomes for learners with disabilities.
“Quality education is essential for learners with disabilities. When learners with disabilities receive a quality, inclusive education, they are more likely to achieve better outcomes in life,” Coffey said.
The reports used information gathered from multiple sources, including parent and teacher surveys, site visits and observations, and in-depth interviews with experts and educators.
The ERO recommended that the agencies involved report to ministers on their progress in July.