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When is a cap, not a cap? Education support workers

20/2/15 · Posted in CCS Disability Action, Education

We have been trying to get the Ministry of Education to abandon its funding cap of 15 hour per week for education support workers. Education support workers are the equivalent of teacher aides, but work in early childhood education. On Monday, our Chief Executive, David Matthews, and Canterbury mother, Shannon Alker, went on Radio New Zealand to talk about the funding cap.

The Ministry of Education’s response was to say that there is no formal cap. This response confused some people, Ministry of Education staff have been telling families and early intervention staff that there is a maximum cap of 15 hours. A 2012 Education Review Office report also clearly states there is a cap and that this information was sourced from Ministry staff and something called the Education Support Worker Guidelines.

The numbers the Ministry provided were also not convincing. Currently, only two children out of 845 get over 15 hour per week that is 0.2% of all children getting education support workers. In practice, there clearly is a cap.

The issue is a document called the Education Support Worker National Resource Allocation Guidelines. These guidelines do set a 15-hour cap, but they are technically just guidelines, not formal policy. The Ministry, however, has been treating the guidelines as if they are a formal policy. For example, in late 2012, the Practice Leader of Early Intervention at the Ministry of Education gave a presentation on the guidelines.In this presentation, she clearly states that there is a maximum weekly allocation of 15 hours for education support workers.

The cat is out of the bag now; the Ministry of Education can no longer pretend the guidelines are a formal policy. Katrina Casey, the Ministry of Education’s head of Sector Enablement and Support (A very senior position), has said, on record, that there is no cap and that two students receive more than 15 hours.

If Ministry of Education staff tell you there is a 15 hour cap, you can now use the Radio New Zealand article and quote Katrina Casey back to them. If the Ministry still insists there is a cap, get in contact and we might be able to help.

This is often how advocacy at a national level works. There are possibilities shut off completely for people by blanket inflexible policies or laws; this is like facing a shut door. National advocacy can sometimes pry these doors open an inch or two. It is then up to the individual advocates, disabled people and their families as well as the people who support them, to get their foot in the door, open it and explore the possibilities.

Sam Murray

National Policy Coordinator

2 Responses to “When is a cap, not a cap? Education support workers”

  1. Nothing like a bit of sunshine to expose their dark arts.
    Well done.

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