Election 2020; education policies7 min read
Our National Policy Analyst, Phoebe Eden-Mann, has taken a look at the education policies currently available from the main parties. Here is her take from a disability perspective.
This year has seen our education system face many challenges and has had to adapt rapidly and dramatically. Most children and young people this year have learnt largely via online distance learning, which has been a challenge for both students and teachers. When it comes to disability and education things get even more tricky. Many disabled people have different learning needs that often go unmet. We also face buildings and school grounds that are inaccessible, are excluded from out of classroom activities like school camps. Education is incredibly important, and yet the education system continuously fails disabled people.
So, with the election rapidly approaching, let’s have a look at what the education policies the parties currently in Parliament are proposing.
It’s important to note that at the time of writing (8th of October 2020), the policies I’m about to talk about were the only ones available, and parties may release policies over the coming weeks. All policy information I am talking about has been sourced directly from the party’s websites. I have looked at the policies of the current parties in parliament. These parties are Labour, National, New Zealand First, ACT, and the Greens.
The parties have been selected in no particular order.
The Labour Party has already provided pay equity for teacher aides and have created a new workforce of learning support coordinators to help students with additional learning needs.
The Labour Party is proposing:
- To ensure fairer funding by replacing deciles with an Equity Index.
- To strengthen support for learners with additional learning support needs by continuing to roll out the new learning support coordinator rolls.
- To provide free access to all apprenticeships and many trade training courses for the next two years.
- To strengthen youth transition systems and modernise career advice in schools. They recognise there is a lack of support when leaving school, and there is a need for stronger and connected network, especially for those who are at risk of “falling through the cracks”.
- To reinstate the Training Incentive Allowance for degree level study, to provide additional support to sole parents, disabled people and their carers towards the cost of study.
- To strengthen student voice in the school and tertiary education system.
- To continue to upgrade around 180 schools over the next ten years.
The National Party is proposing:
- To create a $160M per year fund to support children and with additional learning, behavioural, and physical needs. This would be allocated based on school rolls and needs, and schools would have the discretion to invested in initiatives they believe best suit the needs of their students and community.
- To invest $150M over four years to fund an additional six million hours of teacher aids support. Approximately 1500 new teacher aids at 25 hours per week/600 hours per school each year.
- To reintroduce Charter and Partnership schools, with at least 25 new schools by 2023. These schools will be focused on priority learners like Māori, Pasifika, and disabled children.
- To enhance screening including a revamped B4 School Check at the age of 3 to identifiy developmental concerns and trigger early intervention services where needed.
- To implement an 8-step plan for primary and secondary school students to ensure that the education system works for children and young people with learning disabilities and additional learning needs.
- That the Ministry of Education would be instructed to evaluate the effectiveness and limitations of different learning environments specifically for children with additional learning or behavioural needs.
- That New Zealand Sign Language would be included in the 10 priority languages at primary and intermediate schools. Schools would decide which of the 10 languages they would offer. There would be a $40M per year funding boost for the development and provision of second language learning resources.
I did need some clarification about the 10 priority languages and if New Zealand Sign Language was included, it wasn’t clear in the National Party Education Policy, so I tweeted Nicola Willis, National’s Education Spokesperson. She was very quick to confirm that “yes, New Zealand Sign Language would be one of the priority languages that schools would be resourced to teach under our policy”.
The Green Party is proposing:
- To ensure that schools have sufficient funding to enable all students to have the opportunity to participate in co-curricular, learning experiences outside of the classroom, and local extracurricular activities.
- To support the development of children’s rights education within the curriculum.
- To require that the Education Review Office reports to include an assessment the service provided by schools for students with disabilities.
- To provide adequately trained staff and resources for recognised learning support programmes in numeracy and literacy.
- To support students’ rights to participate in decisions relating to their learning.
- To oppose student performance-based pay for teachers.
- That access to professional assessment for learning needs and support be either free or low cost.
- That funding be allocated to schools for additional education needs based on the number of children with additional education needs they have enrolled, and to ensure that students with high and complex needs receive sufficient additional funding.
- That blind/low vision students are provided with Braille, low vision, and orientation and mobility instruction as appropriate.
- That deaf/hard of hearing students, their teachers, and their immediate peers are taught New Zealand Sign Language and other communication skills and techniques as appropriate.
- To actively participate in collaborations with other sectors such as health and social services in order to promote better outcomes for vulnerable children and their families.
The New Zealand Party is proposing:
- To fully fund and implement the second and final tranche of Learning Support Coordinators across the rest of the compulsory sector, then roll this support into the Early Childhood Education sector
- To complete the nationwide implementation of the Learning Support Delivery Model and the Learning Needs Register to improve workforce planning and network support
- To recalibrate Early Intervention Support so that specialists come to the child rather than the “refer out and wait” current model. Where there are specialist shortages, New Zealand First will pursue a “Specialists Without Regions” policy of sending in teams of specialists one week per month to address children’s needs
- To complete and roll out the nationwide Universal Screening Tools for the early identification of neurodiverse students with dyslexic, dyscalculic and autism like traits
- To explore a workforce of “health aides” (funded from the Health Budget) and “teacher aides” (funded from the Education Budget) to better support both students and teachers
- To continue to build on true choice for parents of “differently abled” students through a mix of Ongoing Resourcing Scheme funding enhancements, learning support units inside local schools and specialist schools
The ACT Party is proposing:
- That every child would be provided with a Student Education Account. A child will receive $250,000 of funded education over their lifetime. Parents would be able to use it at any registered education institution.
- To reintroduce Chartership and Partnership schools. ACT argues this would help diverse learning styles and not simply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
- That a proportion of overall funding would be held back from Student Education Accounts and be distributed to schools serving students with additional learning needs.
- To reduce the Ministry of Education by half, which would free up ¼ of a billion dollars for front line education purposes.
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