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Newsletters > Manahau: Resilience and Celebration > 2010 > March

Manahau: Resilience and Celebration

ISSN 1174-9245 March, 2010

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Review discussion document

The Government’s Review of Special Education began last year. Hon Heather Roy, the Minister responsible for Special Education, released the Terms of Reference for this review in August 2009.

On 3 February 2010, the Minister published the review discussion document, saying, “The Special Education Review document proposes a vision for students with special education needs, outlines how the system works currently and asks what needs to change. I urge parents, families, teachers, students, and the education and disability sectors to submit their views”.

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The discussion document looks at six aspects of special education: successful schools, changing the way schools work together, improving interagency cooperation and transition, allocating and using funding and other resources, improving the quality of services and improving accountability.

The discussion document is available in PDF and HTML. Braille copies may be requested (follow link above to the Discussion Document). The discussion document summary and questions can be viewed in NZSL on the Deaf Aotearoa NZ website.

Submissions can be made online, by post, email or fax. Submissions are due by Friday 19 March 2010.

Submitters can request to give their submission in person to a review panel in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. If you wish to present to the panel, clearly state this in your written submission and provide contact details. Let them know if you require any support, such as a NZSL interpreter.

The Commission encourages people to look at the UN Convention (particularly Article 24) when making submissions.

The review will report to Cabinet in July 2010.

There have been a number of analyses and reports into education for disabled people in New Zealand recently. Each has identified various issues and concerns.

The Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the Auditor-General and the Education Review Office have all made various findings, some of which are summarised here.

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The Office of the Ombudsmen states that education remains a high priority for their office. They continue to receive a large volume of education related complaints, many related to concerns about access to education for "special needs pupils". The Ombudsmen is concerned about the plight of teachers and pupils in situations where children with special needs are not adequately supported in the classroom. The Ombudsmen will keep monitoring this.

The Office of the Children's Commissioner says enquiries and complaints to their advice line indicate students with disabilities are most at risk of exclusion from school.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education (released on 23 September 2009 under the Official Information Act) indicate that during 2008 30 per cent of suspensions were disabled students. Of all students excluded from school, 38 per cent were disabled students. Statistics New Zealand indicates 10 per cent of the school-age population have disabilities. Thus, disabled students are grossly overrepresented in suspensions and exclusions.

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) released a report in November 2009. This report assessed how well the Ministry of Education manages its support to disabled students with the highest level of need. This included looking at the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS).

OAG staff found that assessment and allocation practices across regions varied. This risks variation in the level of support provided to students with similar levels of need and in similar circumstances. Their report states that the Ministry needs to improve how it identifies students with high special educational needs to ensure that those students eligible for support receive it in a consistent and timely manner. In addition, the support they receive and the progress they make needs to be appropriately monitored.

The OAG's report made 10 recommendations, including encouraging the Ministry to:

  • continue to improve its information about the level of need for support
  • provide students who have similar needs and circumstances with similar support, regardless of where they live
  • better assist and explain the initiatives to educators and parents/caregivers
  • put in place more effective systems for collating information about the Ministry's support for students.

Since the release of this report, the Ministry stated work is under way to improve their practices and systems, and that the Review of Special Education focuses on many of the issues identified in the OAG audit.

The Education Review Office (ERO) released a report in September 2009 looking at the governance and management of Resources Teachers Learning and Behaviour (RTLB). This report found wide variability in governance and management practice.

ERO found evidence of Ministry staff giving advice or making decisions that were inconsistent with the stated RTLB policy. This was particularly in relation to decisions about employment practices and RTLB training.

Accountabilities for the use of funding and management of RTLB remains an issue. A similar evaluation in 2004 reported the same findings demonstrating that there has been no real improvement since 2004, despite increased guidance and support from the Ministry of Education.

ERO reported that as a result the current model for governing and managing the RTLB service does not ensure all students referred to the RTLB service are well served. ERO recommends that the existing governance and management model should be reviewed to ensure a more cohesive and consistent approach to the service that RTLB provide for schools.

The Human Rights Commission released a report in 2009 on Disabled Children's Right to Education, providing evidence about the extent to which disabled children are denied the right to education. "When compared against international human rights standards, there are significant outstanding issues about the availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of education for disabled people in New Zealand."

The Review of Special Education Discussion Document states that reports such as these mentioned here will help inform the review.

Paul Gibson

Paul Gibson

Paul Gibson has his work cut out for him. Working at the policy and strategic level, he’s tackling two of the biggest areas affecting disabled people’s lives: health and education.

Paul is the Senior Disability Advisor at Capital and Coast Health. He works to ensure DHBs, hospitals and health services are responsive to disabled people. “Some disabled people have health issues related to their impairment. When these are accounted for, disabled people have significantly worse health outcomes than non-disabled people,” says Paul.

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His involvement in advocating for disability rights can be traced back to his university days. Here Paul met other disabled students at a time when disabled people were becoming more politicised. "We started naming discrimination when it existed and we were increasingly defining ourselves in social, rather than medical, terms." In 1993, Paul was involved in setting up CAN DO at Victoria University, a group run by disabled students.

Paul is now working in a medical environment and meeting some challenges. "This is a largely clinical workforce and getting them to understand disability in social terms is not easy."

Paul has a wealth of experience and skills to draw on. He went through the school system as a vision-impaired child. After a few stints at university, he gained a Masters degree in public policy. Paul has previously worked for two key disability organisations in New Zealand, the Disabled Persons Assembly and CCS Disability Action.

In connection with Paul's position at Capital and Coast Health, he is one of five people who advise the Minister on the Review of Special Education, Hon Heather Roy. "All five of us come from very diverse backgrounds, but we each bring our knowledge and passion for education."

In providing advice to the Minister Paul see his role as bringing a "perspective of a disabled person who has direct experience of the education system and knowledge gathered from years of working with disabled people and their families.

The Review of Special Education discussion document proposes a vision for education for disabled people. This vision includes what the disability community want, such as:

To be "continually learning, having friends, real jobs and enough money, things to do that are meaningful or of interest, a place to call home, loving relationships, and leaving behind a world better for our being here."

Reflecting on his experience, Paul says, "New Zealand has been great at developing visions but struggles to implement these. Disability issues have not been given priority."

Paul strongly encourages everyone to read and respond to the review discussion document.

Hon. Tariana Turia

Hon. Tariana Turia

E hari katoa ana te ngākau o Tariana Turia i te putanga mai o te whakamaoritanga o te Te Kawenata a te Kotahitanga o ngā Whenua o te Ao mō ngā Tika Tangata ā te Hunga Hauā.

Last month, the Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Tariana Turia, announced the release of two te reo Māori translations of the Disability Convention. One is the official English text and the other is an easy read version.

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"I'm really pleased that there is a te reo Māori version of the Convention, as it recognises the status of te reo Māori as an official language of Aotearoa," said Mrs Turia.

"The documents are also significant in supporting Māori disabled people's self-determination, which is a key concept enshrined in the Convention.

"Such access to information, means that disabled people should also be better placed to advocate for change in removing barriers to their participation in society and living a good life on an equal basis with others".

Download the Māori translation of the Disability Convention and the Māori Easy Read translation of the Disability Convention.

The Convention is also available in New Zealand Sign Language, as audio files, Braille, and English easy read on the Office for Disability Issues website.

New CEO for DPA

Ross Brereton

Ross Brereton

A new chief executive officer has been appointed to lead the Disabled Persons Assembly Inc (DPA) – Ross Brereton.

Some people in the disability sector will be familiar with Ross from his 30 years of involvement in disability issues. “I’ve been part of the disability community all of my life, as I have a congenital visual impairment.”

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Ross says, "From my secondary school and university days, I have always had a strong belief in justice and equality of opportunity. The ability to advocate for this is important."

Ross's experience includes being the National Manager of Member Services for the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, Assistant Chief Executive of New Zealand CCS and Human Rights Commissioner. More recently, Ross has been running a consultancy business from his home base in Christchurch.

Ross is looking forward to taking up his new role. "I welcome the opportunity of leading and managing DPA. The disability community has made some good progress but there is still much to do. Physical and attitudinal barriers still exist."

"Our opportunities include the Disability Convention and DPA must have a recognised partnership role in monitoring implementation in New Zealand."

Ross officially starts his new role on 22 March. Before then, he will be available on a part-time basis. Ross is Christchurch based so he will be commuting from Christchurch to the DPA office in Wellington.

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO recently published a new resource. It provides information in response to frequently asked questions about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The information includes:

  • what are human rights?
  • what is a convention?
  • how does the convention work?

The resource is available in HTML and PDF on the UNESCO website.

land National Commission for UNESCO recently published a new resource. It provides information in response to frequently asked questions about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The information includes:

  • what are human rights?
  • what is a convention?
  • how does the convention work?

The resource is available in HTML and PDF on the UNESCO website.

Editorial

Commissioner Robyn Hunt

Commissioner Robyn Hunt

We are nearly three months into 2010 and already there is a lot happening. I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday break, although it probably seems a long time ago now.

A new year brings a new CEO for DPA. I am looking forward to working with Ross Brereton and warmly welcome his appointment.

Readers’ feedback has suggested that each edition of Manahau could have a focus on one Article of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We liked the idea and have begun with a timely focus for this edition on Article 24 – the Right to Education.

You can find out about the status of disabled children’s right to education and the Government’s Review of Special Education and other reports on the right to education. Have your say and join the discussions and consultation forums taking place around New Zealand.

Māori disabled people will be glad to be able to read the CRPD in te reo along with all the other formats and versions of the Disability Convention. It is significant that the Convention is now available in all three of our national languages, so everyone in the disability community can know about their rights.

="attachment_269" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Commissioner Robyn Hunt"]Commissioner Robyn Hunt[/caption]

We are nearly three months into 2010 and already there is a lot happening. I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday break, although it probably seems a long time ago now.

A new year brings a new CEO for DPA. I am looking forward to working with Ross Brereton and warmly welcome his appointment.

Readers' feedback has suggested that each edition of Manahau could have a focus on one Article of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We liked the idea and have begun with a timely focus for this edition on Article 24 - the Right to Education.

You can find out about the status of disabled children's right to education and the Government's Review of Special Education and other reports on the right to education. Have your say and join the discussions and consultation forums taking place around New Zealand.

Māori disabled people will be glad to be able to read the CRPD in te reo along with all the other formats and versions of the Disability Convention. It is significant that the Convention is now available in all three of our national languages, so everyone in the disability community can know about their rights.

Education is a basic necessity for all people. It is a fundamental right. It is the primary means by which disadvantaged people can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully in their community. It gives independence, citizenship rights, employment and economic power.

There are 50 Articles (sections) in the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities. Article 24 is about disabled people’s right to education. It’s not surprising that this Article is one of the longest in the Disability Convention.

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The first part of the Article (paragraph 1) affirms that disabled people have the right to education and to all the benefits that come with that. The second part of this article explains ways to make sure disabled people get their right to education. It sets out a framework for equal opportunity and equal access to education for disabled people. This includes providing inclusive education, supports, reasonable accommodations, teaching in sign language and Braille and teachers qualified in sign language and Braille.

Simply providing access to education is not enough to ensure the right to education for disabled people. Other things must be provided - equal opportunities to succeed, quality education and education for the full development of the human potential.

Four broad international standards are often used for assessing the right to education. They are the concepts of availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability. Availability means educational opportunities meet the needs of all learners; and ensures the availability of skilled and qualified teachers and support staff. Accessibility means education opportunities must be available to everyone equally, ie, barriers to education are eliminated. Acceptability involves quality standards in the curricula, teaching methods and environments, eg, being relevant, culturally appropriate and of good quality. Adaptability means education has to be flexible. It promotes equitable outcomes for all learners and it can respond to the diverse needs of students.

Taken together, the right to education means equipment and teaching materials match needs, teaching methods, and curricula suit the needs of all children and promote acceptance of diversity. Reasonable accommodations and supports are provided to give disabled people equal opportunities to succeed. This includes providing accessible transport, accessible physical environments, appropriate books, resources and other material in appropriate formats (Braille, sign language, etc). All teachers are trained in teaching disabled people and specialist teachers are appropriately skilled and qualified. Teachers' attitudes and expectations encourage the abilities of disabled people. Opportunities are provided in all subjects and extra curricula activities.

This is not impossible, it is as it should be, no less and no more than for other New Zealanders. Full access to, and equal opportunities in, education is a right. The Disability Convention spells out very clearly how to make this real for disabled people.

Everyone is responsible to help ensure the right to education for disabled people happens. The Government is responsible for making sure legislation, policy, practice and monitoring processes enable the right to education for disabled people. The Human Rights Commission advocates for the right to education, deals with complaints and provides independent monitoring. Non-government organisations, parents, teachers and peers need to be involved in the design and delivery of policy and practice and help with monitoring and raising awareness of issues.

The Government is currently reviewing "Special Education". A discussion document (see article in this newsletter) is seeking feedback on 10 key questions about the best way to support students with special education needs. The Disability Convention can go some way in helping to answer these.