Statement by Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero
Today’s announcement committing schools to being more responsive to disabled learners is a crucial step towards New Zealand achieving a world-class inclusive public education system.
I and others in the disability community have spent many years advocating for these sorts of changes.
I am thrilled to see references to world class inclusive public education in the ‘Supporting All Schools to Succeed’ document but this cannot be achieved without the meaningful partnership of disabled people and decision makers.
Inclusion is not just about services and supports; it is also about the attitude and confidence of teachers, school leaders and the school community. It is about the bedrock legislation and structures and training that underpin everything. It is about the whole system working together and having the right accountability mechanisms in place.
It will be important to see how all aspects of education reform join up in a cohesive bigger picture to achieve this.
The introduction of local complaint and dispute resolution panels, and references to the Treaty of Waitangi and relevant human rights in the School Boards’ objectives are good moves, as are the plans to create barrier free access from secondary to tertiary education.
The proposed actions recognise that to be inclusive, schools need good curriculum support by all teachers of all learners. The Education Service Agency idea may mean less competition and a move towards deliberate and in-built collaboration.
Seeing the system as a networked system rather than individual schools is a positive move to better coordination.
Good practice in inclusive education needs to be implemented consistently across all of the education reform workstreams.
Some short-term actions would really make a practical difference in disabled learners’ lives such as an immediate review of the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) and the creation of more equitable, transparent funding and support streams.
I continue to advocate for an explicit commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) and Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to be built into all new education legislation. This was done in the recent Oranga Tamariki 2017 legislation, so why would we do that for children in that context but not here.
I look forward to working with Government and the community on the next steps for this vital work.
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