Today’s confirmation the Government will build on National’s record investment in learning support is good news for schools, however, with a critical teacher shortage and pay negotiations ongoing, it may be hard to achieve, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“There will be many students and families who will be hugely supportive because they understand how life-changing it can be to get personalised and timely support for children with complex needs.

“It is a bit unusual that the announcement has been made without Cabinet approval despite Labour committing to providing a role in each school in their election manifesto. This may be about the Government rushing to prevent a second round of teacher strikes in the next ten days.

“This investment will help ensure students with additional learning needs get more support. It builds on funding for learning support under National which reached around $658 million a year by the time we left office – a 30 per cent increase since 2008.

“But with demand for teachers so high the plan relies on the Government getting its teacher recruitment and retention strategy right to fill shortages now and in the future and to avoid the planned teacher strikes.

“The Government must conclude pay negotiations for existing teachers and ensure the 600 staff are paid enough and other workload and retention issues are addressed to attract the right people.

“It also needs to urgently deliver the long term-workforce development strategy National started more than a year ago. Some estimates indicate we will be thousands of teachers short over the next five years. With the Ministry’s own data it is not clear how the Government will deliver these first 600 teachers.

“Questions will be raised about Labour releasing further details of the second tranche of support and confirmation that this will definitely include a facilitator in every school.

“National knew we had to do more than just pour more money in – we needed to reform the system itself to ensure greater integration between our health and education system. The Learning Support update work was tracking in the right direction.

“Previous work on roles like this have shown the importance of providing a single point of contact for a child and their family, the need for one plan and coordinators to have flexibility in judgements around what support is provided.

“Further funding for learning support roles in school is important, but its only one step, the Government needs to do more to ensure we better attract people into teaching and retain our best teachers.”

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