Education Minister Nikki Kaye has announced that thousands more children and young people will benefit from a new approach that’s making it easier for children to access additional learning support services (previously described as special education).

“I’m pleased to be rolling out a pilot that’s been trialled in three Bay of Plenty Communities of Learning to up to another 30 Communities across the country,” says Ms Kaye.

“This will see the pilot expand out to another 70,000 children and young people in early learning services and schools across the ten Ministry of Education regions. The Ministry estimates around one in ten of these children will require extra support for a variety of reasons.

“Nationally we will be placing the equivalent of up to 15 Ministry of Education senior staff as facilitators across the participating Communities to coordinate learning support, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results. We are changing the way these people work to free up this resource.

“The new process trialled in the Bay of Plenty has made access to learning support faster and more flexible to meet the needs of the children and young people. This is part of my desire to see us move to a system where we better assess the additional learning or health needs of children and deliver more flexible and faster services to support their personal needs.

“A senior staff member from the Ministry works directly with the schools and early learning services in the Community as a facilitator making sure that the children and young people are accessing what works best for them. When additional needs are identified a key worker then becomes the one point of contact for the student, their family, teachers and other specialists.

“This is about identifying at a much earlier stage the most appropriate support for each child. So rather than parents and teachers filling in multiple forms to request different types of support, or dealing with multiple people across the Ministry they have one person who knows their child.

“We have also seen Facilitators identifying groups of children across Communities who can be supported together. For example, the Taupo Community of Learning worked with a group of students on oral language needs, whereas in the past, either the parents or the schools would have had to seek individual support for students.”

Key elements of the new approach trialled in the Bay of Plenty include:

Single point of contact – a key worker to be the primary point of contact for a child or young person and their family, and all those that support them. One child, one plan – having one plan for each child or young person receiving individualised services. This means support will be better joined up and a better fit to the support needs of the child or young person. Collaborative practice – schools and early learning providers working together as Communities of Learning to better support children and young people. This has led to better transitions for children moving from early learning to primary school. Facilitation – a facilitator within each Community of Learning to provide a point of contact and coordination for learning support, and connection to wider social services. Flexibility – enabling specialists and learning support decision-makers to use their judgement about whether a child or young person should have access to low or moderate supports rather than applying inflexible criteria.

“Before starting the pilots we sought feedback on the current state of learning support services and what changes were required,” says Ms Kaye.

“I want to thank the 3650 parents, families and whānau, and the many groups from the disability and education sectors who responded.

“Parents told us they wanted services that were easier to access, child -centred, flexible and better connected with other social and health services.

“So that’s what has been designed, and we’ve had positive feedback from those involved in the Bay of Plenty pilot.

Other benefits that have come out of the pilot include better links with local health services, for example the Learning Support Facilitator for the Otumoetai Community of Learning established a connection with local health services that resulted in the Bay of Plenty District Health Board providing funding for a dedicated Child and Adolescent Mental Health Practitioner to support the Community with its mental health priorities. 

Another benefit of working across Communities of Learning has been identifying children that need extra support at an earlier stage,whilst they’re in early learning. This means children are getting learning support earlier in their lives and are better supported for starting school. 

“This Government has high ambitions for our children and young people. We want every young New Zealander to achieve educational success,” says Ms Kaye.

“For this, we need an inclusive education system where all children get the support they need to succeed in life.

“This Government is investing around $658 million a year to provide children and young people with additional learning support.”

“Scaling up over the next 12 months is a significant next step in improving access to learning support,” says Ms Kaye.

“I intend to work with the education sector to look at access to more flexible and faster support for those schools and children not in communities of learning as well.

“Ensuring children and young people are able to access that support at the earliest opportunity and without difficulty is vitally important. We will be continuing to look for ways to improve how learning support is provided to all students, including disengaged children and young people.

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