The Government’s $21.5 million investment in early intervention is a positive step for children and families who need additional learning support, but there is a need to focus on reforming the system, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye and Early Childhood Education Spokesperson Nicola Willis say.
“Labour inherited a strong economy and is awash with cash, so it’s good that it is building on National’s solid investment in education and directing more money into learning support for young children – even if it’s borrowing more and taxing people more to do so,” Ms Kaye says.
“We must continue to invest in the early years which has been a large part of our of social investment approach. That’s why last year National invested additional funding for the Incredible Years programme which assists children with autism aged two to five.
“We also provided more than $34 million in specialist behaviour services for an extra 1,000 children, and $6 million to support young children with difficulties talking and listening.
“Despite the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes, National increased the education budget from $8 billion to $11 billion, including record amounts into learning support – around $658 million a year by the time we left Government, a 30 per cent increase since 2008.
“But we recognised that the learning support system wasn’t working well enough for the children, parents and teachers who needed it. We knew we had to do more than simply pour extra money in – we needed to reform the system itself.
“That’s why we kicked off an update of learning support which included testing a new model that aims to make accessing learning support much simpler and quicker for all involved.”
Ms Willis says the Government must continue this work to ensure that young children with complex needs get support as early as possible and for as long as they need it.
“Parents and teachers will welcome this boost to learning support. The Government must now ensure all ECE services make the most of these resources for children in need.
“There is also a need to invest in the learning support workforce so that young children who may have additional learning needs, like dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism, have the right support they need from specialists, teachers and teacher aides, now and into the future.”
“The Government must also build on our Budget 2016 investment of $16.5 million for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, which significantly increased the number of children getting access, as well as the investments we made to lift the number of teacher aide hours by 550,000,” Ms Kaye says.
“But most importantly, we need to get the system right so that we can give children the best opportunities to help improve their lives – that should be the focus.”