Red Alert

Residential Special School closure wrong

Posted by on November 4th, 2012

Last week Hekia Parata announced the closure of two of the country’s four residential special schools. Despite her supposedly ‘genuine’ consultation process, the decision confirmed something Parata had clearly intended to do all along. It’s the wrong decision. These schools often represent the last hope for some of the most vulnerable kids in the education system. They need a level of intensive support that regular schools just struggle to provide. We’re far better off investing in getting these kids back on track while they’re young rather than forking out to lock them up later on.

The Ministry of Education’s discussion document made it very clear this is about saving money. According to that document it costs about $84,200 per year to educate a student at a residential school, whereas the new ‘wrap-around’ model the Minister speaks of costs $29,000 a year. These kids are getting short-changed.

I passionately believe in an inclusive education system that meets the needs of every child. For the vast majority of kids, inclusion means attendance at their local school, supported where necessary with extra resources to ensure they can fully participate in all aspects of school life. But while Iwould love to see every child fully participating in mainstream classrooms, the reality is that some students need extra assistance. There is an on-going place for Residential Special Schools within the education system. One size does not fit all.


18 Responses to “Residential Special School closure wrong”

  1. Stephen Doyle says:

    Why are you posting this Chris, and not the Shadow Minister?

  2. Morgy says:

    Is it correct Chris that the school at the top of the South Island has about 60 FTE’s v the 50 odd students? Doesn’t that suggest it is too expensive to keep that up?

  3. OneTrack says:

    ” But while Iwould love to see every child fully participating in mainstream classrooms” – Aren’t you trying to have a bob each. Wasn’t Labour responsible for moving many children into manstream schools ie started this model off.?

  4. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    Stephen, surely you know Chris is an associate spokesman for education.

    The real question is why none of Hekias colleagues with responsibility for special education, Craig Foss, John Banks or Pita Sharples are involved in announcing this decision. Is Craig Foss being kept in a locked room or something ?

  5. Stephen Doyle says:

    I did know that, but it’s one of my bugbears that a number of senior front benches have been mia, hanging Shearer out to dry. Perhaps this is not the correct forum.

  6. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    Mahuta hasnt previously used Red Alert or is a very infrequent contributor, so that is now MIA ?
    Perhaps you are reading the wrong entrails and should switch to messages on oak leaves when they are blown about by the wind.

  7. Stephen Doyle says:

    Just saying that with the train wreck that is Hekia Parata, the opposition spokesperson should be more visible.

  8. Dorothy says:

    this is similar to what is happening in the UK. In the name of inclusion, children are being deprived of familiar surroundings and thrust into uncertainty. The real aim of course is to save money.
    Many children with disabilities can be accommodated in the mainstream, but only if enough resources are made available – how likely is that?
    But surely children and their families should have a range of options. That’s not “a bob each way”, it’s giving them a genuine choice.

  9. Spud says:

    :evil: It’s bleepin disgusting, those parents chose those schools for a reason! :evil: :evil: :evil: !!!!!

  10. Rex Morris says:

    “These kids are getting short-changed.”

    This is a gross understatement. With the best will in the world, the kids attending Saulisbury will not get anywhere near the same service and the teachers in the mainstream will have greater demands placed on them, while the other kids will miss out.

    These special needs children deserve much better and this johnkey govt is again short changing kids for the sake of a few dollars.

    @Morgy – these children are very special needs and need a lot of specialist care and one on one attention – something they will not get in the mainstream.

  11. Rex Morris says:

    “These kids are getting short-changed.”

    This is a gross understatement. With the best will in the world, the kids attending Saulisbury will not get anywhere near the same service and the teachers in the mainstream will have greater demands placed on them, while the other kids will miss out.

    These special needs children deserve much better and this johnkey govt is again short changing kids for the sake of a few dollars.

    @Morgy – these children are very special needs and need a lot of specialist care and one on one attention – something they will not get in the mainstream.

  12. Vanessa says:

    @Morgy – most cancer patients require at least 10 staff – a consultant, registrars, nurses, orderlies, cooks, etc – to keep them alive. Is it too expensive to keep that up? There is a reason those students were at a school with such high staffing ratios. What will happen to them now?

  13. Morgy says:

    Rex, I don’t doubt some of these kids need attention but I don’t agree at all that it requires 1 on 1. Recognising the 60 FTE’s will include maintanance and admin too. From what I understand the role is continuing to fall and the ratio has simply reduced to 1:1 over time. It is really easy for people to simply see one side. There is a reason why this decision has been made and in my view it is not ideology. I for one am pleased the tough calls are being made. Simply put, the school costs far too much vs the outcomes. Good on them

  14. Hilary says:

    @OneTrack Labour passed the 1989 Education Act which included the very important section 8 which gave the right of every child, 5-18, to attend their local school. Before that children with special needs were often denied education at all or had to go to special schools often a long way from their home. However, some families chose to continue at special schools and Section 9 of the act allowed that.

    National’s Lockwood Smith was the Minister of Education when Special Education 2000 came in in 1996. Under that policy many special schools and units were closed. Unfortunately, sufficient support for those children transferred to mainstream schools was not provided, setting this policy up to fail for many students and families (so much that some families took and won a court case against the government).

    This current policy can be as an extension of Special Ed 2000. Two schools are closing in order to save money and theoretically provide services for more students. However, the replacement for two years at a residential school will apparently only be two terms of ‘wrap around’ services, whatever that means. Will certainly not be enough for many students who might need targetted support for 13 years of their formal education.

  15. Rex Morris says:

    No matter what plan is put in place for children who would have gone to Saulisbury, it will be nothing but a shadow in comparison.

    Support services for special needs children in mainstream has always been underfunded and under resourced.

    There is absolutely no need to close this school. The roll has possibly dropped because the MoE make it harder to get children enrolled.

  16. tamati says:

    I prefer to see Chris as the ‘shadow’ shadow Minister for Education.

  17. Rob Wickham says:

    I’m wondering where the Labour Party stands on Charter Schools. Perhaps I have missed something in my dotage but I read and hear opinion in the media from the Green Party on a regular basis on many topics including Charter Schools. Where are you all? And who is representing Labour supporters in Ranui? Labour seem to be missing in action around here which is an insult to your loyal supporters.

  18. Suzanne Manning says:

    One thing that is not being mentioned is that this is also a gender issue. Salisbury School is a single-sex girls residential school, where girls with intellectual impairment and challenging behaviours can be educated in a SAFE environment. Can the Minister guarantee that these girls will be safe in a co-ed environment, which is what is being proposed?