Govt criticised for special needs failures

  • 14/03/2015

Campaigners say the Ministry of Education has failed to deliver on its promise to help students with learning difficulties in low decile schools.

A year ago the ministry agreed it needed to do more to support low decile schools to access special assistance during exams, but not much has changed.

Healy Jones is acing her studies. It's a big achievement and a big surprise to some.

"People are still shocked," she says. "They say, 'How do you have dyslexia and get the marks that you do?' Because I get that extra help."

Healy gets a writer for exams. She says she can't spell. But her school is decile eight, meaning it has the resources to apply for extra exam help.

Students can qualify for special assistance by either getting an independent expert assessment, but that's costly, or they can use reports done by the school, and that's resource intensive.

"It relies on having trained staff to do the testing that NZQA requires and it's not easy," says Trevor Crosby of the Western Springs Board of Trustees.

It can be a tough ask for decile one schools. A Ministry of Education review a year ago found lower decile schools were less likely to apply for exam help; the cost was a major factor.

So the ministry promised change. Applications would be free and easier to use and the ministry promised to target 250 low decile schools to ensure students got the help they needed.

But according to NZQA figures obtained by the Dyslexia Foundation, almost 1300 students in decile 10 schools got special assistance last year. But only 17 students in decile one schools got that help, and that's only 10 more than the year before.

The Ministry of Education says supporting students with learning difficulties is a priority, but it appreciates some may feel not enough progress has been made.

Campaigners want more resources to be given to lower decile schools so they can give students like Healy the help they need.

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source: newshub archive