Special education approaching 'crisis point' across New Zealand

  • 30/03/2017
Special education approaching 'crisis point' across New Zealand
Schools "cannot guarantee the safety and well-being of their special needs students" (Getty)

Three people are dead and two others injured after their car rolled off the road in Canterbury.

Police say all occupants appear to be young people, and only one person was wearing a seat belt.

The car, a Nissan Tiida, was travelling south on Harts Road when it lost control at intersection and collided with a pine tree hedge.

A member of the public found the car near the corner of Harts Road and Southbridge Sedgemere Road in Leeston at 2:20am on Monday.

Two males and a female were dead at the scene.

The two others were transported to hospital, one with serious injuries. The seatbelt wearer only has minor injuries.


New Zealand Principals' Federation (NZPF) president Whetu Cormick is warning that special education is approaching 'crisis point' across New Zealand.

Mr Cormick says the federation is analysing feedback from their latest meeting, and regional presidents are warning "resourcing is inadequate" and access to specialist services is "woeful".

"Many principals are telling us that they are constantly on the brink of breaching their school's health and safety policies and cannot guarantee the safety and well-being of their special needs students, regular students or teachers every day," he says.

"As the incidence of severe autism, ADHD, fetal alcohol syndrome, 'P' babies, poverty and trauma accelerates, schools are left to flounder."

Pat Newman, President of Te Tai Tokerau Principals Association, agrees with this.

"The maximum we're getting for some of these severe kids that are everything from knives to throwing desks to constantly fighting in the classroom and all the rest of it is two hours a day to try to keep them safe and to keep other children and teachers safe," he says.

The NZPF conducted a survey in 2016 which found over 90 percent of schools were using operations grant money to support children with high level behavioural and learning needs.

Schools are unable to access specialist services, including diagnostic assessments, psychologists, speech therapists, RTLB, SENCOs, Teacher Aides and especially support for very high learning and behavioural needs students.

Mr Cormick says feedback shows this problem is getting worse.

"Some principals attending Moot made the comment that it is not about the Government not having funds, it's about priorities," Mr Cormick says.

"With special education in such disarray many principals feel that the $329 million set aside for future Communities of Learning, might be better spent on supporting special education now."

Mr Cormick says the NZPF is advocating for changes at the Ministry level, and urges principals to "stay strong".