Some teachers resisting efforts to help children with special needs - report

Two-thirds of the schools said their work with students with disabilities had improved since the coordinators were appointed. Photo credit: Getty

By John Gerritsen for RNZ

Most schools are happy with the 600 learning support coordinators (LSCs) the Government introduced a year ago, an evaluation shows.

The report for the Education Ministry also shows the coordinators are encountering resistance from some teachers.

The learning support coordinators began work at the start of last year and help 1000 schools work with children with special needs.

The evaluation report included survey responses from 419 schools and 371 learning support coordinators.

It said more than 70 percent of the schools were satisfied with the learning support coordinator role as were more than 70 percent of the coordinators themselves.

Two-thirds of the schools said their work with students with disabilities had improved since the coordinators were appointed.

However, it said 30 percent of the coordinators were "still not clear about their responsibilities" and only 52 percent said they could get learning support services for children without significant issues.

The evaluation indicated some teachers did not want to be told how to work better with children with disabilities.

"For now, LSCs are largely working with the willing: teachers/kaiako requesting and open to input or seeking support with applications for support. A minority of LSCs in interviews and through the survey identified that getting buy-in from teachers, or kaiako, was difficult. One LSC explained that teachers, or kaiako, in her school didn't see it as part of their job to be involved with learning support," the report said.

It said the coordinators had to establish credibility with teachers before they were receptive to the coordinators' advice.

"For example, some schools, or kura, adopt a specific pedagogy for literacy that can be challenged by other ways of approaching learning. Here the experience and knowledge base of the LSC is important for encouraging kaiako to enable changes," the report said.

The coordinators' role was to ensure children received the support they needed, but not to teach children. However, some found themselves doing work that was not formally part of their role.

"Only 10 survey respondents described teacher aide or teaching or relief teaching, and nine LSCs referred to doing duty as some of the out-of-scope activities they were required to do. Out-of-scope working was associated with principals not understanding the scope of the LSC role," the report said.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti said the evaluation showed the coordinators were doing excellent work.

She said the Government would eventually appoint more coordinators.

"We've inherited a significant teacher shortage, and planning for the second phase will be worked through as a clearer picture of medium and long term workforce needs emerges," she said.