600 new learning support coordinators 'too important' to wait for data

Associate Minister of Education Tracey Martin says the Government can't afford to wait for data before getting ready to send out 600 new learning support coordinators.

The Government announced the new roles, designed to provide specialised support in schools alongside teachers, on Sunday November 3.

Ms Martin told Newshub Nation she had been working on the proposal since long before collective agreement negotiations with teachers began and it was not to sweeten the deal.

"Chris Hipkins and I, actually with Catherine Delahunty, had worked on that originally in 2016 and the moment I sat in the chair I began the plan to make sure that happened," she said.

"When I presented it to the NZEI before the negotiation started they said 'well there's no commitment, so there's no point us actually nutting down the detail, there's no commitment to dollars,' so we got a commitment to dollars."

She was able to provide some detail on the plan, which has delayed a full roll out until 2020 and will have allocations for rural and urban.

Ms Martin expects the people hired for the role will be qualified experienced teachers and would provide support and professional development for other education staff.

"They'll be doing more creation of professional development, they'll be doing more linking to specialist services for children and we are looking at the development of screening tools at both school entry and at seven years for dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia," she said.

But the Government currently doesn't know how many children are affected by those learning difficulties, something Ms Martin freely admits.

"We have no data on dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, gifted... That's why those screening tools are now going to be really important," she said.

"That's what the Ministry's working on as well."

Ms Martin said the policy couldn't wait for the data to catch up, and besides the data was really useful in other areas.

"This is too important [to wait for data] and we know that because we've been running the pilots and because the sector has already told us we know that there is a need for this coordinator," she said.

"What that data is for is actually for the workforce planning we're going to need afterwards, we don't know how many speech language therapists we really need at the moment.

"We don't know how many specialists in dyslexia and dyspraxia we need so this is for that future workforce planning that we need to have as well."