Out of the 400 pupils that attend Greerton Village School, 140 of them are on the school’s learning support registry.
Twenty-five of them have ‘high needs’ (ORS Funding) but the funding these students receive doesn’t always match the support that is required.
Chairperson of the Board of Trustees for the school, Erika Harvey says the decile two continues to struggle with funding as it caters to meet the needs of these students, as well as offering the other 376 students the learning opportunities and experiences to which they are entitled.
The funding model needs to change to meet the needs of individual schools, it should never be a one size fits all model where funding is concerned.
Schools are expected to contribute funding to each child who require support, in most schools where the numbers of ORS funded students are lower, this might work, at Greerton Village School it doesn’t due to the very high numbers we need to contribute towards.
It is a disadvantage to everyone, our children with and without additional needs, our staff and our school community. This poor funding model has no winners.
She says Greerton Village School has the highest number of special needs children at a mainstream primary school in the North Island and possibly the country.
“So when you have a school like ours, it means that we’re operating at about $124,000 deficit purely from just following the law.”
She says the main issue is that the education funding model promotes exclusion, not inclusion as set out in the Education Act.
As well as seeing what the school is going through from a BOT point of view, Erika also experiences this from a parents point of view, as her daughter Piper is autistic.
“Piper attended a Montessori preschool full time so I could work full time. We went through the application process hoping Piper qualified for Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS) funding for primary school. This is extremely difficult to receive with only one per cent of students being approved.
“If you are one of the lucky ones – which Piper was – congratulations your child is considered to be one of the ‘most severe’ in terms of needs, and received a teacher assistant at school. If you are not in the lucky one per cent it will be extremely difficult to get adequate help or assistance for your child at school.
“When we started to look at our local primary schools, we were told we’d need to pick our daughter up at about lunch time. I couldn’t understand how Piper wouldn’t have someone full time. She wasn’t even toilet trained, she couldn’t speak and would take off all her clothes when she became overwhelmed. This didn’t make any sense. The school said she would be fine and families do it all the time.
“As a parent you feel like you only have two choices at this stage: One: worry about your child’s health and safety and mental wellbeing if you don’t pick her up at lunch, so you can work.
“Two: instead of being a burden to the school or worry, you’re forced to leave your full time job for lunchtime pick up. There is a third choice – this is where parents don’t pick up their children and those children wind up being stood down for behaviour – also resulting in being forced to leave your full time job.
“When this happened to me, I never knew we were being ‘excluded’ from our local school. I thought they were looking out for us. They said they couldn’t afford to cover her full time and I’d feel horrible making them feel like they had to. I had enough guilt feeling like her additional needs were somehow my fault, so it made sense that I should have to do this on my own.
“We heard about Greerton Village School while I was sobbing to someone. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to make our mortgage payments after I left my full time job. We were stuck in the house we purchased, which at the time was considered a premium price and was now considered entry level pricing, so selling didn’t make sense.
“Greerton Village School had to zone their school due to the immense financial pressure they were under. Piper was one of their last children to enrol out of zone,” says Erika.
Last year, Erika started to become more involved at the school and says only then did she realise that she was creatively excluded from their local school and started to understand the funding model.
“Greerton Village School didn’t have some magic funding pot of gold that other schools did. They were just giving all children the same shot at an education. As much as my daughter learns from the students, they learn from her that everyone is different but special in their own way.”
She says more than 70 per cent of the schools budget goes to supporting children with additional learning needs and the improvements and changes in these children are drastic. She says it show the power of inclusion.
The board last year decided to go public about their funding woes to raise awareness about our situation and to educate others on the pressures schools are facing, but don’t openly talk about.
“I am lobbying the government as well as working alongside members of IHC, NZEI and other organisations because really, we all have the same complaint. Schools don’t have the resources they need, and this makes it hard for our teachers and support staff. Everyone is just trying to do the best they can with the little bit they have.
“Many schools don’t know how to teach children who have physical or additional learning needs because there is no training, and as a board we’re looking for ways our school can use our knowledge to work smarter.
“To be inclusive in a mainstream school is not impossible, we just need everyone to do their part. We can teach other schools to do what we do in the classroom. So, a lot of the things we’re looking at as a board, are ways that we can work collaboratively with other schools across the country to show them how to do, exactly what we do.
“That way it takes a strain off of a school like ours that is being punished for doing our job really well on a dime budget. This is why schools like ours get overloaded, because people don’t understand how to do these types of things and they don’t know who to ask or where to go.
“I mean the ministry put out a new website, but teachers have enough work as it is. That still won’t give you real life examples of how you run a classroom. If you’ve got two children who are highly autistic and violent in a classroom of 25 kids, we can teach others how to work in a classroom like this, because we do that because we have to do it every day.”
She says a good start would be achieving an actual incentivised education funding model where schools aren’t punished for doing their job.
“Basically how it works at the moment is if you are really good at taking care of and treating all children equally, you’re punished because your financial budget is screwed and if creatively exclude these children, you have money to do whatever you want. It is unequitable and to be honest, a violation of their human rights.
“So a lot of our complaints to the ministry is, you’re forcing us to break either the law of inclusion or the health and safety act. You tell me which one you want us to break because if we are forced to let go support staff, we’re going to violate health and safety and if we don’t then we are turning kids away,” says Erika.
She says this hasn’t only affected her and Piper, it has affected other parents as well.
“I got a phone call a couple of months ago about from a husband whose wife tried to kill herself because she has two autistic children and couldn’t handle it anymore. She had to leave her job because the kids couldn’t go to school because they were stood down. Nobody could help them, no other school would take them and she didn’t know what more she could do.
“They were going to lose their home. They couldn’t pay their bills and she tried to kill herself because she had life insurance, just so her family wouldn’t lose their home. This is the cause and effect of an education model that is broken.
“The biggest thing that gets to me and it makes me cry every single time, is that every mother in history enters motherhood the same way, we picture all the amazing things we’re going to do once our child is born.
“And then some of us find out that we actually will not have the life we imagined, and this isn’t something anyone can prepare you for. It’s like we all have these amazing dreams of what it’s like to be a parent. Nobody says that ‘oh actually you may not ever be able to go on a plane with your kid and to be honest you can’t go to grocery stores’. We get looked at often when Piper is having a hard time. People seem to forget that not all disabilities are physical when they’re making judgements.
“It’s hard to go into public because when you do, if your child has an issue people look at you like you have a freak of a child and you’re a crappy parent. They don’t realise that maybe there’s something else wrong. Or with a handicap tag and we’re at an event that’s really crowded, people wonder why we’ve put it up since we don’t have a wheelchair but when Piper gets overwhelmed she’ll take off her clothes and we needed to be in close proximity to grab her and run.
“I wish people would remember that not all disabilities are physical.”
One of the main ways the school raises funds is by putting on the Cherry Blossom Festival each year. The past two Cherry Blossoms has raised funds for a new junior playground, which was officially opened two weeks ago. This year the school is raising funds for “The Arts” and are looking to purchase new costumes for Kapa Haka and Pasifika, as well as updating our music equipment for our three school bands.
This year the festival is being held on September 21, from 10am to 2pm.
More than 100 street cars will be on display, there will be stalls, games and more for the whole family to enjoy and to raise funds for the Greerton Village School.
About 1000 teachers have turned out for the strikes at Tauranga Race Course today for unprecedented strike action.
The strike has been coined as the "biggest strike this country has ever seen" as this is the first time in history both PPTA and NZEI union members will strike as one.
Despite the grey skies threatening to rain, morale was strong.
Fairhaven School principal Paul Hunt took to the mic, leading the crowd in chants.
Hunt chanted, with the crowd following, "what do we want? Teachers. When do we want it? Now."
Aretha Franklin's classic anthem Respect rang over the speakers as the crowd waited to embark on the march.
Papamoa College teacher Natalie Jump was among those gathered in the crowd.
The 28-year-old was in her second year of teaching and she said it wasn't good enough for teachers to not recieve necessary support or pay.
"The strikes are important for the future generation of teachers."
Speeches are now taking place, with the crowd cheering and ringing cow bells after each speaker finishes a statement.
Parent Erika Harvey spoke of her gratitude to teachers for caring for her young daughter who had special learning needs.
Liam Rutherford was a prime negotiator with the Ministry of Education. He said it was fantastic to be here today, and to see the people who have come out today.
He said it was great to see the community supporting teachers when they really needed it.
He said striking was not an easy decision and when workers went without their wages on strike it was a sign that the Government had really "stuffed up".
"Let's be clear - the situation we are in is serious and we need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul," said Rutherford. He didn't rule out further strike action.
People in car parks in Greerton have cheered on the marching strikers while people are tooting their horns from passing cars.
The strikers are marching down Cameron Rd and have passed the RSA chanting that Jacinda should "do them right" and "Chris Hipkins has got to go".
Protesters made their way down Cameron Rd, towards Tauranga Girls' College, where end of the march will be marked be a karakia.
Traffic in the southbound lane of Cameron Rd was virtually gridlocked for about 4km.
In the Bay of Plenty, 148 schools have shut their doors - the second highest number in the country.
The industrial action is expected to be the largest strike by teachers and first ever combined teachers' strike, with 50,000 nationwide expected on the picket lines.
NZEI Tauranga representative Andrea Andresen said the Government had left the teachers no other choice than to strike.
She said it would be the "biggest strike this country has ever seen".
Pre-march activities at the Tauranga racecourse took place from 11.30am, with balloon blowing and messages written to drop off at MPs' offices.
The rally opened with three speakers including NZEI Te Riu Roa vice president Liam Rutherford and PPTA national executive Tania Rae from 12pm.
Tauranga City Council advised motorists to avoid the area during this time or use Takitimu Drive or Fraser St as preferred alternative routes.
Motorists who chose to travel along Cameron Rd would have to remain behind the head vehicle following the march or detour via a side road or turn around.
It was expected that the northbound lanes of Cameron Rd, between Chadwick Rd to 22nd Ave would be closed for about half an hour due to the protesters walking towards the city.
Southbound lanes, from Munro St to 22nd Ave will be closed for approximately 15 minutes to allow the protest march to cross in order to get to Tauranga Girls' College.
The NZEI strike is about pay and workload with primary teachers wanting to double non-contact time to two hours a week, reduce class sizes and increase resource teachers and a special needs co-ordinator (Senco) in every school.
The PPTA wants an extra hour of non-classroom time, increasing that to six hours per week, as well as additional extra non-contact time for middle managers.
The Ministry of Education has offered both unions pay rises of 3 per cent a year for three years, plus an extra step at the top of salary scales that would take the total pay rise for a majority of teachers to 12.6 per cent over three years.
The Government's offer is a $1.2 billion deal over four years.
Up to 1000 Tauranga teachers will march off the job tomorrow for the "biggest strike this country has ever seen".
Primary and secondary school teachers across New Zealand voted earlier this month to strike on May 29 for better pay and work conditions. In the Bay of Plenty, 148 schools will shut their doors - the second highest number in the country.
However, the Government's offer of $1.2 billion over four years is not expected to budge.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the offer would bring teachers into the top 20 per cent of income earners.
The industrial action is expected to be the largest strike by teachers and first ever combined teachers' strike, with 50,000 nationwide expected on the picket lines.
About 800,000 students are expected to be affected.
In Tauranga, a 2km section of Cameron Rd will close with traffic control and detours in place from around midday.
New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) Tauranga representative Andrea Andresen said this would be the "biggest strike this country has ever seen".
Andresen said she hoped the marches would communicate loud and clear to the Government they were serious and had a lot of support.
She said interest had even been expressed by loads of parents, who were keen on getting behind the teachers.
Parent Erika Harvey said she was going to support the teachers as she believed they had one of the most difficult jobs.
Harvey said it was not just about their wages, it was about equipping the schools and teachers with adequate time, training and funding to handle a variety of learning needs.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary for early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said striking over $1.2b in pay offers did not offer a solution but instead would cause disruption to the learning of thousands of young people.
Western Bay of Plenty PPTA chairwoman Rebecca Holmes said the feeling was mixed among secondary teachers as it had been nearly a decade since their last industrial action.
Holmes said they felt a sense of unity with their fellow teachers but also disappointed that they had to use their "last resort" of industrial action.
She hoped they could come to a place to negotiate a "fair and equitable" deal with the Government.
The Ministry offered both unions pay rises of three per cent a year for three years, taking the total pay rise for a majority of teachers to 12.6 per cent over three years.
However, many teachers were putting more weight on the lack of release time and the heavy workload.
The PPTA wants an extra hour of non-classroom time for all secondary teachers, lifting non-contact time from five hours to six hours a week.
The NZEI wants two hours a week in non-contact time, plus reduced class sizes, more resource teachers and a special needs co-ordinator in every school.
To address workload, the Government provided for 600 learning support coordinators, removed national standards, advanced a review of NCEA and offered additional release time in the offer.
Timeline of the strike11.30am - Teachers will gather near the Tauranga racecourse for pre-march activities, including balloon blowing and message writing.
12pm - Speakers will address the crowds.
12.30pm - The march will begin on Chadwick Rd before turning on to Cameron Rd in the northbound lane. Teachers will be dropping messages off at MPs' offices on the way.
1.30/2pm - The march will wrap up as teachers reach Tauranga Girls' College.
An independent consultant is reviewing Tauranga City Council's handling of the $11.4 million Marine Precinct following years of concern from independent fishing captains.
Fishing fleet owner Dan Harvey says working ships are being pushed out of Tauranga by the Marine Precinct which favours luxury yachts and added no berthage space.
Larger independent fishing vessels share just five metres of truck-to-boat space which causes delays if two ships want to use the space at the same time.
"When you consider a backwater like Whangarei has 490 metres of space, Napier has 400, Gisborne has 286, and Whakatane has 80 it is ridiculous Tauranga only has 5 metres of truck-to-boat space," Harvey said.
Tauranga City Council confirmed consultant Max Pedersen, who has previously identified poor management issues within Council, has been commissioned to review the Marine Precinct.
"The scope of the review is to look at any issues or opportunities for improvement," communications manager Aimee Driscoll said.
Pedersen previously reviewed four council projects which were plagued with communication and consultation issues.
The report concluded a poor culture was present in council with an emphasis on staff to complete tasks, rather than facilitating the best outcome for the community.
Pedersen's report followed on from a scathing MBIE report into the council's building inspection team over the handling of the Bella Vista Homes saga.
Erika Harvey has campaigned against the Marine Precinct for three years saying what was delivered was not what was promised.
"All we want is what was promised to us originally," she said.
"Instead things have not been built and the water's edge is being sold. That should stay in public ownership."
Council documents show companies have purchased lots in the precinct that run up to the water's edge with a service lane for trucks located further inland.
Other fishing captains asked for comment said the most important thing lacking from the Marine Precinct was berthage for vessels to allow catch to be offloaded but also repairs to be conducted without lifting a vessel out of the water completely.
A publish date for the review is not yet known.
A wheelchair-accessible playground swing has made an almost 1000km journey to its new home at Greerton Village School, much to the delight of the community.
Dubbed a "liberty swing", the playground equipment meant children and adults in wheelchairs were able to enjoy the thrill of soaring on a swing.
The swing was gifted to the school by Variety, a charity for disadvantaged Kiwi children, after Tauranga City Council and Greerton Village School explored options to make the school more accessible to students and the community.
Representatives of Variety and the council attended a mihi whakau at Greerton Village School yesterday morning, where the swing was unveiled to the students and staff at the decile two school.
Previously kept in Christchurch, it was left unused after the devastating earthquakes that rattled the region in 2011.
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said the school was "very happy, very excited and very grateful" to be gifted the swing.
She said the school was always fighting for equity and equality at the school.
"It's the biggest shot in the arm we've had when it comes to resources for our treasures - that's what we call our high needs students.
"This generous donation will make a big change [for] them."
School board member Erika Harvey said she teared up when she heard the school would be donated the swing.
"I was crying ... words cannot express how truly grateful we are at Greerton Village School to be the recipients of such an amazing and charitable gift."
The school had funding for 27 children through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme - a Ministry of Education initiative that provides extra support for high-needs children - out of the 410 children on the roll, she said.
Not all of the high-needs children at the school were in wheelchairs, but it upset Harvey to see any students limited in their play.
She said it must be hard for less-abled children to watch other students play around them while they were restricted to their chairs.
"Most of the time the students are just pushed in circles," she said.
David Drake, a volunteer with Variety for over 20 years, was one of the unsung heroes involved in the mission and drove the swing nearly 1000km from Christchurch to Tauranga.
Drake embarked on the voyage at 6.45am on Monday morning, caught the afternoon ferry to Wellington then zoomed up to Palmerston North. After an overnight stay there, he arrived in Tauranga on Tuesday evening.
He was "delighted to bring [the swing] up" for the "special day".
Tauranga City Council community development team leader Dani Jurgeleit said the swing was part of the council's vision to make Tauranga "the most inclusive city" in the country.
The council helped out by covering the $1000 cost of transporting the swing, which included the ferry, petrol and accommodation.
The installation of the swing at Greerton Village School was part of a larger conversation about how the council could make the city more accessible.
Independent fishermen say they are being pushed out of Tauranga as council ignores pleas for more wharf space.
Members of the Black Fleet, a designation given to all working vessels, have to share 5 metres of truck-to-boat space between them at the public Cross Road wharf.
While private wharves are in the process of being built which will ease usage, fisherman are still angry.
"When you consider a backwater like Whangarei has 490 metres of space, Napier has 400, Gisborne has 286, and Whakatane has 80 it is ridiculous Tauranga only has 5 metres of truck to boat space," fishing captain Dan Harvey said.
Harvey said the newly opened $11.4 million Marine Precinct, operated by Tauranga City Council, did not cater for the needs of working fisherman.
"We had hoped the final design would have a seawall with additional truck to boat space," he said. "Instead they've sold the water edge privately."
Harvey has been fishing the Tauranga Moana (the seas of Tauranga) for 15 years. Over that time he has seen a decline in fishing vessels calling Tauranga home due to the lack of facilities. They take with them jobs and revenue.
Data compiled by different vessels showed on average each fishing ship employs eight people and turns over $1.4 million.About $1 million of that turnover is spent covering costs locally, including ice, fuel and maintenance.
"Ships are leaving," he said. "If I didn't have my family and daughter settled here I would leave as well.
"The problem is we can't get more than one truck to a boat at any time."
Captains coordinate arrival times before booking space. Despite this double ups occur as each ship uses the wharf 2.3 hours per visit on average.
"The precinct has chased the super-yacht market and forgotten about the needs of the working fleet," Harvey said.
Another fisherman, who asked not to be named, said they were forced to downsize so they could use smaller wharves in the district.
"It cost us a hell of a lot of money to do so," he said.
"It's hard being a fisherman in New Zealand you get pushed out of the wharves unless you're in a small town like Westport or Greymouth that is geared for fishing. Numbers are reducing across the country."
Council says the Marine Precinct caters for all water users and upgrade work is under way to assist fisherman.
Two private fishing companies have resorted to build their own wharf which council predicts will free up public wharf space by 40 per cent.
In the mean time, smaller vessels can use the smaller, Fisherman's Wharf in Dive Crescent to unload catch or can book space at the Port of Tauranga.
Since opening in August the Marine Precinct has serviced 28 vessels including a super-yacht, high-performance catermaran and a 298 tonne fishing vessel.
Twelve were 'white boats' and 16 were 'black boats' showing working ships are using the facilities.
Harvey says he hopes the precinct expansions will provide more facilities to fisherman as new travel lifts in Whangarei will create more competition.
"I'm worried all these super yachts they think will come to Tauranga will probably just not when that opens," he said.
"We're the ones that live here and will use these facilities year in and year out."
Providing education to children with special learning needs has left one school $125,000 in the red.
The decile 2, Greerton Village School has highest number of special needs children at any mainstream primary school but catering for so many students has left the school in debt.
Parents have even resorted to opening a Give-a-Little page to fundraise money to pay teacher aides and help meet the two-year deadline to repay the debt.
Principal Anne Mackintosh says the school attracted high numbers of children requiring learning support because parents were discouraged to enrol their child at other schools.
Now, seven per cent of their roll requires funding from the Ongoing Resource Scheme and many others require learning support.
"We became a bit of a victim of our own success," Mackintosh said.
"Because we support inclusion and our treasures never feel they miss out. They do everything from swimming to kapa haka."
To curb the rising number of students the school had to put in place an enrolment zone to slow down their student intake. This stopped students being encouraged to enrol in their school outside of their zones.
On September 22 the Coalition Government announced sweeping changes to the way learning support was organised in the draft disability health action plan designed to create better pathways for students.
Submissions to the select committee also identified parents being discouraged from enrolling their children at certain schools.
"Some parents report their child has not been welcome and/or allowed to attend for full school hours; or that their child has been excluded from education opportunities outside of the classroom," one submission read.
Mackintosh says the reason for this is purely financial. Inclusion comes at a cost, with teacher aides being funded by the Ongoing Resource Scheme - a fund that allows teacher aides to be hired.
"Sometimes children are only allocated 10 hours of teacher aide but in reality need more or even full-time," she said.
"We go through all the hoops and try to fight for additional funding."
Mackintosh said the additional hours ate away the school's budget but it was done for the betterment of the children. The school passed 15 years of audits and has had no financial mismanagement issues.
"The problem is just the funding for the number of children we have," Mackintosh said.
After going to the Ministry of Education the school was told to cut costs by $100,000 which will mean the loss of at least five teacher aides. The school has already cut the budget to the bone and even gone without rebuilding their junior playground which had to be dismantled years ago.
Ministry of Education's deputy secretary sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said the two-year repayment plan was arranged to allow the school to stay cash-flow positive.
"Regarding your question about claims parents are being discouraged from enrolling their children in certain schools, every child and young person has the right to education," she said.
"We know though that some parents and whānau experience challenges in having their children's needs recognised and supported."
Associate education minister Tracey Martin said too many children have been missing out on the support they need.
"Once finalised, the Disability and Learning Support Action Plan will provide a clear structure and path for delivering this help.
"The goal is that we have an inclusive education system where children and young people with additional learning needs, including disabilities, are welcome, and where their achievement, progress, wellbeing and participation is valued and supported."
The announcement came on top of a March announcement of an additional $272.8 million over four years to learning support.
Erika Harvey's child Piper attends Greerton Village School and says their existing model of inclusion and learning support has transformed her child
Piper has severe autism but since changing to Greerton Village School she is no longer being excluded.
"You always want to have hope for your children but before coming to this school, I wasn't sure there was much," she said.
"She doesn't feel like she is missing out or different.
"They let her do everything from kapa haka to even being on the school radio."
Mackintosh is hopeful the changes will make a difference for schools like hers the promote inclusiveness but said resources are the key issue. "From the new changes, which took effect in July, we've only received about $5000 more and we are grateful for it," she said.
Stuff : https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/107264172/greerton-school-principal-school-in-financial-issue-due-to-learning-support
Tracey Formosa-Archbold has not worked since her son started school.
Kaden Murray, 12, has severe oro-motor dyspraxia, meaning his speech is delayed. He has also been diagnosed with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and an intellectual disability.
Kaden was granted Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding from the Ministry of Education when he was 4. It provides support for students with the greatest learning needs.
"You think, 'That's great, that will mean he's got all the support he should have at school', but he doesn't," Formosa-Archbold says.
It was "always a battle" getting teacher aide hours approved.
"When he started school, he had quite severe separation anxiety. So for the first two years when his teacher aide wasn't with him, I had to be with him."
Formosa-Archbold still has to be available for Kaden at his current school in Christchurch, in case he has a panic attack or behavioural problem when an aide is not by his side.
"I just haven't worked, I didn't work. There was no way ... And it's not just when his anxiety is high. He'll struggle, they'll call me. Being available to him at school has just been part of the way it is.
"The school doesn't have the resources to manage your child if they need that extra one-on-one. If they've got the aide there, that's great, but I don't know anybody that's got a full-time [one]."
THE PROBLEM WITH ORS FUNDING
ORS funding is categorised by two levels of needs: high and very high.
To meet approval criteria, students must have either ongoing severe difficulty in learning, hearing, vision, physical or language use/social communication, or moderate-high difficulty with learning, combined with high needs in two of the other four areas.
ORS funding allows the ministry to provide specialists, additional teachers, aides and support items to students, to help their needs.
About 1 per cent of students receive ORS funding.
Cathy Johnston, whose son Mitchell, 11, has ORS assistance, says she worries about her friends more than herself.
"A number of my friends have got special needs kids, and they're not quite as severe as Mitchell, but for whatever reason it's been incredibly frustrating for them to get [aides].
"I can't say the same for other families, unfortunately, but for me it's been extremely positive ... I just wish some of them would get the kind of help that I receive."
Erika Harvey, whose daughter Piper, 7, has ORS funding, says the "extremely narrow" criteria mean parents end up battling each other over the limited pool of money.
Children who need help, but are not "the most severe", end up falling through the cracks and never improving unless parents seek outside assistance, she says.
"Look at half of the people who have done amazing things for the world – they've been autistic. Why the heck are we not supporting these children?"
While technically illegal under the Education Act, schools also use "creative ways" to pass off potential students they know will not have or get ORS funding, Harvey says.
Piper's school, Greerton Village School, is on the opposite side of the problem, as one of the "magnet" facilities being "punished" for taking in more children than it can financially handle.
It is operating on a $118,000 deficit, Harvey says, due to the demand for aide support requiring additional hours having to be funded on top of what has been granted by the ministry.
"The funding model is so skewed. It actually promotes exclusion ... The issue is from years and years of neglect and underfunding. It's snowballed into this crisis."
Harvey does not understand how New Zealand reached this point.
"I just had a call yesterday from a parent who has three children who are autistic. She just tried to kill herself because she can't handle it and she feels like a failure.
"It breaks my heart, I'm just getting emails from parents who are suicidal and their mental health is going, they're losing their house because they have to work. They have to choose between a job and giving their child an education - these are choices that people shouldn't be making."
A HISTORY OF NEGLECT
University of Auckland professor Missy Morton, whose research specialises in disability studies in education, says New Zealand has a history of neglecting its disabled community.
When she first entered the field, Morton worked in psychiatric facilities, including Dunedin's Cherry Farm Hospital and Auckland's Māngere Hospital, where people with disabilities lived alongside patients relocated from lunatic asylums.
"There were kids there that didn't go anywhere. They lay on the floor of the ward, they didn't have their own clothes, they didn't have physiotherapy or occupational therapy, they were institutionalised in every sense of the word."
People in those institutions "experienced a lot of abuse", she says.
Most of those facilities closed only about 30 years ago, around the time of the 1989 Education Act, which said all children could go to school.
"There's still people who are in our system as educators who don't believe these kids belong at school. If you don't see somebody as a student, it's hard to believe that you can actually teach them.
"Sometimes no amount of evidence is going to change stereotypes. But for most people, continued exposure and interaction, I think a lot of people are fearful of some kind of difference, and when you actually get to know somebody as a fellow human being, they're much less fearful."
A big part of the de-institutionalisation movement was making sure people were integrated with the community, however many schools still had a special needs unit physically separated from mainstream blocks, which created an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, she said.
"Some schools have overcome that, they've re-purposed some of those rooms and made sure that kids without disabilities spend a lot of time in those rooms, but you have to work really hard."
NO-ONE HEARS THE COMPLAINING'
New Zealand Down Syndrome Association president Shelley Waters says there is "inadequate" teacher training in the learning support area.
The Government needs to "take more responsibility" for funding specific learning support training for teachers, at an undergraduate level and with postgraduate professional development, she said.
Morton says current opportunities for such development, and teacher education, is "quite variable depending on where you train and when you trained".
A former Wellington special needs unit teacher of 10 years, who does not want to be named, says she left her job because she didn't agree with what untrained aides got away with.
She made complaints about mistreatment of students from aides. However, those employees, who often did not have formal job descriptions and were hired without qualifications, continued to do "what they felt like doing".
"If you saw what was happening ... your toes would curl. The most appalling thing is these students can't talk for themselves so they actually don't have a voice. So no-one hears the complaining. Anyone can do anything they like to, and with these students and there's no consequences."
Teachers come into the industry with high hopes, but leave exhausted and frustrated, she says.
"You do it for years and years and years, and the thing is it's like pushing sh.. uphill. If your management is not listening to you, and the aides are doing what they want to do, and you're trying to do the best you can for the students, you're getting nowhere.
"In the end, you give up."
COMPLETE OVERHAUL NEEDED?
Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero says it is vital that discussions about the future of the education system focus on ensuring inclusive education is "not a nice-to-have, but every child's right".
Tesoriero referred to statistics from the 2017 June quarter Household Labour Force Survey, which reveal 42 per cent of disabled New Zealanders between the age of 15-24 are not in employment, education or training.
"This is an indication that our education system is not as inclusive as it needs to be," Tesoriero says.
"An inclusive education system where children are supported to receive, participate and achieve to their full potential can change this outcome for disabled people."
Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey acknowledges there are "some challenges" with the system.
Demand is increasing for learning support due to population growth and earlier identification of needs, she says. There are also more children with "complex, and in some cases enduring needs".
The ministry is implementing a new learning support delivery approach, Casey says.
The new approach includes having single support plans for each young person to achieve their learning goals, more flexibility to create responsive support, providing families with support to navigate the system, and better facilitating connections between local education and service providers.
But Disabled Persons Assembly national policy manager Esther Woodbury says issues cannot be resolved by having a learning support division alone.
"There needs to be a total cultural shift within the Ministry of Education for all students to be able to experience the lifelong benefits of belonging, participating and succeeding in an education system which actively values them."
An inclusive education system is possible, but there needs to be co-design from the disabled community, Woodbury says.
"The whole education system needs transforming and rebuilding. Decades of reviews and tinkering have not solved systemic and structural problems which negatively affect students, families and schools.
"The change we need to see today is a large-scale move away from the segregation of disabled people in special schools and special units. Disabled people are part of our society, our communities. It is time for our communities, and specifically our education system, to figure out what that actually means."
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin says the system has been "chronically underfunded".
There were problems around the way support services are structured, and gaps in data collections "which mean we don't currently fully understand the extent of the need".
The Government invested $273 million in this year's Budget in learning support, and is developing a Disability and Learning Support Action Plan, she says.
"This action plan will ensure that resources are allocated based on an individual needs assessment for each child, and that all students receive the individual support they require to succeed."
Martin hopes to have a draft out to talk to stakeholders about "in the next few weeks".
IHC director of advocacy Trish Grant says the plan is based on consultation done by the previous Government.
"Unless you've got good prevalence data, unless we know how many kids in New Zealand require additional support to learn, and you base your resourcing framework on that data, then you're setting up kids to fail and schools to fail."
The Budget granting funding for an extra 1000 ORS-approved students is "propping up a flawed framework".
"Total reform ... will be years in the making. Meanwhile, these kids and schools are not getting what they need."
All new teachers should have the capacity to teach all new learners, Grant says.
There should also be better reporting from schools to ensure students' achievements are visible, and can be held accountable by the Education Review Office, she says.
"If they don't deal with these systemic problems, a new model is not going to do anything. A new model will further entrench the problems from the past that we know are deeply rooted in systems that don't work for diverse learners."
The issue concerns human rights, and the fact it has gone on for so long is a "disgrace", she says. "Let's not hide behind rhetoric, we need real action ... These kids have been waiting since 1989, even before that, for a fair deal.
"We don't need another system for these kids. These kids deserve a better response from the whole system."
In 2016-17 more than 9,000 high-needs students were funded by the Ministry of Education through its "Ongoing Resourcing Scheme" or ORS. ORS subsidises the wages for teacher aides. The average number of children receiving ORS funding equates to just over 1 percent of the school-aged population. But Greerton Village Primary School in the Bay of Plenty has 6.2 percent of its 380 students requiring ORS funding and has a $118,000 shortfall in wages. Principal of Greerton Village Primary School is Anne MacIntosh and Erika Harvey is the parent of an autistic daughter at the school.
Ministry of Education experts have visited Greerton Village School to discuss funding concerns raised parents and staff.
The experts met with the decile two school on Friday to address the funding model to help with its pupils with special needs.
Principal Anne Mackintosh said she was encouraged by the ministry's positive response and that experts were prepared to listen and see the challenges firsthand.
"They have got faces to the numbers now," she said. "We have had our voices heard, that is the first step."
Mackintosh said the experts were shown a video from parent Erika Harvey which explained the challenges parents of children with special needs faced.
Three parents of children with special needs also spoke about their experiences.
"It was very good to hear from our parents who are living it day in and day out," she said. "It made it more real."
Mackintosh told the Bay of Plenty Times the school would have to cough up more than $118,000 to fund a shortfall and said the ministry was "very much aware" of the school's funding difficulties.
She said they discussed additional funding towards increasing support for teacher aids as part of the Budget 2018 announcement but "we are not sure what that is going to look like".
At the meeting, Mackintosh said the school had proposed to set up a pilot scheme for 2-3 years and had scheduled another meeting at the school to go through details with the head of learning support on June 7.
"It is about inclusive education. We are an authentic and inclusive school," she said.
Parent Erika Harvey was also encouraged by the meeting and was happy the ministry got to meet the children personally.
Harvey's 7-year-old daughter Piper is autistic and is a pupil at Greerton Village School.
"No one ever meets these children. When I applied for funding for Piper no one came to meet her," she said.
"It was all done on a piece of paper. I had to relive the darkest hour of the darkest day just so she has more opportunity with her education."
Harvey said a video she made exploring the funding challenges helped to shine a light on the issue and had so far been viewed by more than 20,000 people.
"It is really driving awareness," she said.
Harvey hoped the ministry would consider more funding for Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) children at the school and nationwide.
"For every parent who doesn't get adequate funding for their child we have to think about leaving our fulltime jobs," she said. "Every child deserves an equitable education."
Ministry of Education deputy secretary of enablement and support Katrina Casey said the ministry would continue discussions with the school to look at ways of supporting an inclusive approach to education.
"We are working with the school to better understand their finances and identify options to address their concerns," she said.
Erika & Dan Harvey
A blog about our journey through the spectrum with our daughter Piper. Enjoy and feel free to share with others.