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.