Getting the right learning supports in place

August 13, 2019

Associate Education minister Tracey Martin launched the new Learning Support Action Plan 2019-2025 in July at Green Bay High School in Auckland. She writes about her delight with the plan and the subsequent announcement about where the learning support coordinators will be located.

THE NEW Learning Support Action Plan, where the first tranche of learning support coordinators will be located and the $600 million extra this Government has put into learning support, shows we are finally rebuilding our education system so that it is fair and meets the needs of all students.

This includes the one in five who have learning support needs – and that important group of children with mild or moderate needs who really haven’t been well served by the previous system or funding of learning support.

There is also some personal satisfaction in that this need has been known by parents and schools for a long time – which was why in Opposition I worked with Chris Hipkins and Catherine Delahunty to get a Select Committee Inquiry in 2015 into identification and support for children and young people with dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism spectrum disorders.

Four years on, as Associate Minister of Education, I’ve been able to do something about the issues that were made public.

The Action Plan responds not only to the select committee findings but to extensive feedback from a wide range of sources, including children and young people and their parents and whānau, schools and early learning services and other professionals.

It focuses on six strategic priorities that we think will make the greatest difference to children and their learning over the next few years:

  • introducing the first tranche of learning support coordinators in schools and kura kaupapa
  • developing new screening tools to help the early identification of learning support needs
  • strengthening early intervention for pre-schoolers
  • creating a flexible set of services and supports for neurodiverse children and young people
  • better meeting the learning needs of gifted children and young people
  • improving education for children and young people at risk of disengaging.

The first tranche of 623 learning support coordinators have since been allocated to 124 clusters covering 1052 schools and kura, and they will start work from January 2020. This new, fully funded role is solely focussed on learning support, and my intention is to roll it out more widely in future years.

I would encourage parents and educators of children and young people with autism to read the Action Plan. The plan will continue to be reviewed and revised as needed. It is part of a broad programme of education changes that will improve learning support.

Finally, I would also encourage you to make use of available programmes and support such as Incredible Years Autism programmes, which provide early, targeted support for children aged 0-8 years and for their parents and whānau as well as teachers.

There is strong evidence to suggest that early intervention has the greatest potential to improve future outcomes for children on the autism spectrum. The programmes are about helping these children develop positive social interactions and communication skills.

  • Tracey Martin was first elected to Parliament as a New Zealand First list MP based in Warkworth, in 2011.
  • Her portfolios are as Minister for Children, Internal Affairs and Seniors and as Associate Minister of Education.

Altogether Autism has been delivering Strengthening Early Learning Opportunities (SELO) programmes, funded by the Ministry of Education. Our facilitators Cat Noakes-Duncan and Martyn Matthews spent two weeks in Queenstown/Lakes/Central Otago in June and July working with a range of committed and enthusiastic early childhood teachers.
The aim of the programme is to enhance teachers’ strategies as they work with children on the autism spectrum, with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Twenty one early childhood teachers, education specialists, parents/whānau and Ministry of Education staff attended the foundation workshop in Cromwell on June 5. Our specialist facilitators then followed up with centre visits to 11 early childhood centres through the region. The programme ended with a celebration workshop on July 26.
Pictured celebrating (in no particular order) Nicola Brown, Sharon McCulloch, Pip Pedofsky, Anne-Leah Shaw, Michelle Calitz, Desma Dsouza, Tegan Coote, Jess Harvey, Brigetta Smith, Jade Hinton-Dewey, Brad Collier, Nicola Roberts, Ernie Mather, Chris Cooper with facilitators Cat Noakes-Duncan and Martyn Matthews.


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