Where is the funding for young children with additional learning needs?
NZ Kindergartens welcomes the Minister of Education’s announcement today of additional funding to support children with additional learning needs in schools but questions why no extra funding has been allocated for children in early childhood education (ECE) services.
“It is false economy to only increase funding to schools when the research says early intervention is critical for children to experience success during their school years” says NZ Kindergartens Chief Executive Clare Wells.
“The Ministry of Education says between 80,000 and 100,000 children and young people receive some form of special education support each year. That is about one child in ten, which equates to around 20,000 children in ECE in every year.” said Clare Wells.“All these children go on to school. Why would you wait until they start school to provide extra support?”
Understanding and progressing children’s learning is central to the role of qualified teachers in kindergartens. “Learning difficulties are identified as soon as the child starts kindergarten and often before that. Adequate additional support needs to be available straight away.” Clare Wells says.
A 2015 survey of kindergartens found that 9 percent of children attending the kindergartens surveyed needed extra support to gain the same benefits of participating in ECE as their peers. Sixty-five percent of their teachers said there was not sufficient education support worker funding available to meet children’s needs.
A 2011 Education Review Office report on inclusive education in ECE recommended the ministry review the current provision of education support workers.
“The current funding allocation for special education support in ECE is not working for children, their whānau or their teachers. Despite their own evidence and advice, the ministry and the government continue to ignore the need for more funding to support young children with special education needs” said Clare Wells. “We need to turn that around if we are serious about making sure every child can succeed in education.”