Autistic Kiwi’s excluded from school - lack of funding

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06 May 2024, 10:55 am

Children with autism excluded from school due to lack of teacher aide funding

Quote:
Children with disabilities are being excluded, stood down and sent home from school because of insufficient funding for teacher aides.

Schools say they do not get enough government money to pay for the specialist help, and are often forced to dig into their own pockets to make up salaries.

But much of the time this isn’t enough, leading to children with disabilities being forced to stay at home.

One teenage girl can only go to school for three hours a day, leaving her mum fearing her daughter will never be able to leave home.

Meanwhile, Jessica Short's 9-year-old son Apollo, who has autism, does not understand why he cannot go to school when his younger sister leaves in the morning.

After moving schools, being stood down more times than Short can count and with the new school only able to provide a teacher aide for 40 hours a year, Apollo was approaching an exclusion. Short pulled him out of school before it went on his permanent record.

The school also phoned Short several times a week,telling her she had to pick her son up due to his behaviour. She was forced to quit her job.

According to the Education and Training Act 2020, all students under 16 must attend school each day, and children with special educational needs and disabilities have the same attendance rights as other children.

However, according to a Ministry of Education report in 2020, students with disabilities were found to be between 1.5 and three times more likely to be stood down and suspended.
Velda Chan, a lawyer at Youthlaw, said principals should not be standing down or suspending students with disabilities.

“There is a guide given to schools. For gross misconduct it asks the principal whether the misconduct was blame-worthy.

If you’re doing something as a result of your disability then you’re probably not blame-worthy, you didn’t intend to do those things.”

Chan said it was illegal to send children home part-way through the day, including parents being called to pick up children, or being told children can only attend for certain hours.

Payson Alsop, 13, has experienced both of these things since starting school.

Despite having autism, she has been excluded and stood down several times.

Like Short, Payson’s mum Mckayla Walker had to quit her job because she was frequently called to pick her daughter up from school.

Payson, who now attends Rolleston College, was told she could only attend school for three hours a day as a teacher aide was only funded for 30 hours a year. The school covers the rest.
“She’s probably never going to leave home,” Walker said.

Rolleston College principal Rachel Skelton said the school was not given enough funding to cover teacher aide salaries.

According to Careers New Zealand, pay for a beginner teacher aide is $23 an hour, but for specialist teacher aides it ranges from $25-37 an hour. The Ministry of Education funds $23 an hour for schools with more than 150 students.

New Zealand Education Institute president Mark Potter said no child was totally resourced, and in most cases schools had to pick up all or part of the cost of supporting a child.

“The whole idea is that the system should be designed around the child, but often the child has to wrap around the system,” he said.

“The system is disabling the children, because it’s not equipping the schools and the teachers with enough or the right skills, tools and support.”


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman