Ministry of Education’s Response to OIA

s is supposed to be a person to person conversation as it was meant to be a podcast episode but unfortunately MOE declined to provide someone from their office to guest in this episode (initially they agreed but then retracted to send someone for this interview).

Below is the response they have provided to the questions I am going to raise during the supposed podcast episode.

I will publish an audio version of this written form to be available in Spotify and Apple podcasts.

————————————–

Thank you for your email of 26th May requesting a topic discussion for your podcast. The

subsequent questions you provided have been considered and have been addressed below.

  1. If a child is assessed with autism, what will be the role of the Ministry of Education in the child’s learning journey?

Learning support provided by the Ministry of Education is not determined based on a diagnosis.

When requests for support are received, the role of the Ministry of Education is to work alongside the ākonga, whānau, educators and other key people in the ākonga’s life.

As part of the team around the ākonga, Ministry staff work to identify key strengths and challenges and collaboratively plan and implement strategies and supports within the learning context of the ākonga.

Support is positioned within the everyday routines and activities of the ākonga’s life and intended to reduce barriers to presence, participation, progress, and wellbeing.

  1. Similar to item 1, if the child has learning difficulties, what learning support is available

for the child and who initiates the application? Who initiates the support application, school or parents?

Requests for support can be made to the Ministry of Education, at any time, by whānau, educators or other community agencies, or services such as Plunket, family doctors or medical specialists.

Requests describe the specific strengths or challenges for ākonga or young person in their educational setting.

The Ministry of Education provides a wide range of supports for ākonga and young people aged 0-21 years. More information on specific supports and services can be found at the following

websites.

https://parents.education.govt.nz/learning-support/

https://www.education.govt.nz/quick-links/learning-support/

  1. If there is learning support available what should a parent expect from the learning

support person? Is there a programme that needs to be followed?

 All Ministry learning support staff and Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) work

within He Pikorua practice framework. This sets out principles and processes which guide their work with whānau and educators (Home – He Pikorua (education.govt.nz).

Ministry staff work with whānau, and the team working with ākonga to understand and respond to their needs. This is achieved through following the phases of He Pikorua in Action, more information can be found at He Pikorua in action – He Pikorua (education.govt.nz)

  1. How equipped are the learning support in helping the parents and the child?

Regionally based learning support staff work flexibly within multidisciplinary teams. Ākonga,

whānau and educators may work with early intervention teachers, speech language therapists, psychologists, advisors on deaf children, kaitakawaenga (Māori cultural advisors), special education/learning support advisors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists.

The team working with ākonga will depend on the current priorities and needs of the ākonga.

In addition to their professional qualifications, Ministry employed Learning Support specialists can access a range of ongoing professional development, including training in some specific programs to support ākonga and young people who are neurodiverse. Staff trained in delivering these courses regularly facilitate them in their local community.

These programs are focussed on building the confidence and capability of whānau and educators to support social emotional regulation and language development, such as Incredible Years Autism. https://pb4l.tki.org.nz/Incredible-Years-Autism/The-Incredible-Years-Helping-Children-with-Autism-for-kaiako

  1. If an autistic child is entitled to the support provided by the MOE, what are the possible

support available for the child? Is there a list for parents to read/check?

 Learning support provided by the Ministry of Education is not determined based on a diagnosis.

The length and type of support provided is determined by the needs of the individual ākonga within their educational context.

Information on the support and services provided by the Ministry of Education can be found at

o https://parents.education.govt.nz/learning-support/

o https://www.education.govt.nz/quick-links/learning-support/

o Home – He Pikorua (education.govt.nz)).

  1. Follow up question for number 5, how are we making sure parents are well informed of the available support to them?

 There are several ways whānau can find out about learning support services provided or funded by the Ministry of Education.

Often, early learning services and schools will share information about learning support.

For school age ākonga, whānau may work with a Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or

Learning Support Co-ordinator (LSC) at their ākonga’s school. These people play a role in the coordination and planning for learning support within and across schools, and work closely with

regionally based Learning Support Service Managers.

Service Managers can be contacted by whānau directly by calling the local Ministry of Education

office, Learning Support Services local offices.

Information is also available online outlining supports and services,

https://parents.education.govt.nz/learning-support/

https://www.education.govt.nz/quick-links/learning-support/

 Home – He Pikorua (education.govt.nz)

  1. If a parent applies for additional support like ORS, what’s the process for that?

 The Ministry encourages educators and the team around the ākonga (which includes the parents) to provide, alongside descriptions of the ākonga’s needs, strength-based information, from home and school, across all developmental areas when writing ORS applications as they know the ākonga best. 

  1. How long does application of ORS usually take place?

After an application is completed the process usually takes 15 to 20 working days from the time an application is received by the Eligibility team. Verifiers consider the information against

each of the nine ORS criteria, applying them consistently regardless of where the ākonga is to attend, or attends, school.

 Three verifiers independently consider each application.

 Each verifier records their independent decision. The three verifiers then discuss the application and make a unanimous decision.

 The verifiers record the consensus decision on a national database and advise the

educator and the parents in writing.

 If the verifiers have insufficient information to reach a decision, they ask the educator to provide additional information.

 The decision process is repeated with each verifier independently considering the additional information.

 If the three verifiers are unable to reach agreement the application is considered independently by the full panel of verifiers who take part in the decision process. 

If all the verifiers do not reach an agreement and the application appears close to be to meeting a criterion, then two verifiers may visit the ākonga’s early childhood education centre or school to make sure all relevant information has been presented and observe the ākonga undertaking their

usual routine in their education setting.

The two verifiers report their observations and review of documentation about the ākonga to the other verifiers. The decision process is repeated, and the verifiers’ report is included as part of the information about the ākonga needs.

If an application is declined the verifiers write a comprehensive letter to the parents, and the team around the ākonga, explaining the decision. 

  1. Are the criteria used for assessing ORS up to date with the current NZ setting?

 ORS was established in 1997 to provide extra resourcing for ākonga with severe and enduring learning support needs to enable them to access the curriculum.

Eligibility for the scheme is nationally determined against a set of sector agreed criteria, by a team of learning support specialists, known as verifiers, who have significant leadership, experience and skills across the education and disability sectors. They use their specialist skills and knowledge to make decisions\ about eligibility.

Over time the ORS has had a number of reviews; however we are currently completing a review of the Highest Needs services ( the Highest Needs Review) , to ensure ākonga and young people receive the right support, at the right time for as long as they need it. The Scope of the Review focuses on ākonga and young people and their family and whānau from early childhood through to preparing to leave secondary school. 

It includes ākonga and young people:

 who currently receive individualised support,

 with an unmet need for individualised support,

 in settings that don’t have equitable access to individualised support.

Public submissions for the Highest Needs Review have now closed and the process of analysing submissions received is underway. Recommendations to the Minister are expected to be presented later this year.

To read more about the review:

Highest Needs Review – Education in New Zealand 

  1. Who reviews the ORS applications?

 Eligibility for the scheme is nationally determined against a set of sector agreed criteria, by a team of learning support specialists, known as verifiers who have significant leadership, experience and skills across the education and disability sectors. The verifiers are experienced educational psychologists, speech-language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, early intervention teachers and specialist teachers.

  1. Are the reviewers equipped and have the right skills in assessing applications?

 Ministry of Education verifiers are Learning Support specialists who have skills, expertise and leadership experience in the early childhood, primary and secondary sectors of education. Each verifier has additional post graduate qualifications in a particular area of expertise of learning support.

The team includes educational psychologists, early intervention teachers, speech language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and specialist teachers, including those of vision and deaf.

Verifiers work to very high professional standards and keep up to date with current research in their field of expertise. To ensure their impartiality when making independent decisions about eligibility, each verifier works from a separate location. They are responsible to the Manager Assurance and Eligibility, National Office, Ministry of Education. 

  1. In my podcast episode 14, I dissected an ORS application result, one observation there is that the child was never seen by the assessor and still able to come up with a decision. Is this a normal practice?

 Educators and the team around the ākonga are encouraged to provide, alongside descriptions of the ākonga’s needs, strength-based information, from home and school, across all developmental areas when writing ORS applications as they know the ākonga best.

One-off assessment or observation by adults unknown to the ākonga and new to their setting does not provide robust information about progress and change across time for the ākonga, and does not describe how they participate or engage in their classroom or early childhood setting.

The existing process ensures a nationally consistent and reliable decision-making process by having a team made up of a number of people with specialist skills covering the disability range who have worked with ākonga with learning support needs, their whānau and other professionals..

It ensures equity of access across the motu so that those with the greatest level of need get the support they need to access education by reducing barriers to presence, participation, progress, and wellbeing. 

  1. In the same podcast episode, what can you say about the child’s application being

declined and the assessment was based on house setting and not school setting? – Is this how all assessments are based?

 The verifiers carefully consider all the information provided in an application. They utilise their professional knowledge, skills and lived experience to draw their independent conclusions before thoroughly discussing each decision and their rationale across the team to form a consensus decision.

No single piece of information within any setting is considered without the balance of overall understanding of the skills and competencies of the ākonga alongside their learning opportunities across environments. 

  1. In the same case, the child did not meet criterion 8 due to his intent to communicate.

But the safety concerns being raised by the school and the parents were never considered. What are your thoughts on that? *Note it was never mentioned in the application that he is pointing but was included in the outcome the “he is pointing”.

 Applications must demonstrate the needs of the ākonga will remain at a high level for the rest of their schooling and not just at the time of application. With regard to Criterion 8, when the verifiers see the beginnings of intentional communication, evidence of language use, or engagement in play and learning, it may imply there is potential for future learning and the presenting need at the time of the application may not be ongoing at the high level. It is important that the team around the ākonga explain how that learning or engagement has been gained and if that intensity and frequency of need will be ongoing for the duration of their schooling.

As indicated in the previous response (13.) all aspects of ākonga development and behaviour are considered and weighed against the relevant criteria when the verifiers are making these decisions. 

  1. There are 9 criteria for ORS, say for argument sake, the child has mild needs in criterion 1 but in criterion 5 the child has high needs including safety? How do we balance the way

assessment is done?

The ORS provides specialist learning support, teacher time and teachers’ aide support for a small group of ākonga who have the highest needs. To meet the criteria ākonga must have significant educational needs that arise from extreme or severe difficulty with any of the following:

 learning

 hearing

 vision

 mobility

 language use and social communication

or moderate to high difficulty with learning, combined with any two of:

 hearing

 vision

 mobility

 language use and social communication.

Ākonga whose needs meet Criterion 1 have extremely delayed cognitive development. Depending on their age they are at a very early level of expected child development. Throughout their schooling ākonga who meet Criterion 1 will require very high levels of specialist teacher input and other specialist interventions, like speech language therapy.

Towards the end of their schooling these learners may achieve some early developmental goals. When they leave school, they will need fully supported living, working and recreational/leisure services. They will not have mild needs across the learning and developmental domains.

Criterion 5 is for ākonga who have a severe delay in cognitive development resulting in major

difficulties with learning across the New Zealand Curriculum. It is expected they will still be working within and below Level 1 of the New Zealand Curriculum across all areas of learning by the time they leave school.

Some ākonga may have skills in learning beyond those expected for a learner at the level of

Criterion 5 however may need support for safety.

Ministry Learning Support staff and Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour can work with schools and kura to meet the needs of ākonga who are not eligible for ORS.

  1. The same case, in the podcast, the child has started his primary using emergency

funding from the MOE but he was only in school for 3 hours – that’s the teacher aide support he is getting as per the emergency funding. The child will likely be delayed with his peers, what are your thoughts about that?

 We are unable to comment on the specifics of the individual ākonga. Guidance is provided

nationally with decisions regarding resources from Learning Support made at the local level,

considering a range of factors unique to the context of the ākonga.

Getting off to a good start at school is important and may involve a team of learning support and

school professionals who work with whānau to collaboratively plan the best approach. Whānau can contact their local office of the Ministry of Education and talk with a Service Manager or a Manager Learning Support to discuss any concerns regarding additional support for ākonga.

A contact list for all local offices can be found at Learning Support Services local offices.

Services and support available for primary school – Parents.education.govt.nz – Practical information about education for parents and carers. 

  1. Given the child is only going to school for 3 hours, what are the next steps for parents?

– Follow up question related to 17. For cases like a child has no emergency funding and

cannot go to school because the school cannot accept the child without additional support, what is the plan for that?

 We are unable to comment on the specifics of the individual ākonga. Guidance is provided

nationally with decisions regarding resources from Learning Support made at the local level,

considering a range of factors unique to the context of the learner.

Whānau can contact their local office of the Ministry of Education and talk with a Service Manager or a Manager Learning Support to discuss any concerns regarding additional support for ākonga.

 

  1. In the article from NZ herald, it was mentioned based on research autistic children are 3 times more likely to be stood down. That article also suggests that if there is available support like additional funding helps in getting better outcomes for kids. Given the benefits, why do you think the ORS is still being capped? Do you think it is appropriate for kids with special needs to compete for funding? What’s your view about that?

Eligibility for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) is determined by student need, not capped or determined by budget or geographic location. Ākonga who have needs that clearly meet any of the 9 ORS criteria, and whose needs will clearly remain at the high level for the entirety of their

schooling, will be eligible for ORS.

  1. Somewhat related to 19. How are we making sure the schools are prepared and handle

autistic children?

There are a range of Ministry-led or funded services, tools, resources, and websites available to

support educators to understand and teach ākonga who are neurodiverse. These include inclusive education guides for teachers and schools to better understand autism and its effect on learning and giving schools advice on how to provide support.

The Ministry provides resources to all schools that support teachers to plan for neurodiversity in

learning from the outset and create inclusive classrooms. Many of these can be accessed at

Inclusive Education | Inclusive Education (tki.org.nz)  This website includes guidance for teachers to design supports across the curriculum:

The Ministry is continuing to work with Autism NZ to develop online training for Learning Support

Coordinators (LSCs). The online training helps LSCs to better understand how to meet the learning needs of ākonga Autism, using universal design and other techniques. LSCs work with classroom teachers to apply the techniques and support ākonga with autism and their whānau in their learning.

In addition to the LSC focused training, “Tilting the Seesaw” 2-day programme is

provided for teams and can help teachers, specialists and whānau of ākonga with autism to

understand and meet their learning needs.

The Ministry is also working with the Taonga Takiwātanga Trust to facilitate a pilot series of

wānanga with learning support practitioners, school leaders, kaiako or teacher aides and local

whānau to increase the understanding of autism from a Te Ao Māori perspective.  This is also designed to develop the confidence and cultural capability of the learning support workforce to support the neurodiverse needs of ākonga and whānau Māori.

  1. Given there are many autistic children who are not getting the support they need to

progress in learning as a result they are getting more delayed in their learning. What can we do to address this?

In 2016, a select committee inquiry made recommendations to improve identification and support

for ākonga and young people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism. The select committee inquiry

concluded that more work needs to be done to: build teachers’ capabilities to meet diverse learning needs; identify ākonga and young people’s learning support needs earlier, and provide new, flexible supports and services for ākonga and young people, and their parents and whānau, who are not eligible for existing services, whose needs are currently not well met, and/or who are at risk of disengaging from education.

As a result of these findings the Ministry developed the Learning Support Action Plan (LSAP) with six key priorities. Priority four: “Flexible supports and services for neurodiverse ākonga and young people” responded to the identified need for an improved range of supports and services for neurodiverse ākonga and young people, their parents and whānau, and teachers and other

educators. This is particularly important for those with moderate needs.

Actions within the LSAP plan include building the confidence and capability of teachers and education system supports that strengthen learning support for all ākonga and young people.

Flexible supports include tools and resources that can be easily adapted for the diverse needs of

ākonga. Examples include supporting kaiako to implement inclusive design practices in services

and schools, using visual supports in the classroom using assistive technologies and classroom

design modifications.

The Ministry has developed and is currently testing and refining a series of inclusive design

modules for teachers, whānau, resource teachers and Ministry specialists, to grow understanding

of neurodiversity and how to design inclusive learning environments. This is in addition to the

currently available resources that all schools can access that support teachers to plan for

neurodiversity in learning from the outset and create inclusive classrooms. Many of these can be

accessed at inclusive.tki.org.nz. This website includes both ADHD and ASD learning guidance for teachers to design supports across the curriculum.

 Thank you for writing. I wish you and your whānau all the very best.

National Director Learning Support Delivery

Te Mahau | Te Pae Aronui (Operations and Integration)

 

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