|Not a member? Sign up now!|
When it comes to the education of their children, parents - often with advice - are best placed to determine what the right school is.
What is right for one is not necessarily right for another. The idea that there is a 'one size fits all' education model to suit all children is a myth.
For this reason it was interesting to see the IHC-commissioned report 'Learning Better Together' was released on Wednesday.
'Learning Better Together' is the latest step in IHC's long-standing campaign to promote 'inclusive schools' - schools that welcome and teach all students in their communities, regardless of whether those students are intellectually disabled or not.
The report found that: disabled students in regular classrooms do better than those in segregated special education; there is no evidence that special education provides specialist approaches that benefit disabled students; the advantages of learning in regular classrooms are shown to continue into adulthood; having disabled students in regular classrooms benefits all students; disabled students say teachers do not always have a good understanding about how their impairments, and the way others treat them, can affect their school life.
The mainstreaming philosophy is favoured by many parents. All children have the legal right to attend the school closest to where they live. But this is just one option that should exist when it comes to the delivery of special education.
Parents - of all children - deserve to have the freedom to decide the kind of schooling that best suits their children's needs. Inclusive schools favoured at the expense of other options for special needs students - special schools and satellite units - takes away that freedom and locks special needs students into the very 'one size fits all' education model that denies parents viable options for their children.
I absolutely support the right of parents of children with special needs to choose and send their children to an inclusive or mainstream school. However, they do not have the right to impose their beliefs on the parents of other special needs students in a way that would limit their choices and options, as is implied in the report.
Many parents, after seeking advice and investigating all possibilities, choose special schools or satellite units where they are available as the schooling option that is best for their child. It is their right to do so in a free society.
Both ACT and National campaigned for greater choice in education during the 2008 election and have pledged to continue this work in Government. As part of this, the National-ACT Confidence & Supply Agreement states that both Parties will work together to:
"increase the education choices available to parents and pupils so families have more freedom to select schooling options that best meet the individual needs of their children."
Choice is key when it comes to the education of our children.
As Associate Minister of Education I am responsible for conducting a review of Special Education that will identify current difficulties and possible solutions, and I welcome IHC's comments and the submission of 'Learning Better Together' as part of that process - as I welcome comments from everyone who has a vested interest in this very important area.
The review will also consider funding issues and ways of allocating the extra resources promised before the election. Despite having had to make some difficult decisions in Budget 2009, an additional $51 million over four years has been allocated to enable more children with high needs to receive support through Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS).
Further, a flow-on effect should see children with moderate special education needs also receive more support.
Lest We Forget – D-Day (June 6 1944)
This Sunday I will join New Zealand and British veterans at the National War Memorial to commemorate the D-Day Normandy landings of World War II.
At dawn on June 6 1944, thousands of Allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches and stormed ashore. By midnight more than 150,000 Allied soldiers had been safely landed.
The largest amphibious military operation in history, the landings were the first stage of 'Operation Overlord' - the Allied push to liberate Western Europe from Nazi Germany.
Although no New Zealand ground forces landed at Normandy, around 10,000 Royal New Zealand Air Force and Navy personnel served with the British ships and air force squadrons that supported the D-Day landings.
Once the Normandy beachheads were secured, a three-week military build-up occurred before Operation Cobra - the operation to break out from the Normandy beachhead - began.
The battle for Normandy lasted over two months, ending with the liberation of Paris and the German retreat across the Seine in August 1944.