Graeme Daniel Graeme Daniel CREDIT: Word of Mouth Media NZ

Special education principals urge ministry to retain residential schools at reduced levels

Wednesday 20 June 2012, 12:24PM
By Word of Mouth Media NZ

Special Education principals today urged the Government to retain some residential facilities around the country.

Submissions closed last week on the future of residential special needs schools. The ministry plans to move to a new wrap-around model for special education, which could result in the closure of one or more of the country's four special residential schools.

The model aims to take students out of the residential schools - McKenzie and Halswell in Christchurch, Westbridge in Auckland and Salisbury in Nelson - and have them live at home to be managed by a range of agencies. A decision is expected in a few months.

The Special Education Principals Association Executive believes there are grounds for the Government to keep open some residential facilities for students with high learning, behavioural, social and emotional needs, some of whom have an underlying intellectual impairment.

``Education Minister Hekia Parata and the ministry must retain some residential facilities for those students whose needs may not be addressed by the proposed service and may therefore be alienated from education,’’ Special Education Principals Association president Graeme Daniel said today.

``We would like to see all four schools remain open, but with reduced rolls, in the best interests of the students with special needs. We cannot afford to throw the baby out with the bath water.

`There will always be a number of students who require intensive support in a residential setting, particularly those students in rural and provincial settings where specialised services may be limited or non-existent,’’ Daniel said.

The key to successful learning in a residential school was the 24 hour consistent and focused intervention, he said. This would be the core business of the residential schools under the proposed service with an effective transition service to ensure the student’s learning was generalised into their home environments.

The residential schools would work alongside and in close collaboration with the ministry’s proposed service. The development of a wrap-around service should ensure that student needs are at the centre of all decisions and that they and their families are an integral part of the programme including when a student is placed in an intensive residential programme, he said.