Children with Disabilities in New Zealand Schools

Implementing Policy to Develop Inclusive Practices

In: Moving towards Inclusive Education
Author: Carol Hamilton

Abstract

This chapter provides an overview of significant legislation and policy shifts since the adoption of the Salamanca Statement (1994) by the New Zealand government to promote the effective participation of children and young people with disabilities in the academic and social life of their school. Historically New Zealand has been an early endorser of innovative social and educational policies. In 2001 the First New Zealand Disability Strategy was adopted and in 2007 New Zealand signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD). These documents underpinned the changes in practice enthusiastically taken up within the education sector in the first decade of the twenty-first century. However, the process of aligning practice with the aims and objectives of these policies also exposed a number of social issues that have resulted in gaps appearing between intention and implementation. Research has shown that many disabled youth remain caught up in cycles of educational disadvantage that will adversely affect their future life choices and chances. Why has it been it so difficult to implement the spirit and intention of these policies in all cases? What this review finds is that well-intentioned pronouncements are not always accompanied by the resources necessary to see goals for inclusion become embedded practices in all New Zealand schools. Is more funding the answer? Recently a new policy direction has been sought, designed to change the social perspective related to inclusion, so to encompass the educational requirements of more disadvantaged groups. At the time of writing (2018) a policy that uses a risk-monitoring predictive model to target individual students ‘at risk’ of educational failure has been mooted. Four predictive ‘at-risk’ categories are included: abuse of the child or their siblings, whether a parent has been to prison, whether the family has a history of welfare dependency and whether the child’s mother has any educational qualifications. Will this initiative open the door to the fundamental change in funding and practice that will allow across-the-board inclusive practices to become ‘what we do here’ for all students in our schools? Or will this change just exacerbate existing inclusionary/exclusionary tensions related to resources and training requirements, now to include a wider range of ‘disadvantaged individuals/groups’? Where does this change leave the educational support of groups of children with more ‘traditional’ disabilities? The chapter concludes with these questions.

Moving towards Inclusive Education

Diverse National Engagements with Paradoxes of Policy and Practice

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