In 2009 ERO reviewed how well RTLB clusters were governed and managed. This report followed on from a 2004 review of RTLB effectiveness. ERO’s 2009 report found that although clusters had increased guidance and support from the Ministry of Education, the wide variability of governance and management remained evident. Strong external and internal accountabilities for the use of funding were lacking. The management of RTLB also remains an issue in a large proportion of clusters. The findings of this report have been included as part of the Government’s review of special education.
While this report did not directly address issues of special education, it did examine the support offered by schools to students at risk of not achieving. The evaluation found that the majority of schools could adequately identify students at risk of not achieving, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy. However, a much wider variation was found in how well schools addressed the specific needs of students, and how they monitored, reviewed and reported on the student achievement.
This evaluation also found that nearly half the schools had yet to evaluate the extent to which their programmes resulted in improved outcomes for low achieving students. Review and reporting activities varied between high quality reports based on student outcome data to, descriptions of activities and programmes with little reference to the progress achieved by students.
ERO’s Partners in Learning: Parents’ Voices report focused on what parents said about the relationship they had with their children’s school. This report included a section for the parents of children with special needs.
Parents expected to work with the schools in supporting the education of their child with special needs. Some parents found that schools had expected parents to be responsible for their child’s behaviour at school, while other parents found that schools did not involve them until a child’s behaviour had reached crisis level. Some parents believed some schools only wanted to enrol “intelligent and well-behaved” children and encouraged parents to consider enrolling their child elsewhere if this was not the case.
Parents of children with special needs found that some schools were not open to working with them, and felt that they were not welcome. They struggled with entrenched attitudes by some school staff about their child. For some parents, the negative labelling of their child and themselves undermined the development of constructive relationships at home.
Parents emphasised the importance of being part of an inclusive school community where difference was accepted. When their initial contact with their child’s school was welcoming and reassuring, it was easier for parents to feel comfortable about coming to school. Parents of children with special needs told ERO that they felt good school leadership made the difference in how effectively they and their child engaged with the school.
Parents of children with special needs appreciated having their views about their child listened to, and having ongoing opportunities to discuss their child’s progress and achievement. They believed it helped when programmes were well matched to their child’s needs and any homework given was appropriate to their child’s abilities.
This report focused on the planning, implementation and governance of educational support for ORRS funded students. It found that a majority of schools were using and managing the ORRS resource effectively to improve student achievement. ERO also found just over a quarter of schools had not managed this funding well.
Schools judged as effective had established and coordinated an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for students and monitored and evaluated the success of this plan in terms of student outcomes.
In 2004 ERO evaluated the effectiveness of the RTLB service. It focused especially on the contributions RTLB have made to student achievement. The evaluation found that the RTLB service had a variable impact on student achievement overall, with some RTLB being highly effective, while many more were less effective. While over half of the clusters (63 percent) provided evidence that their service had improved student achievement, only a small group (20 percent) had substantial evidence of these improvements. Over a third of clusters (37 percent) could not provide evidence that they had made improvements to student achievement.
When Māori student achievement was focused on, even less evidence of effectiveness was found. Only 20 percent of clusters provided evidence that their service had improved Māori student achievement, while the remaining clusters (80 percent) could provide little or no evidence of improved Māori achievement.
In 2002 ERO evaluated the extent to which New Zealand schools are meeting Objectives 3 and 4 of the NZDS with particular focus on the ways in which schools include and support children, young people and staff with disabilities.
The report concluded that “the majority of schools considered that they upheld and promoted the rights of students and staff with disabilities very well. ERO agrees that there is evidence that schools provide a range of measures to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities.”