Appendix 1: The RTLB service

The RTLB service aims to improve learning and teaching for students with moderate learning or behaviour difficulties in schools. The role of an RTLB is to help facilitate the presence, participation and learning of those students who experience these difficulties. RTLB are a group of trained itinerant specialist teachers, working across clusters of schools, who provide support to ensure good educational outcomes for Years 1-10 students. There are nearly 1000 RTLB in New Zealand today, working in 40 clusters throughout the country. RTLB services are managed by full-time cluster managers, situated in 40 lead schools/kura.

Transforming the RTLB service

In September 2010, the Minister of Education instructed the Ministry to review and transform the RTLB service. The purpose of the transformation was simple - to ensure a better deal for students with learning and behaviour difficulties.

There were two aspirational beliefs at the core of the transformation: (i) that, with the right leadership, the national RTLB service can be effective in helping students with learning and behaviour needs participate in schooling to their fullest potential; and (ii) that, with the right structures, people and funds can be managed to the highest standards possible.

Through the transformation process the Ministry was keen to achieve:

  • improved governance based on clearer goals, plans and priorities
  • better alignment with other special education services
  • stronger professional leadership and improved professional learning opportunities for RTLBs
  • more consistent professional practice from all clusters across the country
  • an increased focus on success for Māori and Pacific students
  • better training and support systems for all RTLB.

As a result of recommendations made to the Ministry by two working groups set up to plan the transformation (a principals’ working group and a practitioners’ working group), at the end of 2011 the Ministry of Education restructured the RTLB service and reduced the number of clusters from 200 to 40.

From the start of 2012, each cluster has been attached to a lead school, and the board of trustees of that school has had responsibility for governance and oversight. Cluster managers have had overall responsibility for the day-to-day management and coordination of the service. Practice leaders are trained RTLB with additional responsibilities, particularly for personnel management.

Massey University and University of Canterbury were jointly contracted to provide specialist RTLB training, which became a stipulated requirement for all RTLBs to complete (if they did not hold an equivalent qualification).

The RTLB service now works within national guidelines – Governing and Managing RTLB Clusters and the Professional Practice Toolkit, developed by the service itself over 2014 and 2015. These guidelines stipulate principles, the scope of activities, and outline a practice sequence for RTLB work on either individual or group cases.

Principles. The eight key principles for guiding all RTLB work are:

  • Inclusive teaching, so that RTLB help teachers to recognise and value the diversity and contribution of all children and young people, and help create effective classroom environments that enhance learning, self identity, participation and contribution from all learners.
  • Cultural responsiveness, so that RTLB work to strengthen self-confidence and cultural identity of all students and foster connection to parents, families/whānau and kura whānau/school communities.
  • An ecological approach, so that every student’s needs and the programmes, interventions and supports provided must be understood and shaped within the context of the student’s current learning environment.
  • A collaborative and seamless model of service, so that students experience seamless inter-professional practice, where the professionals within and without the school learn with, from and about each other, as they go about work planning interventions and supports.
  • A strengths based approach, so that goals acknowledge and enhance strengths, focus on the future and not the past, and rekindle hope or enhance motivation as they facilitate change.
  • Reflection, where RTLB keep records of each step in the practice sequence to allow for continuous reflection on practice that ensures fidelity to programme goals and principles, and better outcomes for students in the future, through continuous improvement.
  • Evidence based practice, applying relevant research evidence, as well as practitioner expertise and the voice of the teacher/whānau/student, to each case in an informed way.
  • Professional ethics, so that all RTLB work is done within the code of ethics for registered teachers and is governed by the principles within the code for the promotion of autonomy, justice, responsible care and truth.