Special education was a hot topic for Education Review in its early years, as the Government moved towards a major $40 million reform called Special Education 2000.
In 1997 schools transitioned from special education discretionary assistance funding to a new special education grant (SEG) formula based on a school’s socioeconomic decile ranking. Many were concerned at this point that they were worse off under the new scheme.
By the end of 1997, as Special Education 2000 moved into phase two, Education Review reported that 5,200 of the initial 13,500 special education students who had applied for ongoing resourcing scheme (ORS) funding had been successful.
However, in November 1997 Education Review reported that many schools were “confused, angry or anxious” about the number of students who had been turned down for ORS funding. The change in funding scheme left some students in the lurch. Wellington High School principal Prue Kelly said one of her students was going from 20 hours a week to nothing.
Education Review sought the parents’ views too and in March 1998 it reported that many parents were feeling “angry and exhausted” after trying to seek information about special education resources for their children. In January 2000 Education Review reported further parental concerns over the Ministry’s move to bulk fund schools with a high number of special education students to cover the increasing costs of transporting these students to and from school.
Special Education 2000 also saw increased special education funding for early childhood providers with $19.5 million of new money invested over the next three years, starting from 1998.
Initiatives for dealing with severe behaviour difficulties were being piloted and other policy initiatives were being phased in over the next three years.
Special Education 2000 also included a controversial new special education staffing policy – many were worried that staffing redeployment could force many of the 250 special education units attached to schools to close. Education minister Wyatt Creech took steps to ease the transition.
The new policy also prompted concerns from residential special schools as they feared Special Education 2000 would result in a loss of services for their students.