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Vote No For Conscience Sake

Posted on 11 Aug 2009

ACT New Zealand MP John Boscawen today urged Yes Vote Campaign's Deborah Morris-Travers to vote 'No' in the anti-smacking referendum given her public admission today that she doesn't want to see ordinary parents 'prosecuted for inconsequential physical punishment on children.

"On NewstalkZB today Mrs Morris-Travers also said 'no one wants to see that kind of prosecution happening because it is not in the interests of the children or in the public interest'," Mr Boscawen said.

"Mrs Morris-Travers' views are clearly more in line with those who will be voting No in the referendum, rather than the Yes Vote campaigners she currently represents.

"As it stands today good parents are breaking the law because it is illegal to lightly smack your child for the purpose of correction – despite what Yes Vote campaigners would have us believe. That is why it is important that there is a strong 'No' vote and that the Government acts on it.

"Mrs Morris-Travers knows this and her comments today would suggest that she is not actually in agreement with the philosophy she is currently promoting.

"I encourage her to heed her conscience and urge her to join the sensible majority of New Zealanders who will vote no in the referendum. It's time we gave parents certainty under the law and removed State intrusion into Kiwi homes," Mr Boscawen said.


Supporting Special Needs Students Into The Future

Posted on 08 Aug 2009

Hon Heather Roy launch of the new Transition Service for Secondary Aged Students in Christchurch; Ministry of Education, Riccarton, Christchurch; Friday, August 7 2009.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Grant, for your warm welcome - and thank you to the Christchurch Transition Services Steering Group for inviting me to speak to you this evening.

I am delighted to be here as Associate Minister of Education to launch this new service.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to everyone here: representatives from Government agencies; from Ngai Tahu; from schools and businesses; and those of you from the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust.

Welcome to students, families and whanau; and to the other speakers we have here with us today - Wayne Francis Trust Chair Helena Francis; Peter Townsend, from the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce; and Sonja Carpenter for your perspective as a parent.

I think you will all agree that the stars of tonight's launch are Caroline Quick and Andrew Dever, who are representative of the students we are here to acknowledge. Getting up and speaking in front of a large group of people you don't know is no easy task, and today you both did it exceptionally well. Congratulations to you both and our thanks for your contribution to this project.

Background to the Transition Service
The transition from secondary school to adult life, work and study is one of the most crucial times in a young person's life. It is a time when students need advice, support and encouragement to choose the path that is right for them. I know as a parent myself the great excitement of this transition for our children and the challenges they face at the same time.

Students with disabilities face exactly the same excitement and challenges - the have the same rights as others to choose from the opportunities available to them when they leave school, but they can require a different type and level of support.

The Transition Service that we're launching today will provide a consistent and co-ordinated approach to the transition of students with disabilities from secondary school to the next stage of their lives. It will be based on the principles of valuing disability, of flexibility and accessibility, of partnership and - perhaps most prosaically - the importance of planning.

I'd like to briefly talk about how this Transition Service came about. It's a great example of a community identifying a need, and working together and with Government to ensure that that need is met. It's also a great example of schools making a difference for their students by working together and maximising their resources.

In 2006, the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust identified the need for more effectively supported transition for disabled secondary aged students in Christchurch.

In pursuit of this the Trust brought together people from the disability sector to form a reference group, undertook a stocktake of current transition services, and made recommendations to Government based on its findings.

In response, the Ministry of Education formed a Transition Working Party with members from across the sectors - the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce; the Ministries of Education and Social Development; the tertiary, schooling, and disability sectors; and, of course, the students and their parents.

The Working Party developed a vision of what an effective transition service for secondary students with disabilities would look like; what its key activities would be; how it could meet the needs of students, families, and schools; how it could be funded. It was from this vision that a new approach to transition services we're celebrating today was developed.

How the Transition Service will work
The Lead School Model Transition Service will deliver a whole range of transition services to disabled secondary school students across eight Christchurch schools.

Allenvale Special School and Resource Centre will be the Lead School, with the Transition Service also covering: Hillmorton, Papanui, Riccarton, Mairehau, and Cashmere High Schools; Ferndale School; and Waitaha Learning Centre.

Hopefully, over time, more schools will be able to take part as the service develops. Your model and experiences here in Christchurch are being closely monitored by others around the country who are looking on in awe of the progress your project has made.

The Transition Service will support schools to develop student-centred transition planning - 'student-centred' meaning the process will be driven by the students and their families. Rather than just receiving the service, the student is actively involved in setting their goals and how they'll achieve them.

Students and their families will also drive the evaluations of the service - evaluations that will inform future planning and service delivery.

To explain more about how the Transition Service will work, I would like to talk about the report of the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust, made after the Trust had completed its stocktake of transition services.

Among the recommendations made in the report were 10 guidelines for transition best practice identified during the Trust's research.

The first is that the transition process must start early - no later than the student's age of 14.

The second guideline is that partnerships between the school and supports in the community - such as tertiary providers, local business and commerce, and social support organisations - be developed at least two years before the student leaves school.

As with so many things in life, planning early and planning well will be key to a successful service.

The best practice guidelines emphasise the need for a transition programme to be integrated into students' general education, rather than as a separate and parallel programme.

They state the need for a clear distinction between the transition needs of the student and those of their family; for transition skills to be included in the curriculum and practised at home; and for adult settings to be available for students aged over 18 who are still at school.

The guidelines also include: identifying and overcoming barriers to disabled students, offering the information and support that will ensure students have a wide range of options, and regularly evaluating the outcomes of the transition service.

These elements can be all too easy to overlook if there is insufficient time and planning.

I'm delighted to see the depth of thought and preparation that has gone into the Transition Service we're launching today. Firmly based on the 10 best practice guidelines the service will maximise students' access to employment, tertiary and community-based options after secondary school.

The service will provide accessible and much-needed information to students, parents and whanau, schools and other stakeholders. It will provide training and professional development for schools and associated service providers and build links with the tertiary, business, and commerce sectors.

Before I finish, I'd like to highlight two aspects of the development of the Transition Service that have impressed me.

The first has been the development of strong links between local agencies and local businesses. The business sector has been actively involved in the project since its inception. One of the things the Wayne Francis Trust identified early on was that employer attitudes to disability were an essential feature of a successful transition.

The links developed through this project will take us a long way toward a better understanding of the capability, attributes and skills that disabled students offer for employers in our communities.

The second aspect is that the Transition Service has been developed without requests for additional funding despite the current economic climate. Tough times call for fresh thinking, and innovative ideas and solutions.

The current financial climate has meant that schools have contributed to the project through their current funding streams, the Wayne Francis Trust has made a generous one-off donation to assist with funding costs, and the Education Ministry has assisted with some establishment staffing costs to ensure the project gets off the ground started.

All of this has enabled the project to become operational and sustainable.

When I look around the room and see the passion, drive and generosity of this community I am very encouraged that the interests of disabled students in Christchurch when transitioning from school to adult life are well catered for.

Congratulations to you all for your contribution to this project.


Heather Roy's Diary

Posted on 07 Aug 2009

Scholarships Just One Step In Furthering Choice In Education

ACT achieved a major milestone in our work to further school choice this week when, in my capacity as Associate Minister of Education, I announced a new scholarship initiative to enable 250 students from low socio-economic backgrounds to attend an independent secondary school that they and their families would previously not have been able to afford.

Furthering school choice is a key part of the ACT-National Confidence & Supply Agreement. ACT has always campaigned for school choice, and National has said it will:

"work, over time, to increase the education choices available to parents and pupils so families have more freedom to select schooling options that best meet the individual needs of their children."

In pursuit of this, National and ACT have established the Inter-Party Working Group in School Choice to consider options for increasing parental and student choice in education. I am chairing this project - along with members from the ACT, National and Maori Parties - and work is well underway.

The $2.6 million allocated to fund the scholarships is part of a $10 million increase to independent school funding in Budget 2009. The remaining $7.4 million has been used to boost the Private School Subsidy and will be paid directly to independent schools.

This increase to the subsidy and the new scholarships are important steps toward honouring ACT and National's pledge to widen the education choices to students and their parents. Under the scholarship initiative 150 students from low-income families will be able to go to an independent school in 2010, rising to 200 students in 2011, and 250 in 2012.

ACT and National in Government believe it is parents who are best placed to make the decisions around the education options that best suit their children's needs and require the freedom to make those choices. Choice is key to ensuring quality education outcomes and giving our children and young people the opportunities they need to reach their potential.

This Government understands that independent schools play an important role in providing that freedom and those opportunities, and this latest funding increase is recognition of that. It is also the first Government funding increase to independent schools since 2000, when it was capped by the then Labour Government. Since then - due to inflation and increased student numbers - the sector has experienced a 42 percent real decrease in funding levels.

While the New Zealand Education Act 1877 created a national system of State schools, it made no provision to aid independent schools. Over time, independent schools were provided with some goods and services supplied to State schools - eg school milk, free text books and access to advisory services - and in 1969 State resourcing was extended to include grants for operational expenses, furniture and equipment for new classrooms. Overall State funding for independent schools, however, remained low.

Then, in 1970, the Government introduced a State subsidy amounting to a 20 percent subsidy of teachers' salaries - and in 1975 passed the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act, increasing the subsidy to 50 percent of teacher salaries. This was in addition to the other measures of assistance they had secured in 1969 and before.

In 1989, the Labour Government cut funding to zero - only for it to be restored to 20 percent in 1991 when National returned to office, and then capped by Labour in 2000.

Frequently overlooked - and ignored by critics of private schooling - is the fact that independent schools save the Government money. Over four percent of school-age students - around 30,000 children - attend an independent school. This saves the State around $200 million per annum - and relieves some of the pressure on State schools.

But parents who choose an independent school for their children have to pay twice - once through taxes, and again through school fees - placing this option out of the reach of many families.

While there are many high-quality State schools, there is no such thing as a ‘One Size Fits All' education model to suit all children. What works for one child may not work for another. But families who cannot afford an independent school have no option but to accept the education offered by the State school closest to them - whether it works for their child or not.

This funding is a step toward giving parents that choice. The Government knows parents are best placed to choose the education that suits their children's needs. This funding will support parents in their choices and improve access for many families to a greater range of educational opportunities for their children.

Scholarships for 250 students from low-income families are just the beginning. They will considerably enhance the individual recipients' educational opportunities. But ACT aims for such choice and opportunity to be available to all students - not just those from better-off families or those fortunate enough to be awarded one of a limited number of scholarships. We want every Kiwi kid to have the same choices.

Lest We Forget - Wellington Battalion Captures Chunuk Bair (August 8 1915)
The attack on Chunuk Bair on August 8, 1915 highlighted the leadership of Lt-Col William Malone and is still seen today as a high point of New Zealand's Gallipoli effort.

On August 6, the assault was undertaken by two columns of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade who were to meet at Rhododendron Spur and proceed to the summit. It started well: the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and Maori Contingent cleared the way for the assault columns - but the attack was ordered before all infantrymen had reached the Spur.

The first attempt, made by the Auckland Battalion, failed. Malone, commander of the Wellington Battalion, refused to sacrifice his men in a daylight attack - telling his superiors:

"We are not taking orders from you people ... my men are not going to commit suicide."

Before dawn on August 8 1915, the Wellington Battalion made it to the summit. Sunrise, however, brought a barrage of fire from the Turks on higher ground to the north and the Battalion spent the day in a desperate struggle to hold Chunuk Bair.

By the time it was reinforced by the Otago Battalion and the Wellington Mounted Rifles, the Battalion had lost around 690 men - including Malone, killed by a shell.

New Zealand held Chunuk Bair for two days - only for the relieving British battalions to lose it in a Turkish counter-attack. A New Zealand memorial now stands on the summit.


The Importance Of Communication

Posted on 05 Aug 2009

Hon Heather Roy speech to Victoria University Research Luncheon on Early Childhood Communication Issues; Wellesley Hotel, Wellington; Wednesday August 5 2009.

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. My thanks to Vice Chancellor of Research Neil Quigley for the invitation. I am looking forward to your Research Luncheon on 'Early Childhood Communication Issues'.

A warm welcome to everyone, especially our speakers today: Professor Jeff Sigafoos, Professor Vanessa Green and Dr Karen Salmon.

Early childhood communication issues are close to the heart of all parents. Communicating with one's children can be a fraught business at the best of times - my husband recently showed me a book he was reading titled 'How to talk so that your children will listen and how to listen so that your children will talk'.

He found it very useful and we have five healthy children. I know from looking at the research interests of our speakers that they are dealing with problems much more serious than the difficulty of dealing with a taciturn teenager.

In my previous life I was a physiotherapist and my particular interest was in neurology. I had contact with many disabled children and, although my focus tended to be on motor problems, those of communication were always important.

These communication issues have assumed a new and significant importance to me in my position of Associate Minister of Education where they impact on the education and development of those children with special needs.

I don't need to emphasise to this audience how important speech, language and communication are in early childhood. I'm sure you, like me, are looking forward to hearing from the experts about the impact communication has on a wide range of areas in a child's life - including wellbeing, peer relationships, and living with a disability.

When I was doing my physio training, many conditions - with autism foremost amongst them - were regarded as having a poor prognosis. I am very encouraged to see now the optimistic way interventions are described for those who are struggling with language. I was pleased to hear there is now a great deal of evidence that targeted and evidence-based interventions can improve outcomes for children.

I was also pleased to learn that the university is looking at commercial collaboration with its research. The tertiary sector is outside my brief but I was aware that public/private partnerships were being encouraged.

I assumed that most partnerships would be in the technology fields but I appreciate that treatments for disease are a valuable commodity.

As parents, we know that support for communication can contribute to educational success, but it is equally important to our children being happy about themselves and their relationships - we don't want our children to be bullied and isolated.

As Associate Education Minister, I am also concerned with the long-range effects and what needs to be in place in the sector. We need competent and confident early childhood educators who can apply understandings of children's communication development in their interactions with children. We also need to listen to parents when they are concerned about their child's development. Parents know their children best and my experience with parents of children with special needs is they will always go the extra mile to support them.

There must surely be no greater compliment to a researcher than for their work to influence and be put into practise in such a way that it makes a real difference to the lives of those who struggle with situations most of us take for granted. I want to congratulate Victoria University for focussing on the important task of how to practically apply research to its full benefit.

I look forward to hearing from our speakers.


New Scholarships Increase Choice In Education

Posted on 05 Aug 2009

Associate Minister of Education Heather Roy today announced a new scholarship initiative that will enable students from low-income families to attend independent secondary schools that they and their families would previously not have been able to afford.

"ACT and National pledged to increase families' education choices, with scholarships for every child being a key part of ACT's manifesto. This announcement is an important step toward honouring that pledge,” Mrs Roy said.

"In Budget 2009, the Government increased private school funding by $10 million - the first increase since 2000 - to make independent schools more affordable to parents. Of this, $7.4 million will be allocated directly to independent schools and $2.6 million used to provide 250 scholarships to students from low socio-economic backgrounds from 2010.

"The additional funding and new scholarships will increase choice by making independent schools more affordable for New Zealand families.

"Next year 150 students from low-income families will be able to go to an independent secondary school, increasing to 200 students in 2011 and 250 in 2012. Students' fees will be covered, and they will receive an allowance for uniforms and other school-related costs, to ensure no student is disadvantaged.

"Over four percent of school-age students - 30,000 children - currently attend independent schools, saving the State around $200 million annually and relieving some of the pressure on State schools. I am delighted to announce the introduction of this scholarship initiative - which will provide more choice and opportunity for young people from low-income families.

"This Government knows it is parents who are best placed to make the decisions about the education that best suits their children's needs. This funding will support parents in their choices and improve access for many families to a greater range of educational opportunities for their children,” Mrs Roy said.


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