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The Inter-Party Working Group for School Choice
In the National-ACT Confidence & Supply Agreement, the two Parties agreed to establish: “an Inter-Party Working Group to consider and report on policy options relating to the funding and regulation of schools that will increase parental choice and school autonomy.” This group first met in on May 27 2009 and has been meeting ever since.

ACT New Zealand - Hon Heather Roy; Sir Roger Douglas

Maori Party - Te Ururoa Flavell

National - Chester Borrows; Hekia Parata; Jonathan Young (in absentia representative for National members)

The Inter-Party Working Group will report back on November 30 2009.

Inter-Party Working Group on Education

The National-ACT Confidence and Supply Agreement states as follows:

“7. Education
ACT notes that National has stated that 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.” ACT also favours greater choice and competition in education.
In pursuit of these goals, National and ACT have agreed to set up an inter-party working group, which shall be resourced as necessary to consider and report on policy options relating to the funding and regulation of schools that will increase parental choice and school autonomy.”

In the past National has advanced the concept of trust (or self-managing) schools. It has also favoured less restrictive rather than more restrictive zoning.

The Maori Party has spoken in favour of more choice, diversity and autonomy (tino rangatiratanga) in schooling.

Currently the main National Party policy in this area is an increase in funding for independent schools.

Options for moving towards a more diverse education system allowing greater parental choice need to consider funding, regulation, self-management and teacher employer arrangements, among other things. Dimensions of choice and diversity include school philosophy, curriculum and specialist areas of learning.

The objective of the Working Group’s inquiry will be to contribute to the improvement of the education system as a whole, and thus to better educational outcomes.

The focus of the Working Group will be on primary, intermediate and secondary schooling, although regard will be had to arrangements in the ECE sector.

Working Group
The Working Group shall consist of two National Party MPs, two ACT Party MPs and one Maori Party MP.

It shall be chaired by Heather Roy MP.

Terms of Reference
Having regard to the agreement “to consider and report on policy options relating to the funding and regulation of schools that will increase parental choice and school autonomy”, the Working Party shall:

(i) Review school funding and examine options that will reduce central control and treat all schools on a more equal basis according to enrolments

(ii) Consider whether funding mechanisms should include alternative arrangements for special factors (eg transport, special needs) and decile funding, and for additional fees

(iii) Review enrolment scheme policy and other regulations which may limit parental choice and the ability of schools to respond to parental demand.

(iv) Examine the concept of trust schools and other models which might facilitate greater self-management and innovation, and the registration and accountability mechanisms for such schools that might accompany the relaxation of detailed controls

(v) Consider the interface elements of the education system such as Maori education, school property, school transport, special education and the Correspondence School with a more choice-oriented system

(vi) Review policies in other countries, in particular Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland, for lessons that may be relevant to the Working Group’s task.

The National Party agrees to provide a staff member to undertake secretariat, research and report writing duties for the Working Group.

The Working Group shall have the ability to commission research or consultancy advice from departmental votes.

The Working Group shall be able to obtain information from the Ministry of Education through the Minister of Education’s office.

The Working Group shall meet fortnightly or as required.

It shall produce a report to the Minister of Education by 30 November 2009.

Review of Special Education - Terms of Reference

1. Special education is about ensuring that children and young people who require additional supports are able to participate in education and achieve to their potential. This review is about doing better with what we have, rather than establishing a case for more funding.

2. Over $450 million is invested each year in special education (excluding tertiary education). This represents a major investment for the Government and special education is a matter of considerable interest to schools and the community. The government is aware of concerns that are held by some schools, parents and sector groups regarding the supports available and the outcomes being achieved for the Government's investment.

3. For these reasons, the Government has decided to undertake a review of special education, led by Heather Roy, the Associate Minister of Education.

4. The review of special education will consider key issues such as access to schools, quality of workforce, accountability, price and volume of services and how to address these within existing funding. It will also provide advice on how to put into operation the additional funding for the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes ($51 million over four years) that was provided in Budget 2009.

5. The terms of reference for the review reflect the Government's expectations and also its aspirations for special education. A set of principles have been adopted to guide the review. The principles will be used by Government as a gauge with which to test options for improvement. The principles bring forward themes which Government consider should be essential characteristics of special education. For example, choice, access, quality, value and outcomes are all included in the principles.

6. The principles Government has adopted for this review are:

a) Our goal is that every child and young person reaches their potential.
b) Education must be accessible and available to every child and young person. Access to additional resources and services for those with special education needs should be fair and consistent.
c) Education must provide value for money and deliver the best outcomes for every child and young person.
d) Every child and young person has the right to expect high quality education and professional services.
e) Families and whanau should have choices and be actively involved in decisions that take into account the child or young person's best interests and cultural context.
f) All involved have a shared responsibility to work effectively and collaboratively to achieve the best outcomes for children and young people with special education needs.
g) Options for special education must assume no new money in special education.
7. In addition to the principles, the review must reflect the needs, interests and aspirations of Maori as well as those of other cultures. The review must also result in services and supports which are consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the New Zealand Disability Strategy. The Convention was adopted by Parliament in 2008 and more information on it can be found at:

8. The 2001 New Zealand Disability Strategy includes a commitment to ensure that no child is denied access to their local, regular school because of their impairment. Further information on the Strategy can be found at:

Two Phases
9. The review will be carried out in two phases. Phase One will commence immediately and focus on the most pressing priorities, including how to put into operation the additional funding for the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS) that was announced in Budget 2009. Phase Two will commence in late 2009 and consider matters that require additional time to explore. The review will report to Government in July 2010. Within each phase are specific work areas, as outlined below:

Phase 1
* Access to and allocation of, special education funding and services for children with high and very high needs - this is about fairness, reducing barriers and expanding the ORRS programme;

* Access to schooling for children with high and very high needs- this is about ensuring parents have choices for their children including to attend their regular local school; and

* Outcomes and accountability- this is about performance, what is being achieved and whether providers are sufficiently accountable (to parents for example) for their performance.

Phase 2
* Workforce - this is about having a confident and capable workforce;

* Transitions - this is about ensuring that major transitions like from school to life after school are well managed;

* Service development - this is about improving how we do things and whether we can reduce administration and be more responsive; and
* Integration and collaboration (reducing fragmentation) - this is about ensuring agencies work well together, that services are coordinated and children and families get what they need when they need it.

10. Although consideration of integration and collaboration within and between agencies is occurring in Phase Two, Phase One will need to consider cross agency integration and collaboration issues and opportunities as they relate to proposals in Phase One.

11. The review will include services provided by the Ministry as well as those delivered by schools and other providers. The review will consider special education services provided to children and young people to 21 years of age and how to allocate the additional $51 million over four years being made available to expand ORRS. With the exception of how to simplify the transition from early childhood to school for children already receiving special education services, the review will not consider services specifically delivered to pre-school children.

12. In addition to early childhood services, the other services that will not be fully included relate to behaviour and school property. Behaviour is an education-wide issue rather than specifically a special education issue. A separate work programme on addressing behavioural issues that builds on the findings from the recent Behaviour Summit, and Drivers of Crime work is under consideration in different contexts. School property and other capital expenditure is an important element of special education and though Budget 2009 included some additional capital for special schools, there are well established approaches to prioritising capital investment.
When the review will be completed

13. The review will conclude in July 2010. Until the review has concluded, it is not possible to say what will change and when, however the intention is to take interim decisions on the ORRS scheme in September 2009 in time to expand the programme in 2010. Other changes that may come from the review will be considered for implementation over 2010 and 2011 if needed.

14. While the review is underway the Ministry of Education will work to ensure there is no disruption to existing services. Any change that may arise as a result of the review will be implemented in such a way that any disruption is minimised.

The approach to consultation
15. Government wants to seek the views of parents, teachers, principals, the disability community, sector groups and other interested parties. A consultation document will be made publicly available that covers the core issues in Phase One that relate to:

Access to and allocation of, special education funding and services for children with high and very high needs;
Access to schooling for children with high and very high needs; and
Outcomes and accountability.

16. Anyone who wants to make a submission will be able to do so. Public consultation will commence in late 2009 and extend into early 2010. In addition to the consultation document, the Ministry of Education will be convening meetings with its sector reference groups.

17. The remaining issues (Workforce; Transitions; Service Development; and Integration and Collaboration) will not be covered by the consultation document. They will be considered in Phase Two and because of the nature of the issues, Government prefers that engagement occur directly between the Ministry of Education and key sector groups.

18. Accordingly, the Ministry of Education will be directly contacting sector groups in early 2010 and start the Phase Two engagement process. Consultation via the consultation document for Phase One and later by direct engagement in Phase Two will be important inputs into Government's thinking regarding how to improve special education.

Other important considerations will be ensuring proposals are workable within existing funding, existing strategic policy settings, such as the New Zealand Disability Strategy and what research and other experiences may show are preferred directions for change. As a result, while Government expects that consultation will be influential of final decisions it will not necessarily determine what those decisions will be.

19. It should also be noted that if Government decides to make changes, these may be in-principle decisions and be subject to further discussions with those involved. For example, if proposed changes impact on schools there may be further discussions with schools on how those changes would be implemented prior to final decisions being made.

Further Information
20. Information on the review will be posted on the Ministry of Education's website:

21. The Ministry will also be communicating with sector groups and schools directly as required via email. This will include periodic updates on the progress of the review.

Hon Heather Roy
Associate Minister of Education

Special Education Review – Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need a review of Special Education?
It has been almost 10 years since the Special Education 2000 Policy was introduced and there is a range of views about its effectiveness. The Education Sector, service providers, and – most importantly – parents of children with Special Education needs all want to do better.

It is time to take a systematic look at how we can do better, how we can get a more consistent commitment to providing the best for kids and how we can do it most efficiently – the Government wants to ensure that policies and processes are fair, consistent, reach those most in need, make the best use of government funding, and that parents have choices.

Each year $450 million is invested in Special Education – we need to ensure that this funding, and other funding in education, is making the greatest difference for children and young people with Special Education needs.

What does the Government think is working well in Special Education?
There are many skilled and committed teachers and practitioners working in Special Education, and it is important to note that there are many people in education who do not have ‘Special Education’ in their job title but who are also committed to disabled students and helping them achieve the best educational outcomes possible. These people, and the families and children they support, are our greatest asset.

How will the Review impact on disabled children attending regular schools?
The Education Act 1989 gives disabled children the right to attend their local school. The review will not change that.

Will the Review address the needs of those children that people feel are falling through the cracks?
The Review will look at where we can improve support for students who currently have access to additional support, who might be missing out, and how we can improve their access to Special Education.

Everyone involved in education has a role to play and it is important that disabled children and young people are not just the responsibility of those with 'Special Education' in their job title.

Will you be looking at how the Education Act is enforced?
Ensuring practice that is consistent with the Education Act should not rely on the Review of Special Education. It is part of business as usual. Relying on enforcement of the Education Act alone will not achieve what we really need to achieve for disabled students.

Is this a cost/staff-cutting exercise?
No – the focus is on how we best utilise current funding and the many committed and skilled people involved in education to achieve the best outcomes for children and young people with Special Education needs.

How will the Review address the behaviour problem in schools?
The Minister of Education is currently considering the Behaviour and Learning Action Plan and its implementation. This will address behaviour issues in schools.

What is in scope for the Review?
The scope of the review covers seven work streams implemented in two phases.

Phase One
* How Special Education funding and services are allocated for children with high and very high needs – this is about fairness, reducing barriers and making the best use of the Government’s commitment to expand the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS).

* Examining the schooling choices that parents have for their children with high and very high needs.

* How we measure the performance and accountability of providers of services.

Phase Two
* How we can ensure that we have a confident and capable workforce of people supporting parents and teachers, and working directly with children with special education needs.

* How young people transitioning from school to life after school are supported.

* Where improvements could be made to the Ministry of Education’s processes and whether they can reduce administration and be more responsive.

* How agencies can work better together, how services provided by a number of agencies can be better coordinated, and how children and families can get what they need when they need it.

Aspects of Special Education that fall outside of the direct scope of the Review are: services for children in the early childhood sector ‘early intervention’; Special Education property; behaviour services.
These aspects of Special Education cannot be totally ignored within the Review, particularly where outcomes of the Review interface with work in other aspects of Special Education and other work programmes in education and disability services provided by other agencies.

How does the Review link to the recent proposal on reducing therapy support to some schools?
The Minister of Education has considered feedback on the decision to cease what has been additional therapy in some schools, and that reduction in therapy will not occur at the end of 2009. The 23 affected schools will have more time to make gradual changes to the therapy they provide as their students move on to other schools.

In the meantime the Review will consider how effectively current policy and funding supports the small group of children with highly complex therapy and care needs. If it is deemed that additional support is required for those children, the Review will need to consider how that support is made available to children no matter which school they attend.

Will the Review of Special Education make additional money available?
The focus is on how we can do better with the $450 million we invest in Special Education each year. On Budget 2009 the Government announced significant additional investment in Special Education. A decision was made to provide an additional $51 million over four years to extend the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme (ORRS). The Review of Special Education will inform how that additional $51 million is used to make the biggest difference for students with special education needs.

How can people have input into the Review?
People can make submissions on a discussion document that will be released in early November. They can register their interest in that discussion document now through the Ministry of Education website

New Scholarships Increase Choice In Education

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Government giving an additional $10 million to the Independent School sector?
Over four percent of school-age students - 30,000 children - currently attend an independent school, saving the State around $200 million annually and relieving some of the pressure on state schools. This additional funding will help make independent schools more affordable for more parents. It honours the ACT and National Government's manifesto commitment to increase families' education choices so they have more freedom to select schooling options that best meet their children's needs.

How will this funding be distributed to independent schools?
In 2010, $7.4 million will be added to the private school subsidy. The remaining $2.6 million will fund a scholarship programme that will give 250 students from low-income families the opportunity to attend an independent secondary school.

What funding do independent schools currently receive?
Independent schools currently receive $35.39 million (GST exclusive) annually in the form of a Government subsidy. This funding has been capped at this level since 2000 and this additional funding will increase the subsidy to $45.2 million per annum. The level of funding that each school receives depends on the number of pupils they have and what year level those students are in.

When will independent schools receive this additional funding?
Independent schools will receive the additional $7.4 million in funding from January 2010 as part of their subsidy payments, and 150 scholarships will be allocated to begin in 2010.

How much will each school get?
As the funding will form part of the existing subsidy, the amount of funding each school will get vary from school to school and depend upon the number of pupils at the school and their year level. The additional $7.4 million will be allocated in the same way it currently is.

Shouldn't independent schools receive more, given that they've had their subsidy capped since 2000?
Despite being confronted with a deteriorating economic position this Government is making a significant increase to independent school funding.

Why are you giving this money to independent schools, rather than the State sector?
The State school sector is continuing to see a large investment and increases to its funding. This includes $523 million for a 21st Century Building Programme, an increase in the operational funding grant to take account of inflation and wages costs for support staff, and additional funding to improve numeracy and literacy and help address challenging students' behaviour.

Why are you looking to introduce a scholarship programme at this time?
The Government wants to widen choice by providing young people with an opportunity for to attend an independent school that their parents would not normally be able to afford.

How many people will be able to access the scholarship programme, and when does it start?
There will be 150 places available in 2010 to students from low-income families. This will increase to 250 by 2012.

Haven't we run a programme like this before?
Yes, the Government ran a similar type of scholarship programme called the Targeted Individual Entitlement (TIE) scheme between 1996 and 2006. This scheme proved successful in improving the outcomes of its participants.

How do students apply for a scholarship, and what are the eligibility criteria?
We will be providing further information regarding the application process shortly.