Does the reality in New Zealand schools match up with best practice in Inclusive Education?
In 1989 changes to New Zealand’s Education Act gave children with disabilities the right to enrol in their local State school. Prior to this special permission was needed on a case by case basis from the Secretary of Education in Wellington and generally these children were sent to special schools. To give effect to this law change, in 1996 the Special Education 2000 policy had the aim of giving all children the same rights and freedoms, including having their individual learning and developmental needs met. The goal was for New Zealand to provide a "world class system of inclusive education".
Barbara Fogarty Perry has been a teacher, a school principal and a Disability Studies lecturer, and is now a Senior Lecturer in Social Services. She also has a son with high and complex needs due to disability. Her ethnographic research has examined her son's educational experiences, in two primary schools, two secondary schools and two tertiary education institutions. He was one of the first students with this level of disability to be fully mainstreamed
Barbara has identified two major issues with the implementation of the Special Education 2000 policy which she recommends the government address:
- Resistance by some schools to enrolling and accommodating students with special needs, so that parents still need to be strong advocates for their children.
- Teachers and teacher aides do not receive pre-service and in-service training in how to work with students with special needs, resulting in huge variation in the quality of support they can provide.