Otago Daily Times
PRINCIPALS across Otago have penned a letter to the Government criticising the ‘‘systemic underfunding’’ of schools with pupils having high needs.
An open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour’s coalition partners says the ongoing resource scheme (ORS) is being ignored, is chronically underfunded and is placing school staff in untenable positions.
The scheme was set up to provide funding for pupils with ongoing or severe difficulty in learning, hearing, vision, physical or language use and social communication.
The Otago Primary Principals’ Association (OPPA) says it surveyed 38 primary and intermediate schools in Otago, and found all the schools were having to top up government ORS funding by up to 35%.
Ensuring the needs of highand very highrisk pupils in schools were being met was costing school boards as much as $14,000 each week .
The letter said the lack of funding was exposing teachers, support staff and pupils to unacceptable risk.
OPPA executive member Brent Caldwell said for several years the status quo was that schools topped up funding.
‘‘This has a knockon effect to our ability to support other pupils.
‘‘By drawing attention to the current reality of the model, we hope some consideration might be given to ensuring children who qualify for the scheme are fully funded . . . Schools don’t make these applications on a whim.’’
A ‘‘basic shortfall’’ in the funding for ORSfunded children resulted in the Ministry of Education funding schools for 39 weeks a year, whereas school boards were required to pay support staff for 44 weeks a year, the letter said.
‘‘Many boards are left weighing up these critical issues against the obvious needs of the most vulnerable students in their schools . . . Clearly, the system is in need of change,’’ the letter said.
The application process was flawed and needed to be changed, it said.
‘‘Of the 40 applications made across the OPPA sample schools in the last 18 months, only 18 were successful.
‘‘This means that beyond the successful applications is a far greater number of children who, while clearly warranting high levels of support in order to participate in a mainstream school, are denied the opportunity to receive muchneeded ongoing support.’’