Success for every learner. Special education working group report

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1 Success for every learner Special education working group report May

2 2

3 Success for every learner Making education inclusive improves outcomes for all children and young people 1 Inclusive education underpins our approach to special education provision. The Ministry of Education says between 80,000 and 100,000 children and young people receive some form of special education support each year. 2 That is around one child in ten. In early childhood education settings, that equates to around 20,000 children every year. How well are we doing for those children and their families and whānau and can we do better? In Aotearoa New Zealand, we have high rates of participation in early childhood education (ECE) by international comparison. The government recognises the contribution of quality ECE to the learning and well-being of children and families, and the long-term benefits to the economy and society. According to the ministry, one in ten children attending ECE receives some form of special education support: these children all go on to school. The government recognises the importance of early identification of children needing additional support to learn and the benefit of intervening early. Yet the emphasis on broad-ranging, sustained interventions is predominantly focused on the school years. If we want all children to succeed and we know starting early enhances that success, we need to recalibrate the current framework to focus more boldly on what happens before children start school. The landscape There have been a number of government policy changes in the past two decades which focus on more targeted support for children who need extra support in their learning, in their local setting. A series of reviews shaped the vision for special education Success for all which supported the aim for all schools to be demonstrating inclusive practice by A comprehensive work programme is in place. Funding increased to $533 million in 2014/2015. Specialist and advisory support includes psychologists, speech language therapists, advisors on deaf children, early intervention teachers, and education, behaviour and communication support workers. Programmes including Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) and Incredible Years provide guidance for teachers, parents and caregivers. 1 Ministry of Education (2014) Success for all. Special education. Briefing to the Incoming Minister. Wellington September. p7. 2 Ministry of Education (2014) Success for all. Special education. Briefing to the Incoming Minister. Wellington. September. p14. 3 Ministry of Education (2010) Success for all. Every school. Every child. Wellington 3

4 The Ministry s Planned actions that contribute to for Success for All set out the plan to achieve the goal of 100% inclusive practice in schools. Its focus is on: building the confidence of educators and parents, families, whānau and communities through building knowledge and skills, providing services and funding, working closely with others, and reviewing progress and recognising great results. 4 The plan is comprehensive and the intention was to expand it to ECE: that is yet to happen. However, each element of the work plan is as important in ECE settings as it is in schools: these are the same children, families and whānau who on one day engage in ECE, and the next in school. For children with moderate needs, early intervention will ensure they begin their school journey with confidence, and is likely to remove or reduce the nature or level of support needed in later years. This should be the outcome we are seeking. The focus on inclusive practice and support for the special learning needs must be seen in a wider context - not in isolation. The world has changed since the current framework supporting special education provision was developed. It effects young children and their whānau for example: the demographics have changed: about 16% of households in 2011 received 50% of the median disposable household income as compared to about 7% in 1990; 72% of families live in main urban areas 5 ; access to resources are limited in rural and isolated areas; family dynamics and circumstances have changed: as many as 25% of children currently live in poverty - about 270,000 children 6 ; 10% of children are living in severe poverty 7 ; about 25% of families with dependent children have one parent or caregiver 8 ; 40% of mothers with children are in the paid work force full-time. The complex situations of many children and families are compounded by access to and affordability of housing, transport, and health services for example; obligations on families have changed: parents and caregivers receiving social benefits are required to take reasonable steps to enrol their child in ECE at age three and to sustain that engagement; ECE policy has changed: every child over three years old is entitled to up to 20 hours ECE each week; the focus is on increasing participation rather than on the quality of service children attend each day; the target for all teacher-led services to have 100% fully qualified teaching team was removed in 2011; support for professional learning and development has been reduced; the rules around the maximum numbers of children attending any one service have been extended to allow treble the numbers up to 75 under two year olds and up to 150 over two year olds; 4 Ministry of Education (2010) Planned actions that contribute to for Success for All Success for all. Wellington Every school. Every child. Wellington 5 Based on 2006 census data 6 Children s Commissioner s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty (2012) Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand: Evidence for Action 7 Child Poverty Monitor (2014) Measured using the proportion of children living in households who were both income poor and experiencing material deprivation... 8 Statistics New Zealand based on 2013 census data. 4

5 participation in ECE has changed: from 93.2% in 2005 to 96.1% of children under five years old attend ECE; children spend an average 21 hours each week in ECE compared to 16.6 hours in The context is complex. Each element impacts how well children, families and whānau engage in ECE and how well teachers and other staff and parents are supported to meet the needs of every child particularly those requiring extra support for their learning. Acknowledging and addressing these factors at the same time as focusing on special education initiatives and interventions, is key to reaching our goal of inclusive education and success for every learner regardless of setting. The early childhood education curriculum Te Whāriki assumes the care and education for children who have special needs will be encompassed within the principles, strands, and goals set out for all children in early childhood settings. 10 In its 2012 report the Education Review Office (ERO) discussed inclusion saying it: begins with recognising that all children and their families have the right to access high quality early childhood education. This right is not affected by disability. Inclusive practices are intended to identify and remove barriers to full acceptance, participation and learning for all children Inclusive practices aim to alter policy, organisation, structure and pedagogy so children with special needs can take their rightful place as full and valued members of their education communities. 11 The report talks about what inclusion looks like and the barriers to inclusion. ERO identified a number of challenges for ECE services noting that they generally stem from a lack of knowledge and strategies about including children with special needs, rather than a lack of inclusive philosophy. 12 The report identified a number of factors that need improvement including self-review, and issues around funding, referrals and education support worker support. 44% of services were very inclusive of children with special needs, with a further 49% mostly inclusive; 48% transitioned children very well, and 49% mostly well ; 51% supported children very well to be competent and capable learners and 40% mostly well. ERO 2012 The ERO report identified four ingredients for a very inclusive service : believing that children with special needs are confident and capable learners; having and practising inclusive processes and practices; accessing and providing additional support; working collaboratively with parents and specialists. 9 Ministry of Education. Annual ECE Summary Ministry of Education (1996) Te Whāriki. He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa. Early Childhood Curriculum. Learning Media. Wellington. p Education Review Office (2012) Inclusion of children with special needs in early childhood services. Wellington. December. pp Education Review Office (2012) Inclusion of children with special needs in early childhood services. Wellington. December. p 30 5

6 The ERO report on Inclusive practices for students with special needs in schools 13 identified most schools had an inclusive culture, positive attitude to including students, and good relationships with parents and whānau. However only half were effective in promoting achievement and ERO identified the need to improve teacher capability. The findings in the school sector show room for improvement as do those in ECE. We can do better for children needing extra support to be successful in their learning. State of play In late 2014, New Zealand Kindergartens (NZK) set up a working group 14 which included representation form all New Zealand public kindergartens 15 to explore the issues around the provision of and support for children with special education needs and their families and whānau. We aimed to develop a framework to support children and families to participate in ECE services: our focus was on children who need extra support to successfully engage in learning in kindergarten a snapshot across a single national ECE service. Our definition of children with special education needs was children who have a developmental or learning delay, a disability, a behaviour difficulty or a communication difficulty Our aim was to examine the current state of play for children, parents, caregivers and teachers, to identify the issues, and to develop strategies to better support children needing extra support for their learning. 16 The group met several times and identified the need for information about the key issues including the number of children requiring support, the support and resources available, and the processes and responses from agencies. A survey of kindergarten teachers was conducted and the findings, along with current research, examples of best practice and policies, inform recommendations in this report. We believe the issues are likely to be similar across ECE services. Survey sample and methodology An online survey of quantitative and qualitative questions was distributed to all kindergarten services in the country in December After reviewing initial survey data, the working group decided to explore a few key issues further through an in-depth survey of teaching teams and a parent survey surveys were returned representing 37% of all kindergartens: most regions of the country are represented. Ten in-depth teacher surveys and thirteen parent surveys were received. 12,552 children were enrolled in the kindergartens at the time of the survey, or 36% of the 35,012 total enrolments in kindergarten in Education Review Office (2015) Inclusive practices for students with special needs in schools. Wellington. March. p27 14 The working group comprises parent, teacher, manager and specialist representation from New Zealand Kindergartens (NZK) and Early Childhood Leadership (ECL) associations. 15 Recognised under the Education Act 16 The group s key tasks are at 17 The survey report is at 6

7 2,514 (20%) were Māori, which is slightly less than the percentage of Māori children enrolled in kindergarten nationally (22%) 1,251 (10%) were Pasifika, which is slightly higher than the percentage of Pasifika children enrolled in kindergarten nationally (8%). Children needing extra support Of the services represented in the survey 218 (91%) report having children attending who need extra support to engage in learning. This result cannot be considered representative of all kindergartens as those with children with special needs may have been more motivated to complete the survey. However this percentage is in line with a recent ERO report 18 finding that ninety percent of schools had enrolled one or more students with high or moderate needs. Teaching teams report that 1,133 (9%) of children 19 attending the services represented in the survey have been identified as needing extra support. 273 (2%) of children attending are identified by teachers as having high needs. High needs is defined as a child enrolled at the service who would attract Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding and/or other support for high needs at school. These figures align well with Ministry of Education figures which show that around one in ten children and young people in early learning centres and schools receive special education support each year. 20 The government reports that it provides specialist services for the 3% of the school population who have the highest levels of need which includes ORS funding, communication and behaviour services, high health needs support and other services. Summary of key findings The survey explored a broad range of special education issues impacting children, whānau and teachers. Key findings include: Among children needing extra support, speech and language is the most common issue for children, followed by issues around behaviour. The most common support provided is a speech and language specialist, an education support worker (ESW) or a teacher aide. 21 Over half of the services (55%) with children with special needs access an early intervention teacher (EIT). Over half (54%) access an education support worker (ESW). Teachers report that most EITs (31%) work one hour or less with children and many teachers report that they do not know how many hours the EIT works. Teachers report that most ESWs (59%) work between 3 and 7 hours per week in the setting. Most teachers do not feel the support is enough: 65% feel the ESW support is not enough and 55% feel the EIT support is not enough. 18 ERO (2015) Inclusive practices for students with special needs in schools. Wellington. 19 one kindergarten did not provide the number of children. 20 Ministry of Education (2014) Briefing to Incoming Minister. Success for All: Special Education. Wellington. 21 ESW are employed, funded and supported by the Ministry of Education. Teacher aides may be funded through equity funding to the kindergarten and in some cases of immediate or short-term need, associations may fund additional ESW hours. 7

8 Teachers reported making 1,918 referrals between Referrals are most commonly linked to speech and language issues. 170 (69%) teachers report that referrals are not assessed by the Ministry of Education special education team in a timely manner. One-third (33%) of teachers report it takes between 1-3 months for an assessment following a referral, nearly one-third (29%) report it takes between 3-6 months, and 4% report that it takes over a year for an assessment. Just over half of the teaching teams who responded are involved in the Incredible Years professional development programme. 85% of teams using the Incredible Years programme indicated it was helpful. There is evidence of regional variation in access to early intervention support, length of time to be assessed, and professional development around special education issues. Teachers report that transitions to school for children with special needs are variable. There are some examples of good practice and shared understanding between schools and kindergarten, while others report poor, stressful transitions unsupported by a disjointed system of funding and service delivery. When asked what is the one thing that would make a difference teachers reported more hours of support, reduced wait time between referral and action, and access to more effective, well-trained special education support staff. While the survey respondents were teachers and parents engaged in kindergartens, the issues raised through the survey and findings are likely to be those experienced by other ECE centrebased services. The findings highlight the areas where improvements need to be made to ensure every effort focuses on delivering the right services and support for children and young people to be present, participating and learning in education. 22 Next steps We know there are more children participating in ECE, starting earlier and engaged for longer periods of time than a few years ago. The government s goal to ensure that 98% of children starting school by 2017 have attended quality ECE has increased expectations that children and whānau will have access to appropriate and relevant services locally, and be supported to thrive in that learning environment. We know the separate policies and practices relating to ECE and to schools create difficulties in the continuity of support. We know many children and families experience complex and difficult situations, many dealing with multiple issues requiring engagement with multiple agencies. The Ministry of Education acknowledged increasing demand for special education services in its Briefing to the Incoming Minister. Greater awareness of issues, improved and earlier identification, and greater expectation from parents are all named as factors impacting demand for special education services. Our survey findings reflect increasing demand for services and support: it highlighted that we need to do much better. 22 Ministry of Education (2014) Briefing to Incoming Minister. Success for All: Special Education. Wellington. 8

9 A child needing additional support to learn and ultimately to reach her or his potential, needs that support before they start school. For children with moderate needs, early intervention will ensure the child and family begin their school journey with confidence, and is likely to remove or reduce the nature or level of support needed in later years. This should be the outcome we are seeking. Consistency, cohesion and collaboration are three themes that emerge. At a high level we recommend the Ministry of Education: work to align policy across the ECE and schooling sectors alongside the broader context of changes in public sector social development and health policy; weave the engagement of ECE teachers, educators, parents and whānau into the work programme for an inclusive education system; facilitate better inter-agency collaboration to ensure families and whānau and ECE services can access support at one point rather than co-ordinate access to multiple agencies. A cohesive and systematic approach to special education policy development and implementation and practice needs to be in place to ensure every child succeeds. We have identified three key factors to support that shift: consistency and cohesion across the system, equitable provision and access, and effective transitions. Consistency and cohesion Success for All: Special Education and the ministry s current work plan focus on the schooling sector. The intention was to expand the programme to early childhood education at some point. The plan sets out seven strands focusing on the teaching profession and on families and community which aim to build an inclusive education system. While the plan was developed for the period , the strategies maintain relevance. It seems false economy to target these initiatives to the schools sector when the ministry could easily engage the ECE sector at the same time. The strands focus on educators and schools: 23 building knowledge and skills: training and professional development; publications and tools; building Ministry of Education knowledge; providing services and funding: individualised support around learners most in need, and sharing strategies and approaches; working closely with others to better co-ordinate and streamline services; reviewing progress and recognising great results: monitoring and reporting on progress. 23 Ministry of Education (2010) Planned actions that contribute to Success for All. Wellington 9

10 And for confident parents, families, whānau and communities: building knowledge and skills: informing and educating parents and whānau to support and champion their child s learning and achievement; providing services and funding to support parents who are disabled to be involved; reviewing progress to make it easier for parents to inform and feedback to the Ministry. There are separate funding and service delivery systems in place for schools and ECE services. Teacher comments indicate that the systems are disjointed and not well aligned which creates gaps in services for children and whānau at critical transition periods. It is evident initial teacher education programmes should have an increased emphasis on special education. There is considerable investment in professional development for teachers in schools to support inclusive education. The same level of investment is not apparent in ECE. There is evidence of regional variation in support for children and whānau who need extra support to engage in learning. The Ministry notes in its briefing paper, support to young children is through early intervention. However, there is a lack of consistent, comprehensive information about early intervention services, particularly within the ECE context. 24 If early intervention services are provided to children aged 0-5 and prior to starting school, according to the ministry data it can be assumed that 5% of children attending ECE are being supported. There are 200,942 children enrolled in ECE based on the ministry s 2013 enrollment data it could be expected that about 10,000 children in ECE are receiving some additional support from the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education reports it provides an early intervention service to 13,687 children and families and whānau however it is unclear whether these children are in ECE or their first years of school or at home. In response to a request for data, the Ministry of Education wrote: 25 Spending on Special Education has significantly increased in recent years, up 29% from 2008/2009 from $414m to $533m in 2014/2015. It provides support to more than 80,000 children, young people and their families every year. Approximately two thirds of this amount is allocated for services and support provided by schools. The remainder funds specialist services provided by the Ministry of Education to about 30,000 children and young people. While budget figures show that $40 million was allocated to early intervention in 2014/2015, there does not appear to be current public data about how many children in ECE are being supported through early intervention and what proportion of the $40 million is allocated to early intervention support for children in an ECE setting. 24 Ministry of Education (2014) Briefing to Incoming Minister. Success for All: Special Education. Wellington. Note: early intervention services are defined inconsistently For example, page 14 states that early intervention services are provided for 5% of children age 0-6 while Figure 2 on page 16 states that early intervention services are provided for 5% of children age Correspondence from the Ministry of Education released under the Official Information Act dated 28 April

11 Regardless, the $40 million represents a small proportion of the remaining one-third of special education funding - $175m - allocated to services outside the school setting. The ministry provided information about referrals for early intervention support in 2014 and where they originate. In that year, there were 2,311 referrals, 94% of which came from kindergartens and education and care services 26 highlighting the limited number of referrals from other ECE services. The number equates to around 1% of children enrolled in ECE which is at odds with the ministry data which shows one out of ten children receive support. The ministry data records early intervention per job which we assume is a record of each contact rather than a record of the service offered to each child over time. Many teachers are of the view that Ministry of Health B4 School checks are conducted too late. This was reflected in the finding that only 8% of referrals in our survey resulted from B4 School Checks and all others were made by teachers. The survey results highlighted some misunderstanding between the ministry and ECE services around support offered to children and whānau. There appeared to be confusion about the role of the EIT and the hours they work. There were different perceptions among teachers of the effectiveness of the EIT role. Some teachers questioned the effectiveness of the ESW role including the training and qualifications of ESWs and the suitability of unqualified staff to work with children. Equity For the most part, decisions around the allocation of additional support takes place at the regional and local level. However, the nature and level of support varies across ministry regions. Assessment of referrals, access to professional learning and development, and access to EITs and other specialist support varied significantly in some areas. 27 Early intervention is proven effective and important to future learning and development of children needing extra support. Children may not be identified as needing early intervention until they attend an ECE service. For some, that could provide a limited window for early intervention before they begin school. There was widespread frustration among teachers responding to the survey about the time between referral and assessment. Case studies revealed that there was a significant delay in receiving adequate support following an assessment. Teachers commented on the limited criteria for children to access support and inconsistent access to support when a child moves services. Months to get an assessment is not good enough for children. Teachers, parents and children need strategies immediately. Long waits for intervention entrench disabilities. - Teacher 26 Correspondence from the Ministry of Education released under the Official Information Act dated 28 April Survey findings, noting there were small samples from some regions 11

12 Teachers reflected that many children who need extra support to engage in learning do not receive it due to the limited criteria. A number of teachers commented that children received support in ECE but then did not receive support when they transitioned to school. When children receive support from the ministry, teachers reported it is not enough. Early intervention teachers work one hour or less with children and most ESWs between three and seven hours per week usually far less than the hours children attend and less than half the amount of time (15 hours) that could be allocated. Almost a third of services in our survey use equity funding to support children with special needs. We had one child who was under special education services but did not qualify for any help with travel. The parent was paying $140 per week to travel 10 kms to kindergarten twice a week by taxi. - Teacher For some parents, location and access to both specialist support and educational settings causes additional pressures and stress. Support to parents to enhance access is limited which could impact on the level and timeliness of support received. Teachers highlighted an increase in the number of referrals over the past three years. Over half of teachers (56%) believe the number of children who need additional support to engage in learning is increasing. They reported a range of views on why demand is increasing including stress and pressure on families for example poverty and lack of time. Effective transitions Teachers report issues for children transitioning from one service to another: a disjointed system, gaps in provision across services, inconsistency in assessment and processes, and poor communication between services. They reported inconsistencies across ministry regions. For parents there is often a long wait/long transfer process, poor access to support in the new location, inconsistent access to support across regions/areas, varying training or expertise at services so a referrals were not made consistently, and lack of funding to support the child. Transitions to school for children with special needs are variable. There are examples of good communication, practices and shared understanding between schools and ECE. However, there are other examples which highlight poor, stressful transitions unsupported by a disjointed system of funding and service delivery. Teachers commented frequently about inconsistent funding across ECE and schools. They expressed concern that ESWs did not follow the child when a child transitions from an ECE service to school. If a child is receiving support at ECE then this support often needs to continue into school but funding in ECE works completely differently to funding in schools there is no cohesion between the two. - Teacher 12

13 In ECE, there is no targeted funding for teacher release to support children who need extra support when transitioning to school. Teachers and parents responding to the survey expressed frustration that once a child turns five, funding is no longer available to support the child in ECE, even where parents, teachers and specialists believe it is in the child s best interests to remain at the ECE service. Services are eligible to receive funding for children until the age of six years - it makes sense therefore, that special education support is funded until that time as well. Our survey highlighted a number of issues relating to teacher confidence and capability, reflecting ERO s findings on schools and ECE settings. While specialist support may be available, it varies and the needs of some children may not be viewed as sufficient to warrant additional support. There is a reliance on and expectation of teachers in ECE and in schools to identify and respond: in some cases it may be clear a referral is the appropriate way forward; in other circumstances that may not be the case. We need to make sure teachers have access to the specialist information and expertise to support their professional judgements. Utilising the expertise of teachers holding relevant qualifications, working across the profession, targeted specialist professional learning and development, and building expertise within learning communities are ways to better support teachers and in turn ensure children and whānau have access to the support they need to succeed. Strategies Aligning policy within a broader public sector framework, including ECE practitioners and whānau in the work programme for an inclusive education system, and facilitating better inter-agency collaboration provides a strong and coherent platform to ensure children needing additional support for their learning are well placed to achieve their potential. In early 2015, the ministry advised it was undertaking and update of special education. The ministry is canvasing the views of practitioners 28 on improving early identification, ensuring parents and education providers are at the centre of making decisions and co-ordinating additional support, providing a single point of contact, and providing a managed education pathway. 29 This discussion will contribute to the ministry s broader objectives relating to service design and workforce issues, funding, stewardship, and information to understand how well the system is working and is in line with our thinking around strengthening provision. We identified a number of strategies that could be implemented in the short to medium term, to address key issues for practitioners and for families. Cohesion across the system Provide and co-ordinate resources centrally or regionally, to: - ensure services can focus on teaching and learning to support all children rather than on administering the system for support; - enable individualised solutions to support families engage in ECE and to access specialist support; 28 Including professional leaders, teachers, educators, specialists, and health providers 29 Ministry of Education (2015) Special Education Update. Discussion notes. April/May

14 - provide comprehensive training and professional learning to ESW s reflecting special education needs; - ensure adequate funding to ECE services to release teachers to participate in targeted professional learning and development. Enable services to access funding in order to make appropriate changes to learning environments. Revisit the funding arrangements to ensure the continuation of funding for support to children after their fifth birthday if they remain in ECE. Revise verification and funding systems and rules to remove repetition and duplication of information required of families and whanau, and to make sure rules are not a barrier to participation such as the application of the frequent absence rule in ECE. Make better use of technology providing solutions around access to specialist advice and information, and professional learning and development. Strengthen data collection and analysis, and provide efficient ways to access the data to inform pedagogy, practice and policy. Clarify the role and expectations of early intervention teachers (EITs) and education support workers (ESW) within the ECE setting. Explore the potential for Before School Checks to take place at an earlier age. Engage with teacher education providers to encourage a greater focus on special education within initial ECE and primary teacher education programmes. Equity Extend the provision of resource teachers of behaviour, communication and/or learning to work with teachers within a local cluster of ECE and schools. Ensure consistency across ministry regional areas in the allocation of resources. Ensure a timely response for assessment on referral no longer than one month. Ensure the support to the child and family is seamless where the family moves location and/or from one ECE service or school to another. Revisit and extend the criteria for the allocation of ESW support to children with moderate needs. 30 Extend and develop further the ministry s employment and support of ESWs to work jointly with ECE services and schools in the same location. Introduce a co-ordinator role to work in ECE clusters supporting leadership and teaching teams, and parents to navigate the system and ensure the right support is accessed and provided in a timely way. Establish a support or triage help-line where teachers can access immediate advice and guidance on a range of matters including referral, access to resources, and intervention strategies. 30 The survey and anecdotal evidence highlights a number of issues around ESWs including the hours allocated; the expectations (do ESW work with children or release teachers to work with children); employment matters including recruitment, cover when absent, fullyear employment to match hours children attend; cultural competence; training and professional development. 14

15 Effective transitions Remove barriers to facilitate successful transitions: - improve information to parents around transitions; - provide funding for ECE teacher release to support transitions. Clarify the role and expectations of early intervention teachers (EITs) and education support workers (ESW) during transitions, and ensure consistency across regions. Build teacher capacity through the provision of joint professional learning and development for the teachers and educators across the ECE and schools sector. The ministry s Update aims to ensure positive learning outcomes for children with special education needs; simplify funding and access to services; ensure parents and education providers are integral to decision-making; ensure end-to-end management of each child s education pathway; make it easy for everyone to play their part; and improve information about how the system is working for children and young people with special education needs. 31 We agree the special education policy framework, systems and practices need to be examined and updated. Our survey - backed by ERO reports and research - highlights the need to do better. While we each need to play a part in supporting every child to succeed along their learning pathway, and there are other organisations within the community providing services and support for children with special needs, the ministry remains the central player. As such we see the ministry strengthening its role as policy setter, regulator and funder; providing appropriate and timely resourcing; and co-ordinating and collaborating with and across the sector to ensure the right services and support for children and young people to be present, participating and learning in education is in place. 31 Ministry of Education (2015) Special Education Update. Discussion notes. April/May

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