Kia ora e hoa mā.
This edition of Ako begins our year with a focus on inclusion and what this really means for our tamariki and the adults who work alongside them.
One of the great opportunities that I have in the role of National President of NZEI Te Riu Roa is the chance to talk to many of you over the year. Over last year a topic that seemed to be at the forefront of most people’s minds was the need for a level of resourcing that would meet the needs of all of our learners. One of the groups that has certainly been identified as missing out are those students who have additional learning or behavioural needs.
No matter what role we have within education, we all come to this place with a deep and burning desire to make a difference for each and every one of the children who we work with. It is deeply disturbing for us all when we are confronted by the fact that we simply do not have the specialist support, financial support or human resource that is needed for a particular child.
I know that for many of you this is a very deep worry as you try and find the way to provide a learning environment that enables each child to access the curriculum in a safe and positive way. For many of you that involves trying to tap into new learning that will help you to better understand the needs of the child. The time to do this and the professional development needed is often not forthcoming and is certainly something that we as NZEI Te Riu Roa are trying to address currently.
The work with inclusive education is never done – that is the challenge and the reward. When I think of special schools, and their evolution, it shows how far we can travel. Many special schools now act as conduits for the identification and dissemination of good practice models to support diverse learners, for example, offering outreach programmes in their communities. This has been a very positive development.
When I think of inclusion within our education system I also think of the importance of embracing each child’s language, culture and identity.
As a teacher and principal this has always been important to me. Knowing and understanding each child and their family, whānau and aiga is absolutely crucial and our education system must have this embedded at its heart.
I believe we have the responsibility and the opportunity to make our system inclusive for all. It is time to stand up and speak out for what really does matter in order to meet the needs of all our learners.
“In diversity there is beauty and there is strength” – Maya Angelou.
Lynda Stuart is the NZEI Te Riu Roa National President, Te Manukura
When researching a good kura for our older son, we sought a school with genuine commitment to biculturalism and the environment, a diverse roll with ngā ākonga from a variety of backgrounds, and modern systems for encouraging positive behaviour.
The trouble with “inclusive education” is that it can become a slogan, a mantra, a label for government policy, that imposes extra burdens on teaching professionals. At the Human Rights in Education Trust, we believe it’s helpful to ground the purpose, practices and commitments to inclusive education in more fundamental norms.
When we think about diversity, and who we mean when we talk about diverse people, depends a lot on who and what we think of as normal.