Education law reform needed now to ensure quality public education for all students

Media release
4 April 2019

Thirty years ago, children with disabilities gained the right to attend their local school, but that right has far from guaranteed a fair deal in the classroom.

IHC wholeheartedly agrees with the summary findings from the Independent Taskforce, who were charged with reviewing the education system, that far too many groups of students miss out. The Government is currently reviewing Tomorrow’s Schools – the name given to the reforms that dramatically changed the governance, management and administration of our schools in 1989.

In its submission to the Independent Taskforce this week, IHC Director of Advocacy Trish Grant agreed that nothing short of widespread transformation and increased investment in the education system will ensure better outcomes for all students, including those groups who are currently missing out – Maori and Pasifika students, refugee and migrant students, and disabled students.

Trish says more investment in the system is important, as well as more funding and access to specialist advice and support for students with disabilities and schools.

“These students, their families and their schools, have been saying for too long now that the support needed to learn and participate is unavailable, contestable, highly fragmented or almost non-existent. Even when approved, it takes far too long to arrive,” says Trish.

“Our evidence shows children are being turned away at school doors, or they are told they can’t complete a full day – disabled children experience discrimination on a daily basis and it is neither right nor fair.

“Schools are being put in untenable situations, with little financial assistance or access to the specialist supports need.”

In addition to adopting the recommendations from the Independent Taskforce, Trish says Government must move to strengthen disabled children’s rights to education. 

“The rights to inclusive education and reasonable accommodation need to be embedded in the Education Act,” says Trish.

“The 30-year history of struggle reflects a lack of an enforceable right to education.

“Disabled students, their families and their schools need to be able to access independent mechanisms that have the power to recognise and enforce rights to education.

“Relying on best endeavours with a luck and love approach isn’t good enough anymore, and if we’re serious about a quality public education for all children we need the Government to commit.

“The Independent Taskforce is calling for more robust initial teacher education, professional development and leadership development – IHC welcomes this recommendation.

“All teachers need to feel confident about teaching all children and have access to the right additional support when they need it,” says Trish.

“IHC is calling for strong accountability within, and across, the system and we support the need for a mechanism to evaluate system performance so that it delivers equitable access and outcomes for all.

“It’s time for the Government to show bravery and think beyond election cycles.

“The right to turn up to the local school gate should count as an explicit right to inclusive education in the classroom, and we need a system that works for all children.”