IHC: Make it fair or meet us in court

Ninety-nine percent of education professionals say funding for disabled students does not deliver what they need to even participate in mainstream education.

IHC’s 2022 Inclusive Education Survey paints an incredibly grim picture for disabled students in Aotearoa New Zealand today.

More than 600 families and educational professionals of disabled students responded, including, for the first time, medical and allied professionals who have contacted IHC about their ongoing concerns.

IHC’s Inclusive Education Consultant Trish Grant is shocked that despite unequivocal evidence of the struggles that people with intellectual disabilities and their families face in the classroom, three successive governments have done little to make meaningful change.

“Too often we see over-investment in reviews and action plans with a lot of talk from the Ministry of Education about what isn’t working,” says Trish. “Meanwhile, disabled students are falling through the cracks as we await any semblance of actual reform.

“We’re seeing the effects of the teacher shortage in New Zealand hitting diverse learners the worst – teachers already at max capacity struggle to have the time, support or even initial education needed to teach the diversity of students in their class.”

Almost half of the education professionals surveyed said they’ve had to send disabled students home because there isn’t enough funding for them to remain in school all day.

“Funding and teacher capacity aside, this type of isolation and separation is having real social implications,” says Trish. “More than half of disabled students haven’t even been invited to a birthday party, and they’re being bullied.

“This woeful situation has gone on for too long and IHC is committed to ensuring an equitable education for all disabled children.”

For 14 years now, IHC has been collecting a massive amount of evidence of serious human rights violations and discrimination in schools while it awaits its day in court against the government.

Trish Grant says while the legal process has been long-winded and, at times, torturous, she’s committed to seeing this through on behalf of the thousands of disabled children throughout the country.

“We’ve drawn a line in the sand that inaction from the Ministry of Education can’t continue,” says Trish. “All we are asking for is that disabled children get a fair shot at education, just like all New Zealanders.

“Don’t get me wrong, this is a tough battle – we are an NGO taking legal action against the Crown, but we won’t give up.”

IHC’s case is supported by international human rights experts, academics and researchers and international alliances of DPOs and NGOs.