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Keynote from the Learning Support Coordinators Induction Forum in February 2020: Transcript of keynote speech by Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. Ko Martin te whānau, ko Mohi te whānau whāngai.  Ko Ngāti Kahungunu te iwi. Ko Tracey toku ingoa. 

Good morning, good morning, good morning. Now, they give me heaps of notes and I tend not to follow them, so I will do my best to cover the points that I'm supposed to cover with you. But first of all, I want to start by just saying how really, really pleased I am to see you.

The role that you have - gratefully, on our part, we are grateful that you have taken it up - wasn’t invented by me. And it wasn't it, it was talked about during the 2016 inquiry into dyslexia, dyspraxia in children, on the autism inquiry, where parents and teachers and students and some of the visual, the oral presentations from students who, for example, have neurodiversity and their experience of our school system, bought the select committee to tears.

Because the challenges that they had and the responses that they got from the current system overwhelmed them and their experience in turn, overwhelmed us. So I can only just say how grateful I am that you have accepted this challenge.

The Learning Support Coordinator Role

You are part of change that has been needed for a long time. It's been a number of years since a thesis was done around SENCOs - Special Education Needs Coordinators - and so as I say, I didn't invent your role. It's a role that the sector has known for a very long time has been needed. But it has never been funded and it has never been identified and fully supported to be a working role.

I better clarify very quickly that you are not to replace SENCOs. You are an addition, you are extra, you are more. Because that's what we need for our children.

My question is, my challenge is how much more will we be able to do for our children, if you're both there. And you are all - we made sure you are - you are all highly experienced teachers. Some of you have been SENCOs. Some of you have been deputy principals. There are people who have come back into the teaching profession to take this job. Because you all know how important it is. 

Because part of who you are, part of what you are going to do for our children is, for example, we're going to create universal screening tools. You are. We're not gonna do it down in Wellington. We're going to have you do it.

So there is work still going on. But you are now part of that work. You are part of this pathway into what is possible with a change to the delivery of learning support needs for our children, both complex, high and complex needs, mild and moderate needs and gifted. This is a spectrum and you are going to have to hold your ground on that spectrum.

There is going to be a lot of pressure, I believe, on you to fall back into what has been the model, because when people are busy, when people are under stress, when and we know that there is a great deal of need and we know that our schools are trying to moderate and manage many, many different things for their students. There is a tendency to fall back into the same. This is our opportunity to change.

For me, one of the important things that came out of the dyslexia inquiry was parents said we we know we have a relationship with the teacher. We know that is the first point of contact with our relationship with our child's education. But every year we have to go back in and explain again. Explain again. Explain again. They asked for one point of contact inside the school for that continuity to build a relationship with so that as the child transitioned across classes inside a school, that there was somebody who held that knowledge and held that information and held that relationship.

One of the other things they said was when we first talk about our child, it's all about what they can't do. One young person that I spoke to who did have high and complex needs said, I don't want to be seen for what I can't do. I want to be seen for me. So part of this is also about switching this around. What are their strengths?

The Learning Support Delivery Model

What they've put up on the board here is a picture that I've been whiteboarding around the country for the last two years. So that is the Learning Support Delivery Model. And where you can see yourselves are inside the clusters of schools and those circles themselves.

For the Learning Support Delivery model to work and to work best we all need to change the way we work. We have to break down the silos that your children have to fit into. We've got to break out the boxes rather than say “you don't fit into this box so we cannot help you.” The overarching goal of where we're getting to the big vision is actually that whatever a child needs, that is what a child will get to be their best. And they'll get it before they decide they’re stupid. And they'll get it before they feel failure. They'll get it as early as possible.

So with regard to the screening tools that you're going to be a pivotal part of for around dyslexia in the first instance, and we're not going to diagnose dyslexia. You're not going to diagnose dyslexia. We're going to look for dyslexic-like traits and then we're going to start. We know that on for some of our children, it will be a blue piece of paper with a black border. How do we know that? Because Kapiti College has proved it. These students have proved it. I want what works for students. I'm happy to listen to experts, but I want to listen to students too. And we know at the other end of the spectrum, a $200 reading pen and a speech recognition program means that a child doesn't think they stupid.

So we're going to be - you’re going to be - developing screening tools over a period of time so that we can do universal screening. One in seven of our children is on the dyslexia scale. And I know I'm focussing on dyslexia at the moment, but it's the one thing we've picked. It doesn't discount dyscalculia. It doesn't discount dyspraxia. It doesn't discount mild autism. But we've got to start somewhere. Alright? And you will run into those other things and as you run into them, we need to make sure that we resource you to be able to provide what is the best for those students as quickly as possible.

Working with Specialists

The specialist schools and association at the top there, there’s an awful lot of knowledge sitting in the Dyslexia Foundation, sitting in the Autism New Zealand, there’s an awful lot of knowledge sitting there that we need to get closer to the ground. We need to be working with those organisations to bring down supports for your children.

So that is in the north, for example, they're running those hubs. So they're running them on marae. They're actually bringing the specialists in rather than doing refer out. So. If I can't get a specialist to come and live in your space, can I get them to be like ‘Specialist Without Borders’ and actually come in and do groups of children? So I'm putting my mind to it. But, you know, if it was easy, somebody had done it before me.

Nobody's taking away from RTLBs because that was another thing that people got freaked out about. You are an add on. Right. So the RTLBs are different. They've had a different level of training. Right. You are not expected to be RTLBs. You are not expected to know every different learning nuance on neuro diverse nuance. That's not your job. There's a reason why you called coordinators.

There's a whole lot of other work force out there - RTLits, RTLBs, Resource teachers of Māori. There's a whole lot of other workforce out there that you should be able to call on. You’re the pivotal person inside the school that knows the learning support register that teachers can come to and say something's just happening over here. Would you mind coming and sitting down with me? Can we try and work out where we might need to go for this particular child? Or I wouldn’t, I'm seeing this across the school. So it's. I'm not. You know, we're not here to dictate your relationship with the RTLB service. They are another resource that is inside this area.

This is about a team. That's the whole point. We've got to change from silos and hierarchies to a team.  Who's best placed to deliver. And so I want you to be very careful of that with RTLBs, with RTLits. Let's say they have a certain level of knowledge that you're gonna call on. But they're not in charge of you. Alright?

So I want everybody to be really careful of that. This concept of falling into a hierarchy that somebody can tell somebody else what to do. This is about a team - who’s best placed so that that child gets what they need to be their best.

Learning Support Register

We're breaking down the barriers around information sharing and and making sure that we can get support for the child as soon as possible. Probably that leads on a little bit to Te Rito.

So Te Rito is a digital platform that's going to enable information to travel with each learned throughout their education. It's one of the other things that has been worked on for a while. So Te Rito not going to replace your student management systems in your schools. But Te Rito has been designed to draw information up and push information down into your student management systems.

Why would we want to draw information up? It's all about the Learning Support Register. So there is a template or a prototype of the Learning Support Register, which has been designed with a particular group of principals in Kawerau. And so they've designed it at the coalface, not down in Wellington away from anybody who actually does the job, but down there.

Because one of the things when we actually started down this process of trying to provide more support, I can't prove how much support children need. We have, we have our ORS children. We have a reasonable amount of data around ORS children. For those children that cannot jump over the ORS wall, we've got some data. Every other child, every other moderate need, we have nothing.

You might have in your school because you've got your own learning support register. There's never been a central collection of that data. How can I do workforce planning on the specialists that we need? How can I incentivise those that I need in particular areas and be able to know we're around the country? We might have pockets of need of particular challenges. Without that data. So the learning support register is going to be vitally important and you are going to perfect that for us.  And that learning support register needed to be useful to you. to your school, to your cluster, to your region and to the country.

One of the pilots, I think it was in Taupō. 26 ECE's joined together so that they could join on the end of the learning support delivery model during the piloting, and they assessed, they looked at the learning support registers across the ECEs and all the way through the compulsory sector, all the way through to the end of secondary.

And what they found was that oral language, overwhelmingly oral language was the issue. So they brought down the speech language therapist and professionally developed - they deliberately ran their professional development at a time that the ECE teachers could come. Recognising that it's a highly professionalised part of the sector. Sorry [I mean] professionalised, privatised part of the sector and a professionally developed up across that whole cluster, everybody around oral language.

They were able to deal with the majority of those children through because everybody else had been professionally developed. And that left the specialists available for those children at the very high end of that need.

So that's the sort of thing that we hope we want the learning support registers by pulling them up to a cluster level where your service manager and your LSCs. will get together, I'm sure, and have a look across your learning support registered. You'll be able to see where you need professional development and then that's where we need to come in and we need to provide it to you.

In Conclusion 

There will be times where people will try to put you back into a particular box. Alright? And so you're going to need our support and the support of your peers to stay up with the vision.

 The vision is, the ultimate vision is that when we change this system, there will be no ORS funding because whatever a child needs to be the best, that is what they will receive. So we won't be putting people in boxes. We'll be assessing what their needs are based off, what their strengths are, and then what they need support with.  And then we will provide it. 

Now, everybody's told me that I've spoken to like that over the last few years and said you can't do it, it's too expensive. We don't know because we don't have the data.  So this is not the end of it. You are now just part of what is the pathway to make this change. And again, I thank you.  Thank you.