Adaptation for early success

Issue: Volume 94, Number 15

Posted: 24 August 2015
Reference #: 1H9crx

Applications are now open for the Special Education Study Awards and Scholarships, helping to support those wanting to make a difference for children with additional learning needs.

Special Education Study Awards and Scholarships allow recipients to pursue further development in their careers working with students with additional learning needs. A study award can help cover your tuition fees, provide you with some leave days to study, and contribute towards your travel and accommodation to attend the block courses.

The Special Education Study Award is for those wanting to undertake the Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching at either Massey University or the University of Canterbury. The qualification branches into different endorsements (see sidebar for details).

Becoming a specialist

Sarah Murphy, currently working as an early intervention teacher at the Ministry of Education’s Hamilton Office, took on the Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching in 2014, specialising in early intervention.

Previous to this, Sarah began her education journey as a kindergarten teacher, after completing a degree in early childhood education at Wellington’s Victoria University – which was partly supported by a TeachNZ study grant.

After returning from an overseas jaunt, she decided the best way she could give back – while pursuing her own interests and passions at the same time – would be to start supporting children with additional learning needs by getting involved as early as possible.

For Sarah, specialising in early intervention was perfect – she’d heard about the qualification and the study award through an early intervention teacher at one of the kindergartens she’d taught at, and decided to take the leap.

So did her programme of study at Canterbury help to expand her understanding of one of the central tenets of education in New Zealand? Sarah is definitive in her answer.

An exciting frontier

“Early intervention is an exciting field, providing opportunities to support families and early childhood educators so that infants and young children can make early gains toward reaching their potential,” begins the brochure produced by Canterbury University that condenses the details of the Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching (Early Intervention).

Sarah finds her job as an early intervention teacher fulfilling, challenging and exciting every day, and she says the same applies to her completed programme of study.

“I find it exciting because we’re really looking at the wider educational picture. So for example, we’re now using something called ‘routines-based intervention’, which includes working with families to look at what their real priorities are [for their child’s education], and forming support plans around that.”

An EIT’s main role is to build the capabilities of families, caregivers and teachers to support the child’s learning and development in meaningful everyday contexts as they know the child best.

EITs work with families in a whānau-centred model where the goals and aspirations of the family are at the heart of the decision-making.

“Early intervention is fundamentally about enquiring as to the individual needs of children with additional learning, developmental, or behavioural needs, and creating an education plan based on getting to know them; that will in turn make the transition into primary school less daunting for these children and their families. We do this mostly through supporting the adults and specialists around these children to improve their ability to help.”

In at the deep end

Part of Sarah’s course of study was a practicum – designed to get the student into mentored practice out there in the big wide world. Sarah was seconded to the Ministry of Education office in Lower Hutt, and shadowed an early intervention teacher who had previously taught at a kindergarten where Sarah had worked.

Sarah discovered that the early intervention teacher’s day is about as varied as it gets. EIT’s can cover fairly large territories in the course of their day, going to different communities and centres. Things like home visits, visits to ECE centres and primary schools are common in the life of an EIT.

Sarah says, “Every child is an individual and learns in a different way, but the thing that really hit home for me was the degree to which it was necessary for me to adapt the way I would go about putting a plan in place. I just really liked how I was dealing with such a huge variety of people, a range of cultures, and a range of socio-economic backgrounds.”

Factbox: special education study awards and scholarships

What the award provides

The study award pays:

  • you a contribution towards your travel and accommodation for your study.
  • the University of Canterbury for your domestic tuition fees.
  • your employer for your study leave.
  • his information is an indication only. The letter of offer that the Ministry of Education will send you if you are accepted will provide the exact details of your study award.

Important dates

Applications close: 16 September 2015

Applications processed and selections made:
by 20 October 2015

Applicants and employers notified:
by 3 November 2015

Successful applicants accept awards:
by 17 November 2015

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for this award, you must:

  • Be employed as an early intervention teacher (EIT) or early childhood teacher by either:
    • an accredited early intervention
    • service provider.
    • a registered early childhood service.
  • Hold a Bachelor or Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood Education) or equivalent.
  • Be a fully registered teacher (you may be accepted onto the course if you are very close to registration by the time you start study (i.e., April), but you will need your university’s support to do so).
  • Have the approval of and support from your employer to take up the study.
  • Have worked for at least 3 years as a qualified early childhood teacher (this can include your time as a provisionally registered teacher).
  • Be a New Zealand citizen or have New Zealand permanent residency.

BY Jaylan Boyle
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 6:33 pm, 24 August 2015

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