Kai and Kōrero kaupapa

Issue: Volume 99, Number 3

Posted: 27 February 2020
Reference #: 1HA5yC

Disabled people need accessible education environments said participants at a forum on inclusive education held in Palmerston North last year.

More than 60 people from the education and disability sectors in the Manawatu took part in a Kai and Kōrero Inclusive Education  forum co-designed and co-led by Disability Rights Commissioner, Paula Tesoriero, Mana Whaikaha (pilot disability support system), and the Ministry of Education.

“All parts of the education system are undergoing the most radical change in
30 years, and teachers, principals and Boards want to know more about how they can make improvements for disabled people” says Paula. 

“The Kai and Kōrero forum is a chance for disabled people, and their whānau, educators and other networks to meet with each other, people who can make things happen in their community, and people who can influence change nationally through policy,” she adds.

Paula says parents and young people at the forum stressed the importance of fully accessible and inclusive learning environments, where the classrooms, bathrooms, outdoor spaces and technologies support students with visible and invisible disabilities. 

“No one disagreed with this ambition so the kōrero then shifted to how to make this happen in the Manawatu community. Members from Boards of Trustees were interested in hearing more about the expert perspectives of disabled students and their whānau. 

“Parents offered to help Boards run a sort of ‘warrant of fitness’ to check for any potential barriers to access or safety for their children could be highlighted and removed,” she says.

“Teachers talked about the importance of young disabled people having role models they can identify with in their community. Disabled young people immediately saw opportunities to create their own network as mentors of younger students.”

Diverse voices

The Palmerston North hui included a diversity of voices, with discussion focused on education’s role in shaping an inclusive society in the Manawatu.

Key themes that emerged from the forum included:

  • Focus on the skills, strengths and aspirations of all learners so they can realise their potential.
  • The families/whānau of disabled children can help lead the partnership with teachers
  • Grow Boards of Trustees’ knowledge and understanding about disability so they can help young people have the right support
  • Teacher training and attitudes are key to helping disabled learners

“The education system needs to be people-centred with a universal focus rather than a definition between students that require special needs assistance and those who don’t,” one participant noted.

Focus on strengths and inclusion

A focus on strengths, empowerment and a sense of belonging were considered to be crucial: with high expectations regarded as vital. As one teacher observed “Who are we (educators) to tell a young person what they can do and what their choices are?!”

Ideas for making a more inclusive and connected local community in Palmerston North include setting up a regional disability advisory group, networking and using mainstream students to mentor and work alongside disabled students. 

More disabled people working in schools – and seen to be doing meaningful work – was also seen as a way to change attitudes towards disability.

“One of the things that really struck me about these possibilities is how much of a resource disabled people, their families and networks can be teachers in schools, and for each other,” comments Paula.

The Human Rights Commission and the Ministry will continue to support these networks in Palmerston North as they navigate their next steps, says Nicola Meek, Ministry of Education.

“From leading nationwide conversations (Kōrero Mātauranga) on the future of education, and inviting people to co-design services with us, we are now being invited by communities to listen to their conversations.”

“We are learning what we need to do to support them to influence change and action in their own region and at the same time, embed their perspectives in policy and services.” 

There is potential for more Kai and Kōrero events to be held around the country to develop frameworks to empower communities to have robust conversations with decision makers or Government, she says.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 1:42 pm, 27 February 2020

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