Education for All?

This year I have been focused on getting a better deal for kids and families with learning needs such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum. We had a Select Committee inquiry into the issues faced, but the Government was too scared to make the recommendations needed for actual change. Despite initiating the inquiry, I was unable to stand behind the final recommendations as they just didn’t go far enough or do justice to the hundreds of people we had come to speak to us.

Yesterday, I hosted an event with the support of Labour and NZ First to listen to the community and their response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism Spectrum. We heard first from Dr Huhana Hickey, a Tainui wahine toa who is also a post-doctoral scholar in Māori health at AUT. Her message was clear – tangata whenua are grossly overrepresented in learning difference and disability statistics, so listen to us! She also reminded us about the UN Conventions which need to be in the Education Act to protect rights for all.

Dr Huhana Hickey, Etta Bollinger, and Giovanni Tiso at the Education for All community forum at Parliament.


Sarah Sharpe is a teacher with the dyslexia class at Kāpiti College. She presented about the NCEA results of students with dyslexia who get proper support. They are equaling and sometimes out-performing their peers at school. The students from her class then spoke about their view of the Inquiry. It was straight up. They said Government must stop researching and listen to them that ‘Reading Recovery fails us’. They know what works and it’s not expensive. One student spoke about her great experience without being dyslexic but having the option of being a member of this supportive, and creative educational class. A number of students brought us to tears when they talked about how they have been bullied and teased by students and teachers for being ‘stupid’ until they came to Kāpiti College.

Etta Bollinger speaking at Parliament as part of Education for All community forum

Etta Bollinger who is a young sociologist and writer with a physical impairment talked about the rights of all people as citizens and the experience of being “the problem” rather than living in a just and inclusive society. She gave a powerful affirmation to the other young people about the right to take their place in the world and the importance of getting it right for what happens after finishing school.

Giovanni Tiso is Chair of the Board of Berhampore School and a parent of children with autism. He described how their school developed into a magnet by a culture of total commitment to inclusion and he reminded us that it is not possible to replicate the level of engagement with these issues across the country. He also commended the political parties who wrote the Minority Report on the Inquiry for challenging the structural barriers to an incisive education system.

Bernadette McCartney is a parent, teacher and member of the Inclusive Education Action Group. She is crystal clear that labeling and excluding the wonderful young people in our community is totally unacceptable and her passion for human rights, families, and educational justice is inspiring. Bernadette also challenged the absurd competitive funding model and asked which children do not deserve support to access education?

This meeting honoured the submitters to the Inquiry who called for fundamental change to a broken learning support system. The Government will feel more pressure in this issue from a wide range of people next year and the Green Party will be right beside them with our absolute commitment to education for all.