The voice of the vulnerable child in our New Zealand Education legislation : Rights and Skills Dr. Dorothy Howie, School of Psychology, University of Auckland.
Positioning of the vulnerable child Positioning within our education legislation • View of the child as a person • Right to a voice • Right to appropriate and inclusive education (Howie,D, 2010, International Journal of Inclusive Education,14, 755 – 776)
Right to a voice • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) - a key right to a voice • NZ Children’s Commissioner Act (2003) -Commissioner to promote the UN Convention -Commissioner to be an advocate for children, ‘giving serious consideration to the views of children and taking those views into account’ -Commissioner ‘to promote, in relation to decisions that effect the lives of the children • The participation of children in those decisions • An approach to children’s views that, in each case, gives due weight to those views, in relation to age and maturity of the relevant child’
Right to a voice in NZ education legislation • New Zealand 1989 Education Act gave no clear general right to a voice • The 1998 Education Amendment (No.2 Act) has a provision for the voice of the child within its suspension procedures : ‘if a student has been suspended, the student, the student’s parents, and their representatives, are entitled to attend at least one meeting of the Board, to speak at that meeting, and to have their views considered by the Board before it decides whether to lift or extend the suspension or exclude or expel the student’
No voice for the child in provision and placement decisions • Only the parent is given a voice when a decision is made about special educational provision (Sections 9 and 10) • The learner is placed in a non-agentive position in the section conferring the right to guidance and counselling : ‘student’s parents are told of matters that in the principal’s opinion…are preventing and slowing pupil progress’ (Section 10) • Passive positioning phrases such as : reconsideration of special education direction ‘may require the child or other person concerned to be produced’ (Section 10).
Comparison with the UK • UK 1994 Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Children with Special Educational Needs : ‘children have the right to be heard. They should be encouraged to participate in decision-making about provision to meet their special educational needs’ • UK 2001 Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (DfES) : the voice of the child is stated as a fundamental principle at the beginning of the Code.
Partnership and personalisation 2004 UK Secretary for Education and Skills presented a Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners in which a key principle for reform is stated as ‘greater personalisation and choice’ with ‘the wishes and needs of children, parents and learners centre-stage’ (Foreword).
NZ Charter rights and partnership with learners • The original NZ 1989 Education Act gave opportunity for learners to play a role as partners in the School Charter provisions, with the requirement that it be developed in consultation with parents ‘and any other people it sees fit’ (Section 61,3c) • This provision is no longer there. • There does still remain the expectation that ‘the school and its students and community, achieve the aims and objectives of the charter’ (Section 63). • Contrast with the Standards in Scotland’s Schools Act which has a requirement to consult pupils attending the school in preparing the school plan.
Skills needed for positive positioning and having a voice A distinction can be made between : • The right to position oneself and have a voice ( a moral capacity) • The skills which a child might have to exercise this right ( a learnt capacity)
Teaching thinking and decision-making skills • The New Zealand 2007 National Curriculum has the teaching of thinking as a key competency. • All schools are required to ensure that all of its learners are taught the skills involved in thinking, the self-management of learning, and the sorts of decision-making which are involved in the choice aspect of personalised learning.
Teaching thinking and inclusion • My 2011 book ‘Teaching Students Thinking Skills and Strategies : A Framework for Cognitive Education in Inclusive Settings’ brought together the teaching of thinking and inclusion • It presents a three tier model : Tier 1 : teaching thinking for all, with approaches which are integral to all classroom teaching and learning Tier 2 : working with small groups with shared learning needs for further support in the teaching of thinking Tier 3 : working with individuals with unique and complex learning needs for further individual support in the teaching of thinking
Examples at different tier levels, relevant to having a voice • Tier 1 : Sternberg’s problem solving cycle and metacognitive work. Also exampled at Tier 3 level with persons in rehabilitation with brain damage, being taught the problem solving cycle skills of defining the problem, planning, problem representation, and self-monitoring, for decision-making and real life problem solving. • Tier 2: Meichenbaum’s cognitive behavioural approach, using similar problem solving steps as those of Sternberg, but incorporating Vygosky’s socio-cultural ‘internalising’ of thinking through social, egocentric, and then private speech.
Tier 2 : work with Maori students • Used Feuerstein’s approach to the teaching of thinking, used internationally as the most effective approach with vulnerable and low achieving students • The approach, ‘Instrumental Enrichment’ uses instruments or tools to address both cognitive and emotional/motivational needs • Worked in partnership with Maori teachers to use the approach with the lowest third form Maori achievers at a South Auckland secondary school
Training for self advocacy • Use of Vygotskian Socio-cultural Theory and Feuerstein’s Theory of Mediated Learning Experience with emphasis on human mediation and scaffolding of skills • Work with young people with learning and emotional difficulties attending the Auckland Sheltered workshops (the individualised approach to training could be considered a tier 3 example) • Training involved the assessment and teaching of both decision-making and self-advocacy skills
Example of training for self advocacy skills for one young learner of Pasifika background Targeted self-advocacy/ having a voice tasks, trained through a dynamic assessment procedure, involving systematic scaffolding : • ‘asking for help’ – required highest level of scaffolding for first problem, the next highest level for the second problem, then no scaffolding for the last problem • ‘asking for skill training’ - required only level 1 scaffolding in first problem presented • ‘asking for representation’- required level 1 scaffolding for first problem, level 2 scaffolding for second problem, then no scaffolding for last problem • ‘asking for equal opportunity’-required no scaffolding for each of the three problems • ‘asking for confidentiality’ required no scaffolding for the three problems.