9 Feb 2017

'I'm tired of having teenagers telling me their suicide plans'

5:40 am on 9 February 2017

Disabled schoolchildren are suicidal and stressed because they are not getting enough help for their disabilities, the Education and Science Select Committee has been told.

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Photo: 123rf.com

At the final hearing of submissions on the Education (Update) Amendment Bill yesterday, speech language therapist Shannon Hennig said the bill should be used to make schools more inclusive of children with disabilities.

She said children deserved a full education, regardless of any impairments they might have, but that was not happening and many children were suffering.

"I'm tired of having teenagers telling me their suicide plans and I'm tired of 8-year-olds telling me they've been kicked out of another school," she said.

"I just see so much emotional stress and anxiety, and kids throwing up afraid to go to school, and parents dropping out of the workforce and not paying taxes for these teenagers who are just at home."

Dr Hennig said the online schools proposed by the bill were not the answer for children who were being let down by the current system.

"They need to be taught not with online communities of learning, but with someone who believes in them and can hold them together while they go through that journey."

Online schools

Bronwen Cross, a former employee of the Post Primary Teachers Association, also opposed the plan for online schools, known as COOLs.

She told the committee the online schools would spell the end for many rural secondary schools.

"This is the death knell for rural secondary schools," she said.

"Roughly every time you lose 20 kids you're going to lose a teacher, you're going to knock a subject off the timetable."

Ms Cross said New Zealand already had too many schools and it did not need more.

"We are constantly in a situation of opening tiny, non-viable schools and splitting the funding," she said.

"We could have one to 15 class sizes throughout New Zealand if we did what the Finns did and had solid, comprehensive schools with a range of subjects and options within them. But instead we are going for the sort of 'everybody has to have a school where the dairy was'."

Ms Cross said the result was a lot of spending on buildings and not enough on teaching and learning.

School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr told the committee it opposed the bill's creation of online schools, because there was too little detail about them.

She said the association also opposed plans to introduce national education priorities because they could stop schools from tailoring lessons to the needs of their local community.

"What's good for Wellington isn't necessarily good for Turangi," she said.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.