Feeling let down: Simon and Lucy Wilkinson with their son, Tui


Queenstown parents are devastated Ministry of Education’s (MoE) refused support funding for a son with high learning needs, despite admitting he meets the criteria.

Eleven-year-old Tui Wilkinson’s school, Remarkables Primary, received in-class support for the past two years that definitely helped him, his parents Lucy and Simon say.

But the school’s request for in-class support this year, as Tui enters Year 7, has been declined.

MoE says he qualified but other kids’ needs are even greater.

Regional director of education Julie Anderson tells Lucy and Simon: ‘‘In this application round, the number of applications from Otago and Southland was almost three times the number of available places, and the majority of those applications met the criteria.’’

Lucy says she’s ‘‘gobsmacked’’ so many kids will miss out this year — ‘the thing that really riles me is it’s not just Tui’’.

She notes MoE, in justifying its rejection, mentions Tui’s made some learning shifts with his maths, but she says ‘‘he’s still at the beginning of Level 2 [of the New Zealand curriculum], and most of the children [at Year 7] will be learning at Level 4’’.

‘‘We now potentially stand to lose those gains because he’s just going to be left floundering.’’

Simon points out Tui’s only two years from high school, but still can’t read or write.

‘‘Surely he needs the help so he can go to high school and be able to do two of the really basic functions we all need in the world?’’

Tui was first diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder at 30 months and has since been found to have ADHD and autism, too.

His in-class support the past two years has comprised one-on-one support from a teacher aide for an hour every school day.

In querying MoE’s decision, Lucy and Simon have copied in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern,
Education Minister Chris Hipkins and local MP Joseph Mooney.

The latter — the only politician to reply so far — is referring the matter to his National Party’s education spokesman, Paul Goldsmith.

Jann Marshall, MoE’s acting deputy secretary for sector enablement and support, confirms
‘‘unfortunately’’ there were more applications than funding available for in-class support this year.

‘‘While this student’s in-class support application was declined, this does not mean they will not receive support.

‘‘We are confident the school is able to cater to this student’s needs, and we remain available to provide advice should it be needed.’’

Marshall refers to a special education grant schools receive to support students with learning needs, and other extra support like an additional $163 million for teacher aide support for students with high and complex learning needs.