A school in Nelson has been granted wider student access in the wake of a Government announcement on support for special needs students. The Salisbury School is the only school in New Zealand specifically established for girls who have intellectual disabilities. As a result of this announcement, the school expects that it will be able to grow its roll from 9 students to 20 students.
In late 2017, it won a battle that had started under the previous National-led Government which believed that it would be best for New Zealand if Salisbury closed. During the tenure of former Minister of Education Hekia Parata, the school launched a formal challenge to make sure it could not be closed. Shortly after Ms Parata was replaced in a pre-election shake up, her replacement Nikki Kaye announced a 6 month extension that would keep the school open until the end of Term 2 in 2018. In November 2017, the Minister of Education in the new Labour-led Government, Chris Hipkins announced that the School would remain open.
During Select Committee hearings vehement opposition was aroused. The opposition stemmed from a review of Salisbury School at the same time that a number of schools were having their future reviewed by the Government.
The victory at Salisbury School is not just a victory for girls education but for all students at the school as well as their wider community.
The girls at the school all have degrees of intellectual disability. All of them require additional assistance and were judged as being highly vulnerable and not being able to cope in the wider community should Salisbury School be subject to closure. They are part of the Intensive Wraparound Service (I.W.S.), specifically designed for students with complex and challenging needs.
As a neighbour to a school in Christchurch for the physically and mentally handicapped, I am in total support of specialist schools such as Salisbury. If we use the students at the school next to my place as a guide, many students would not have a chance in a mainstream class room. They would find it too stressful, might well end up putting themselves, staff and other students in danger trying to react to an environment that they may perceive as hostile.
Some of them would advance to a stage where they might be able to do work placement under special supervision. Others however the school is as much a day care facility for parents who would otherwise be unable to care for their children 24/7/365.