A teenager with the mental age of a 7-year-old and prone to violent outbursts has been refused additional teacher funding to help his school cater for his needs.
Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell is astounded the Education Ministry could rule that Ashley Sullivan, 14, does not meet the criteria for funding.
Ashley has Asperger's syndrome, ADHD, epilepsy, a global developmental delay of seven years, intellectual disabilities and post-traumatic stress syndrome from being in the two largest Christchurch earthquakes.
Ashley's parents, Belinda and Ivan, spoke out this week, saying the family needed more support in dealing with their son's challenging behaviour. He needs intensive one-on-one support in his learning and social interactions.
"There's no rhyme or reason," Mr Randell said. "It's one of those things that some ministry person has made a call on and I really question it."
Ashley was receiving some funding when he arrived at the Tauranga school last year after Halswell Residential College in Christchurch was damaged by the earthquakes. A ministry assessment this year determined he no longer needed funding.
Head of the special-needs unit at Otumoetai College Caly Pillay said without support Ashley would not reach his potential and was being set up to fail in life. "He is unable to work at the same academic level as his peers. He has significant problems with social interactions with his peers and others which result in aggressive outbursts. These are successfully managed at school but require one-to-one support," she said.
"Ashley needs constant support and management of his interactions with others. If Ashley is unsupported in a classroom setting he becomes easily distracted, side-tracked and unable to remain focused on the task at hand.
"He needs curriculum adaptation at level one to learn which is provided by Special Education staff who understand the requirements of his disability."
Of 23 students in the unit, four, including Ashley, were unfunded.
"Because Ashley is not funded it means that the units resources are stretched to provide the support he needs and the support provided for the other students is compromised at times. If the unit continues to get unfunded students staffing will be cut and the unit will cease to operate at the level of success it currently does with these students," Ms Pillay said. Without the high level of support he was getting it was unlikely Ashley would be able to remain at school.
Mr Randell said all the students in the unit were affected by unfunded students as the same resources had to be shared among more people. "I feel for my staff, his parents and Ashley," he said. "We need help."
A ministry spokesperson said the school's application for funding was declined because Ashley did not meet the necessary criteria. The ministry's website says students are eligible when they require intervention from specialists for access to the curriculum or adaptation of curriculum content. "A psychologist is assisting Otumoetai College to support the student and the ministry will continue to work with the school to ensure appropriate supports are provided," the spokesperson said.