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Ahead of the 2008 general election, the Dyslexia Foundation challenged political parties to provide information on their dyslexia-specific policies. We believed this information was important in allowing our members to make voting decisions in terms of which parties were prepared to give dyslexia the specific recognition and action it deserves. With voting now over and a new Government in place, we will nonetheless be keeping this page live on the DFNZ site, as a record of pre-election promises:


The National party engaged in a positive dialogue with the Foundation throughout the six months leading up to the election. At the time of the election it did not have a policy which dealt solely with dyslexia, saying it was difficult to make a detailed analysis of the situation from Opposition. However, it said its National Standards and Special Education policies were intended to help children with learning difficulties, including dyslexia.

Specifically, National’s “Crusade for Literacy and Numeracy” says that schools will be able to use targeted funding as they see fit to help children who aren’t meeting National Standards, and that one such use might be professional development for teachers to help them teach children with dyslexia or any other specific learning difficulties (p3). We also see some positives in National’s intention to provide better support for disruptive students (p5), as disruption can be telltale sign of a student who is finding it difficult to learn. And we note that there will be increased funding available for students with special education needs (p8).

There are some areas where the Foundation would like to see further refinement, particularly to ensure dyslexia is addressed in professional development for all teachers, not just as part of a targeted funding choice. We also believe there are some inherent issues around what sort of assessments will be used to judge whether a child meets National Standards. Dyslexic children traditionally struggle in an assessment environment, and these environments don’t necessarily cater to alternative ways of doing work recommended by dyslexia experts and our 4D programme.


ACT provided the following statement in response to our request:

“ACT will devolve funding decisions from the Ministry of Education back to schools and parents. Education scholarships will allow parents to send their children to the school that best suits their needs, rather than the current requirement which mandates they must go to their local school. Students with special education requirements will be eligible for an additional grant over and above the base level of funding per child. With funding following the child, schools will have ability to decide where and how their funds are spent - putting more money into special education courses and hiring additional special needs teachers to provide an increased level of one-on-one time with students.”

You can read a copy of ACT’s education policy at


UnitedFuture provided a very prompt response, and a summary of its position on dyslexia, as follows:

"We think it is extremely unsatisfactory that while Statistics New Zealand identify that 10% of all New Zealand children have a disability that requires some support in schools, only 1% of funding for compulsory education goes to the support of these children. Our policy recommends an increase immediately of 10% to ORRS [Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes] funding followed by a full review of what is necessary so that New Zealand State schools no longer have to exclude children when they don’t have teacher-aid support or dip into their own operational grant to make up for the shortfall in ORRS funding for their students with additional needs.

In the call for improved literacy rates among New Zealand students, we feel that the Government has overlooked a number of very practical and commonsense solutions. One is the identification of students with problems like dyslexia and better diagnosis and support … UnitedFuture is very keen after this election to follow through on some of those very basic issues seeing that some of the poor outcomes we currently see in literacy have very simple and straightforward solutions.”

The party also provided the following statement

“UnitedFuture believes that the starting place for improving literacy and numeracy in NZ is with investing more in diagnosing vision, hearing, dyslexic and other conditions that need specific interventions other than standard remedial programmes like reading recovery …

We also will insist that all teaching educators include a compulsory section on disability for training teachers… Can I direct you to our web site www.unitedfuture.org.nz and to our policies on Disability and Education. I can assure you that the additional resourcing we want to see for those with barriers to learning includes dyslexia. We also want more reader writers for secondary and tertiary students and for those doing trade exams."

For a full copy of UnitedFuture’s education policy, click here.


The Maori Party was also engaged with the Foundation in 2008 on the dyslexia agenda and education spokesman Te Ururoa Flavell raised several questions about funding for dyslexia in Parliament earlier in the year. The Maori party’s education policy release naturally views education issues in the context of Maori achievement.

The party has, however, signalled a strong commitment to addressing situations for children with learning difficulties. It also says that professional development for teachers, referenced in the party’s policy, remains critical in helping children to succeed.


Labour, which released its education policy in the final week of the campaign, said it intended to continue working with organisations who have expertise in assisting pupils with specific learning needs.  This included a commitment to move the funding the Government contributed to joint projects to a sustainable (on-going) basis, rather than ad hoc and projects based as is the case at present. The policy refers to dyslexia as follows:

“Personalising learning also means actively supporting children and young people who do not fit within the stereotypical ‘norm’. Gifted and talented students and pupils with dyslexia, for example, need the support of teachers trained to recognise and teach to their strengths, backed by quality professional development with curriculum support based on research about what works.

At present funding for this is provided on an application basis and for a fixed period of time. We intend to move the existing funding for organisations that deliver classroom and teacher development programmes for groups like gifted and talented students and pupils with dyslexia onto a more sustainable basis. This will help to spread best practice and develop centres of expertise for schools to draw on.”

DFNZ welcomes Labour’s acknowledgement of dyslexic students as having specific learning needs just like gifted and talented students, and its recognition of the need to teach these students to their strengths. The Foundation also backs professional development for teachers and research about what works. Finally, we were glad to see an intention to move toward sustainable funding for organisations offering development programmes.

We should add however that we became very frustrated with the Labour Government’s approach on dyslexia while in power, and its continued insistence on bundling up dyslexia with wider literacy interventions. The Foundation believes this approach is limited in scope and relevance, as dyslexia impacts a range of vectors, not just literacy – so we were glad to see that it appeared to have disappeared from their pre-election education policy. We also note that the Labour Government’s previous commitment to provide dyslexia specific funding for schools was not honoured. For more on the history of the Government funding debate, click here.

For a full copy of the Labour Party’s education policy, click here.


The Green Party provided the following statement in response to our request:

“The Green Party is grateful to the Dyslexia Foundation for their work over many years to raise awareness of the learning styles of children with dyslexia. Thank you for launching the 4D initiative in the context of inadequate official support for children, teachers and families.

We can not expect schools to respond to diverse learning needs with inadequate resourcing. The Green Party will immediately increase the school operations grant by 10%, reduce teacher:pupil ratios to 20 or fewer students in all year 1-8 classes, fund and promote best practice for ‘at risk’ learners across all schools, and hold a Commission of Inquiry into New Zealand’s education system. Funding support for low and moderate needs children should be targeted and where necessary matched with meaningful, achievable individual education programmes.

The Green Party celebrates diversity and we want a free education system that offers choice and access to a wide range of programmes to meet the diverse learning styles and needs of individuals - there are no 'bad' learners.  Every child has different learning needs and they should, and can, be met.”

Further information on the Green Party’s education policy can be found at



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