Deaf children and their families/whānau have the right to equal and appropriate access to the National Curriculum and educational services through the provision of staff proficient in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). However, there are still many barriers that Deaf children and their families face.
For Deaf students
There are a limited number of teachers fluent in NZSL, and limited availability of NZSL interpreters in mainstreamed schools. This means in their classrooms, Deaf students do not have an equal access as their hearing peers.
For hearing students
While many schools offer students the opportunity to learn Māori or a foreign language, NZSL is not offered as a subject despite being an official language. Deaf Aotearoa encourages all schools in New Zealand to offer NZSL.
Primary and secondary education
A number of organisations provide Deaf education in New Zealand. Each organisation has a clear role and works collaboratively with others to provide services to Deaf children, their families and their schools.
Deaf education centres
Deaf education centres provide preschool services and schooling for day students (including satellite classes within mainstream schools), and for those staying within their own residential facilities.
They also provide regional mainstream and resource services through the Resource Teachers of the Deaf and Specialist Services. Information and resources are available for sign language and spoken language, literacy, Deaf studies and other information is available on their websites. Courses are provided for classroom teachers and families.
- Kelston Deaf Education Centre, based in Auckland, provides services to those in the northern part of the North Island.
- Van Asch Deaf Education Centre, based in Christchurch, provides services to the remaining parts of the North Island and the whole of the South Island.
Ministry of Education Special Education Service
The Ministry of Education's Special Education service has Advisors on Deaf Children working throughout New Zealand. They work with newly-diagnosed deaf children and their families as well as the circle of people working around Deaf children in schools.
A number of tertiary education institutions provide specialist services for Deaf students.
New Zealand Federation for Deaf Children
The New Zealand Federation for Deaf Children provides a wealth of support for parents of Deaf children and their families. There are local parent groups throughout New Zealand.
Deaf parents of hearing students
Deaf parents may need the services of interpreters to understand and fully participate in their childrens' school activities such as fundraising and sports events, PTA meetings and parent/teacher interviews. iSign has secured funding from the Ministry of Education to pay for Deaf parents' interpreting needs.
In addition, many hearing parents have little understanding of Deaf parents, and their culture and values. It would be ideal if schools provided Deaf awareness and/or sign language workshops for hearing parents.