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History of the RTLB service

Overall aim

The Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) service aims to improve learning and teaching for students with learning or behaviour difficulties.

RTLB are a group of itinerant specialists who provide support to ensure good educational outcomes for Years 1-10 students.

Special Education 2000

The Special Education 2000 initiative (developed from 1995-2000) focused on inclusive education and the provision of a more consistent approach to special education needs. The Ministry of Education established the RTLB service in 1998/9 as part of this initiative. The service would provide a more consistent approach to catering for students with additional learning and behaviour needs. The Ministry divided RTLB into cluster groups based on designated geographical areas to provide a shared service to the schools within that area. The Board of Trustees (BOT) of one school in each cluster became the cluster lead school and employed, accommodated, and managed the RTLB personnel.

With the large number of clusters there were some inconsistencies in the way the service was delivered. At the request of the Government early in 2000, Dr Cathy Wylie, an educational researcher, carried out a Review of Special Education 2000. The Review was released in August 2000. It reported an increase in a positive view of the RTLB service but did highlight some areas for improvement. As a result, the Ministry developed clearer criteria for the provision of the service (see pages 92 and 93 of the review).

The 2004 ERO report

In 2004, an Education Review Office (ERO) report highlighted a need for more consistency in delivery of the RTLB service across New Zealand (see 2004 ERO report.pdf  1 MB ). This report found many positive examples of RTLB practice with 62.5% of the clusters able to provide evidence of the improvements the service had made to student achievement.

ERO expressed concern that 37.5% of the clusters could provide little or no evidence the service had made a difference, and that only 20% of the clusters could provide evidence of improvements in Māori student achievement. This report made some recommendations for improvement to the service such as:

  • improve the quality and consistency of the RTLB service
  • provide supervision and support to practitioners
  • increase the effectiveness of the service for Māori students.

In response to this, the Ministry of Education formed an RTLB Project Team to develop the Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) Policy and Toolkit (2007). This document provided schools with guidelines for the management and accountability of the RTLB.

The 2009 ERO report

In 2009, ERO reviewed the RTLB service again (see 2009 ERO report.pdf  355 kB ). The report suggested little had changed from 2004, largely because the governance and management structures had not changed. As in 2004, ERO found examples of good practice but these were evident in just under half of the clusters they reviewed. Just over half of the clusters were not well managed, with needs and priorities not identified or RTLB not being employed appropriately.

In some cases ERO noted a lack of support for RTLB and ineffective monitoring of practice. It questioned the service’s value for money because of inconsistencies in many areas, including management, evidence of effectiveness, use of data to inform practice, self-review, accountability, and practice. ERO recommended a review of the cluster model to ensure a more cohesive delivery, better management of the service, and a more effective allocation of resources on the basis of need.

By 2009/2010 there were approximately 200 clusters throughout New Zealand and it was evident from the two ERO reports that this was becoming unwieldy and hard to manage. In addition, the education sector had expressed concerns about the provision of the service, as noted in the later Ministry hui presentation to RTLB and principals, May/June 2011 (see RTLB regional meeting presentation 23 May[1].pdf  485 kB ).

The RTLB 2010 review and transformation

In September 2010, the then Minister of Education, Minister Tolley, instructed the Ministry of Education to review and transform the RTLB service. The Ministry was keen to achieve greater governance, better alignment with other special education services, stronger professional leadership, more consistent practice, a focus on Māori and Pasifika students, and better support systems for RTLB. The aim of the transformation was to ensure a better deal for students with learning and behaviour difficulties.

The RTLB transformation took place at the beginning of 2012 with 40 RTLB clusters.

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