Education in New Zealand Sign Language

In December 2023, the Ministry was advised that the Ombudsman had concluded that it was not satisfied that the Ministry has in place an operationally useful or effective strategy to progress New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) in education.

Stages of the development map for NZSL in education (the Map)

Created in 2018 to align the NZSL Board’s NZSL Strategy (2018-2023) for the long-term promotion and maintenance of NZSL, the aim of the Map is to guide further progress towards an education system where children and young people with NZSL as their first or preferred language are welcome and where their progress, wellbeing and participation is valued and supported to enable achievement at levels similar to hearing peers.

The Map outlines a framework for change over different components of NZSL in education at a system level. There is not a fixed timeframe on the Map as many actions are budget and policy dependent.

The actions suggested within the Map related to education in early childhood and school settings, but the support of other agencies and organisations may be needed to progress some of the work.

Recommendations of the Chief Ombudsman for the Ministry

  1. Reviews and revises its key strategy (the Map) for progressing access to NZSL in education in accordance with my findings, within a 12-month period. At a minimum, I expect the Ministry’s review to include the following elements:
    1. under each goal in the Map, a clear and coordinated roadmap to show how the Ministry will achieve each of the goals. This includes specific steps required to progress the actions within the Map, as well as timeframes to achieve these steps and lines of accountability,
    2. consultation with its key stakeholders to assist in creating an implementation framework to underpin the goals of the Map, such as decisions on which parts of the Map should be prioritised,
    3. an implementation framework that provides an indication of priorities for actions and budget bids, and
    4. a clear explanation of all dependencies and specifically how these could hinder the progress of each action or task.
  2. Provides quarterly progress reports to the Ombudsman including the following elements:
    1. a summary of the Ministry’s progress of its review and revision of the Map,
    2. summary of the Ministry’s communication with its key stakeholders in relation to the review, and
    3. a time-bound plan to publish and report against the Ministry’s redeveloped strategy for progressing access to NZSL in education.

In January 2024, the Ministry accepted all these recommendations and actions are underway to deliver them.

NZSL version of the Chief Ombudsman’s opinion – Vimeo (Ombudsman)(external link)

Full written of the Chief Ombudsman’s report – Ombudsman(external link)

New Zealand Sign Language Sector Advisory Group

Established in 2013, the NZSL Sector Advisory Group (SAG) has been operating for over 10 years and meets 3 to 4 times a year. The group is made up of Deaf education stakeholders, professionals, and individuals from the Deaf community.

The role of the NZSL SAG is to advise the Ministry on how to best respond to the needs of the Deaf community in relation to acquisition, access and the use of NZSL within the education system of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The NZSL SAG met on 27 March 2024. The members were committed to a positive reset having not met for more than a year. The NZSL SAG unanimously agreed on priorities focusing on education for deaf[1] children in NZSL. The priorities are:

  • Use of NZSL in the education system.
  • Acquisition of NZSL in the education system.
  • Increase NZSL workforce in the education system.

Key messages from NZSL SAG meeting on 27 March 2024

NZSL SAG key messages

  1. The NZSL SAG came together for the first time since November 2022 and had a very positive meeting with relationships being formed and a way forward established.
  2. We worked on the Group’s Terms of Reference and a working party is being established to update this document.
  3. The Development Map is being reviewed through the development of a working party, which is also being established.
  4. The Ministry has accepted the recommendations from the Ombudsman’s report.
  5. We made an important distinction between ‘New Zealand Sign Language in education’ and ‘Education in New Zealand Sign Language’ and further refinement to the statement ended with ‘Education for Deaf children in NZSL’ as the focus of this Advisory group moving forward.
  6. The next NZSL SAG meeting will be held in July 2024.
  • The NZSL SAG acknowledges that culture and language cannot be separated. Deaf is a label of cultural identity, a way of being and communicating shared by people who feel most akin to other deaf, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, hearing loss, disability, or nationality.

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