Families Choices: Choosing School(s). Part 1: Literature review, interviews and design of the questionnaire
In their examination of the impact of school choice policies on inclusive education in New Zealand, Gordon and Morton (2008) argue that there needs to be more research into “what kinds of choices are offered to disabled children and their families” (p.248) in order to find out how the policy of “choice” impacts on disabled children and their families. The aim of the Families choices: Choosing School(s) project is to describe the kinds of choices parents, caregivers, and/or whänau face when their disabled child or children start school, or change school. What kinds of decisions do parents have to make? What sorts of things influence those decisions? The project targets the experiences of families whose son or daughter has had an application made for ORRS funding under the criteria of ‘learning’ or ‘language use and social communication.’ The application for ORRS did not have to be successful. This report covers Part 1 of the project. The aim of Part 1 was to develop a questionnaire to be used in a national survey of parents. The development has been informed by a review of New Zealand and international literature looking at the decisions parents made about where their disabled children went to school. There appear to be few empirical studies of this kind. The review identified three groupings of factors that shaped parents experiences and decisions: factors related to the prevailing attitudes and philosophies in the school; factors related to the school environment and educational provision and factors that are idiosyncratic to the child (including for example that their siblings attend the same school). These factors were explored in more depth with five New Zealand parents. The parents were interviewed to determine the applicability of questions used in other survey studies. The interviews and the literature review provided the foundation for the development of questions and response categories for a questionnaire for a Part 2 study. This report also describes a sampling strategy for Part 2 of the project. Data from Education Counts provided figures for the numbers of students enrolled in schools by year group, including special schools. Data from the ORRS scheme provided the numbers of students who applied for ORRS funding in each of the 17 GSE defined regions in New Zealand. Part 2 of the project needs to receive 1400 completed surveys to achieve a nationally representative sample that includes sufficient numbers in the smallest smallest regions. Three approaches to sending and receiving surveys are suggested.