2011 Client Satisfaction Survey

Publication Details

This report presents a summary of findings from the Special Education Services 2011 Client Satisfaction Survey and discusses potential improvements to the design of the survey, in order to ensure the findings from subsequent surveys are as meaningful and useful as possible.

Author(s): Luke Smith, Research Division, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: August 2011

Executive Summary

The Ministry of Education: Special Education (SE) carries out an annual Client Satisfaction Survey (CSS) of parents and educators as part of their commitment to continually improve SE services.

"Your service has been a godsend to our family and helped us cope with a lot of big decisions and steps regarding our son's advancement. Thank you!"[Parent feedback]

"I continuously sing your praise. The help that I received exceeded my expectations, without their help and guidance I would not have been able to cope."[Parent feedback]

Special Education supports teaching and learning programmes, and adapt[s] these to meet the needs of our students. This service is vital in meeting the needs of our ORS/HH students"[Educator feedback]


A postal survey, with the option to complete the form online, was delivered to a sample of 2,021 parents and 1,865 educators during May 2011. The overall response rate for the survey was 34%, including 22% of parents and 47% of educators. Due to the low response rate, findings should be treated as indicative of trends in the wider population of SE service users, rather than truly representative.

This report draws on analysis of quantitative data from the CSS, and a thematic summary of responses to the open-ended question.

Key findings

Most parents and educators are satisfied with the service provided by SE.

Approximately three-quarters (76%) of parents and two-thirds (64%) of educators who answered the survey indicated that they were satisfied with the overall service provided by SE. About one-in-ten parents and educators reported being dissatisfied with SE service provision (10% and 13% respectively).

Parents and educators appear to be more satisfied with early intervention and communication services than behaviour or ORS/high needs. However, due to low sample sizes within these sub-groups it is not clear whether these differences are statistically significant.

Parents and educators view the professionalism and experience of SE staff as strengths of the service.

The survey asked respondents about a range of factors associated with service provision. For example, whether they were treated fairly, or received all of the information that they needed. The factors which parents and educators responded most positively to included:

  • I feel cultural needs were well considered in the way SE staff worked with our child and family.
  • I was treated fairly.
  • Staff were competent.

This indicates strongly that parents and educators view the professionalism and experience of SE staff as strengths of the service.

Parents and educators view the time it takes to access SE services as the area most in need of improvement.

The factors which parents and educators responded least positively to included:

  • Overall, how satisfied were you with the amount of time it took to get the service?
  • Special education made it easy for me to work with them.

Analysis of responses to the open-ended question identified three key issues, raised by a large number of respondents:

  • Long waiting times for access to services.
  • Variable quality of service – from excellent to unsatisfactory service, depending on 'who you get'.
  • 'Frustrating' processes required to access and renew sufficient SE services for children.

Across both quantitative and qualitative responses, time taken to access services was the most frequently cited concern by a significant margin. Approximately one-in-five parents and educators were dissatisfied with the length of time it took to access SE services (22% for both groups).

There has been little change in parents' satisfaction with SE services; however educators are less satisfied with service provision than they were in 2010.

The number of parents who were satisfied overall with SE services is slightly higher in the 2011 CSS than the previous survey. However, this difference is not statistically significant. The number of educators who were satisfied overall with SE services is six percentage points lower in the 2011 CSS than the previous survey. This difference is statistically significant, and analysis indicates that the actual difference is likely to be between two and ten percentage points lower than the previous year.

The size of this decline in satisfaction among educators is very similar to a significant drop in satisfaction with time taken to access SE services. This indicates that increasing dissatisfaction with long waiting times for access to SE services is a significant contributing factor to the decline in overall satisfaction among educators.

Due to removal of the 'not applicable' option in the 2011 survey, detailed comparison with 2010 data is not possible for most items.

Parents of Māori children with special education needs appear to be at least as satisfied with SE services as parents of non-Māori children

The majority of parents of Māori children were satisfied with the overall service provided by SE (81%), and feel that the cultural needs of their family were well considered (89%). These figures are higher than for parents of non-Māori children (75% and 85% respectively). However, due to the small number of these parents in the sample, it is not possible to determine whether this is a statistically significant effect.

Note that due to very low response numbers, individual figures are not available for services provided to Pacific children with special education needs.

Findings indicate that SE service delivery is closely aligned with the majority of the values in the Service Promise.

Analysis of items from the survey related to each of the five aspects of the SE Service Promise indicate that current service delivery is closely aligned with the majority of these values. Parents' and educators' responses indicate that 'we will do what we say we will do in a timely manner' is an area which needs improvement. Likewise, educators' responses indicate that 'we will make it easy for you to work with us' requires some improvement.

Compared with other New Zealand organisations, satisfaction with SE services appears to be relatively high.

Compared with data from the 2009 Kiwis Count survey, which measured satisfaction with public service provision in New Zealand, parents report relatively higher rates of satisfaction across all six indicators, while educators report higher satisfaction on four of six indicators. This indicates that compared with the wider public service, users of SE services are relatively more satisfied.

Next steps: CSS Survey 2012

While the changes to the CSS have improved the quality of data in the 2010 and 2011 surveys, and enabled a consistent national picture to emerge, several design aspects of the survey and sample design could be improved. Most importantly, several things can be done to attempt to increase the response rate; increasing the confidence we can have that the findings from the CSS are accurate reflections of all SE service users. SE are currently reviewing how they carry out the CSS, to improve the process from the 2012 survey onwards. The Research Division will provide input into this review process.

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