Urgent talks sought on support placements

Claudia Vera
City Organiser

For too long, students with disability have lacked support

Federation is calling on the Department of Education to provide suitable and sufficient support class placements in a timely manner.

For many students with disability, general education classes in a mainstream school will be the best schooling option. However, for a small but significant minority of students, no amount of adjustments will change the fact that the complexities of a mainstream school are not conducive to either social or academic engagement.

It is unacceptable that the students who need the greatest level of transition planning, predictability and familiarity don’t know what school they’re going to until the very last few weeks of the year, when their most of their peers do know.

No family should be denied the stability of knowing the path of their child’s schooling or the knowledge that no matter where they go in the public education system they are welcome and wanted.

For too long students with disability have been denied crucial support, because of the Department’s lack of commitment to its obligation to provide necessary adjustments and provide accountability measures to keep these obligations in check. The Department has failed to implement and monitor transparent, timely procedures for students to access necessary support placements or funding and failed to provide sufficient School Counsellors and specialised training to navigate the complex departmental processes to seek such additional support. Instead, it has aided processes — such as the establishment of “Student Profiling — Informal Advice” to discourage schools from activating an Access Request or rejected Access Requests due, not to student ineligibility, but lack of available places, despite the professional advice from principals, teachers and allied health professionals.

Federation is seeking an urgent meeting with the Department to develop transparent, statewide support placement procedures. Across the state, not all Learning Support Teams, Access Requests and access to network level expertise is equal. Accessing an optimal context for learning and growing should not come down to pot luck of who is in your network and who you know.

Procedures should mandate that placement decisions be made and communicated to schools, students and their carers by no later than the beginning of term 3 each year, for necessary planning and transition. They should also mandate that all placements are made within reasonable proximity to the students’ home and local community.

The procedures should also ensure all students requiring a support placement are offered a placement, with explicit feedback and additional resources provided to schools where an application has been rejected.

Classes should be established where it is deemed to be needed. It is not a single school’s or individual’s choice to accept or reject their mandate to being a comprehensive establishment serving the full range of learners.

Federation will advocate for teachers to be trained on the initial identification of need, subsequent necessary procedures and the effective creation of Access Requests.

Teachers have always been best placed to advocate for their students. Teachers are called to continue their advocacy whenever faced with a situation where student learning needs are not being met; they should immediately raise and discuss the matter with their Federation Representative, Workplace Committee and Organiser.

Take part in the survey

Federation strongly encourages participation in the Learning and Support for Students with Disability survey being conducted by the Audit Office of NSW as part of its performance audit of the Department of Education.

Claudia Vera is the Officer attached to the Special Education Restricted Committee.

Waiting game must stop