Disability support rebuff

Claudia Vera
City Organiser

Teachers called for more support to meet disability needs

After reviewing specialist support for students with disability the Department of Education claims that the current system is not broken, is responsive to need and that no students with disability are missing out on the services they need.

These claims come at a time of great uncertainty for many students and their families awaiting confirmation of support funding and placements for the new school year.

At an association meeting in south-west Sydney, one principal reported having 40 placement applications but only 10 vacancies to offer. At another association meeting in Wollondilly, schools seeking support for students with disability shared stories of the Department’s blocking tactics, which range from asking the schools to re-do functional assessments to fit available resources, to having students ranked at placement panels, with suitable and eligible students missing out on support due to lack of placements.

Experience shows that many students who miss out on support find themselves on a trajectory towards juvenile detention that could have been avoided with earlier intervention, members at a western Sydney association meeting warned. Other teachers spoke of lacking adequate training and support to meet their students’ needs and how this manifested in low morale, increased stress and unnecessary disruptions created for other students in the class.

These are not isolated incidents: whole cohorts of students with disability are starting and finishing primary school without any significant improvements to levels of support or to their educational outcomes.

With recurrent needs-based funding there is no excuse for equitable access to quality education to be blocked for any student. The refusal by the federal government to implement the Gonski Students with Disability loading continues to deny support for schools to respond to diverse need.

To address these issues, Federation calls on every workplace and member to make submissions to the NSW Legislative Council’s parliamentary inquiry into the provision of education to students with disability. Information on the inquiry and resources to support the development of submissions can be found at here.

Please do not miss this opportunity to share the evidence of your teaching experience and the profession’s views on what should be happening in an inclusive public education system — the cost of inaction and the potential of improvement are too great to ignore.

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