Hearings are underway for the NSW Legislative Council parliamentary inquiry into the provision of education to students with disability and special needs in government and non-government schools in NSW.
Eight hearings, which are open to the public and are being webcast, will be held in both Sydney and regional centres of NSW. The dates and agendas for these hearings are available on the inquiry website.
The hearings follow the submissions process, which saw hundreds of Federation members, through individual, workplace or Association submissions, call for improved provision of education to students with disability in public schools.
Committee Chair, Mike Gallacher (Liberal) opened the first hearing, on Monday April 27 in Sydney by outlining the scope of the inquiry: “This broad-ranging inquiry will consider a number of important issues including equity of access to resources for students with a disability or special needs across the State,” he said. “It will also examine the Every Student, Every School policy and current complaint and review mechanisms. The committee will also examine any developments that have taken place since the last upper House inquiry into disability education in 2010.”
The first hearing saw witnesses from the Department of Education and principal organisations give evidence to the Committee.
Robyn Bale, the Department's Relieving Executive Director, Learning and Wellbeing, said the Department recognised the impact of disability on students’ families and was committed to providing high-quality education for all students in NSW public schools.
“We also acknowledge that some submissions to this inquiry raise serious concerns," she said.
Primary Principals Association Vice President Dianne Robertson said there was no lack of commitment by leaders, parents, teachers and student learning support officers to make a difference in the lives of students with disabilities.
“The issue is ensuring funding meets need," she said, adding, "It is evident that the gap is narrowing between some provision of services to students with disability and special needs and the number of students now presenting to NSW public schools.”
Special Education Principals and Leaders Association President, Peter Skinner called for equity, stating that students with disabilities are entitled to an education on the same basis as their non-disabled peers.
"Currently the quality of education our students receive comes from the high level of professionalism and care of the educators in our settings," he emphasised. "Their wish is to leave no student behind .... Special educators face the most complex learners in the education system with passion, enthusiasm and creativity. The inequitable funding of these students sends a message that students with complex learning needs do not warrant equitable funding."
Federation’s witnesses were to give evidence to the inquiry on Monday April 3 from 9am.