Disability dollars now

A NSW parliamentary report has called for more funding to meet the needs of students with disability and provide more equitable access to education across settings.

Hundreds of Federation members, associations and workplaces made submissions to the inquiry to highlight the inadequate provision of education to their students with disability, a situation where there has been limited improvement since the 2010 inquiry of the same focus. Engagement with the inquiry was part of Federation’s ongoing campaign for the right of every student to receive a public education of the highest quality and for all students to become successful learners.

In calling for greater investment, accountability and inclusion, the inquiry acknowledged, “that educators must often operate under the most challenging of circumstances in order to deliver quality education to their students, including significant funding and staffing constraints”.

With arbitrary figures attached to levels of adjustment in its new funding model, the Turnbull Government is doing nothing more than redistributing an inadequate amount of resources and failing to grow the budget responsive to burgeoning need.

In the face of the inquiry’s finding that NSW will not receive the full allocation as legislated under the National Education Reform Agreement, the committee recommended “an increase to the overall funding available to ensure the adequate funding is provided to government schools to meet the needs of students with disability”.

Such equity would support the committee’s recommended new funding model for specialised settings, which includes consideration of:

  • staffing allocations, including executive support
  • provision of specialist services
  • additional teacher release time
  • work, health and safety requirements
  • secondary school curriculum needs.

The additional investment is also pivotal to improving the process by which students with disability access targeted resources such as integration funding and support placements. The committee recommended the Department prioritise its review of the access request process to facilitate the timely provision of funds to schools as well as “real time data on the number of applications received, the numbers accepted, the numbers rejected and the reasons for rejection published”.

This was one of seven recommendations that went to the process, provision and projections relating to support placements. Federation welcomes these recommendations as the issues with this process are broad-ranging, with devastating effects on students and their families; action is well overdue.

The Turnbull Government failed to deliver the legislated Students with Disability loading, instead delivering funding cuts to students with disability in a number of states including the Northern Territory.

Federation keenly awaits the State Government’s response to the inquiry as members around the state prepare to deepen their engagement in the schools funding campaign. The inquiry’s recommendations provide the Department and State Government a further platform from which to lobby the Federal Government. School communities will be looking to the State Government to take the lead in advocating for system improvements, as the committee articulated in their aim to “ensure that all students are given the education they rightfully deserve … one that gives the chance to belong and succeed in school and in life”.

The complete list of inquiry recommendations can be found in the committee’s final report here (via Inquiries under the Committees dropdown menu).

Claudia Vera
City Organiser