Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Abbott must keep his promise to fund disability in schools

Letters to the Editor | Posted: Wed, 25 Mar, 2015 11:37 am Updated: Wed, 25 Mar, 2015 11:38 am | | Print
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Gonski vision the foundation to lift children with disabilities

As recommended by the Gonski Review, the Abbott Government needs to make good on its broken promise to introduce real needs-based funding for students with disability through a ‘disability loading’.

There are over 100,000 students with disability whose schools receive no support funding - one-third of the total number of students with disability - and many others who get less than they need.

Extra funding for disability should have been flowing to schools this year. But the Abbott Government has failed to keep its election promise to properly fund disability education from 2015.

We cannot wait any longer. Every year funding is denied is another year that children with disability slip further behind.

If children with disability are denied a quality education by an under-funded schools system, this affects the rest of their lives. It makes it harder for them to go on to further education, to get a job, and fully participate in society.

The AEU’s “2015 State of Our Schools Survey” questioned over 3,300 teachers and principals between late February and mid-March  and found that the shortage of funds for students with disability is a major issue for public school principals.

79 per cent of principals surveyed say they do not have enough funding for the needs of children with disability at their school.

An extraordinary 84 per cent of principals say they have had to divert funds from other parts of school budgets because the resources are not there for students with disability.

It is a major concern that 39 per cent of principals say more than 10 per cent of their students has a disability that requires assistance in the classroom, with 16 per cent of principals saying the number was over 20 per cent.

These numbers are far higher than the 5 per cent of students currently funded. 

Rates of disability are higher for principals of low-social economic status schools, confirming that students with disability are more likely to attend disadvantaged schools, placing further stress on those schools’ budgets.

When principals were asked what they needed: 82 per cent say assistance for teachers in the classroom, 56 per cent say specialist support, and 56 per cent say funding for professional development for teachers.

Clearly, we have an urgent crisis in funding for students with disability, and a Government which has walked away from its promise to fix it.

There are thousands of dedicated educators working to provide children with disability with a good education; but they need the resources to back up their efforts.

We need in-class support, trained professionals like occupational therapists and speech therapists, as well as ensuring that all teachers are trained in how to teach students with disability, and that professional development is available.  

The Gonski Review recognises this huge unmet need and recommends urgent action so a disability loading (covering the full cost of educating all students with disability) could be established as soon as possible.

Both major parties committed at the last election to implementing this loading. Before the 2013 election, the Coalition promised to move in 2015 from a temporary loading that reflects existing, inadequate funding for students with disability to a needs-based measure that for the first time covers all students with disability in schools.

Students with disability have a right to learn and we as a nation have a responsibility to give them an education.

We need to see action in this year’s Federal Budget so schools receive the extra funding they need for children with disability from 2016.

Properly funding education for children with disability will cost money; but it is an investment in ensuring they fully participate in our society, and contribute to our economy.

Otherwise, the Abbott Government has broken its promise and has done nothing to address the huge number of students with disability whose schools receive no funding for them.

 

Correna Haythorpe
Federal President
AEU

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