Progress towards an inclusive education for children and young people with disability in Australia

This was the first session at the ‘Back to school’ Advocacy sector Conversations forum held at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre on 15 February 2018.

Other sessions at this forum included:


Overview

Stephanie Gotlib, CEO at Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA), set the scene by giving an overview of the variable experiences of children and young people with disabilities across Australian educational jurisdictions. All the reports that have come out over the past decade show that students with disability continue to experience exclusion on a daily basis. However education departments describe their practices and cultures as inclusive which only seeks to perpetuate the inherent ableism in the system rather than embracing a reform agenda towards education that is truly inclusive.

 

 

References mentioned in this session include:

 

Transcript

 

MELISSA HALE, DARU CO-ORDINATOR
Good Morning everyone.  For those of you who don’t know me my name is Melissa Hale, and I am the coordinator of Disability Advocacy Resource Unit.  Thank you all for coming today.  We’ve got a nice small group today, which is great because we can have some really good discussion about education, all the issues relating to that.

Our forum today is being held on the traditional land of the Kulin Nation and I wish to acknowledge them as traditional owners.  I would also like to pay my respect to their elders past and present and the elders from other communities, which may be here today.

I would also like to welcome those who have joined online.  Just a reminder if you would like to contribute to the discussion or ask a question please check the number on the screen and I will read up the question on your behalf.

Today’s agenda will see us all back to school.  Education was identified as one of the biggest topics of concern trumped only by the NDIS.  So today we will hear from leaders in the field about some of the issues being faced by you all and what we can do about them.

Before I hand over to Stephanie a few little housekeeping things.  The women’s toilets and accessible toilets are at the front of the room to my far right and the male toilets are to my far left.  There is another accessible toilet on the ground floor.  Lunch will be at 12.00-to 1.00 pm and afternoon tea at 2.30 pm.  We will have question time at the end of the presentations so please make sure you put your hand up for the microphone, it’s really important for the live streaming here and other pieces of equipment we have running today.

Our first speaker today is Stephanie Gotlib from Children and Young People with a Disability Australia.  She will present on progress towards an inclusive education for children and young people with disability in Australia.  Please welcome Stephanie.

STEPHANIE GOTLIB, CEO CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY AUSTRALIA
Thank you Natasha and thank you all for coming today.  I just have to do this for one minute, you’re bringing it up.  I think particularly since it’s a small group I think it’s a really good opportunity that we can have a discussion.  I’ve certainly got a presentation that will fill an hour and I can talk a lot but I think it would be a really good opportunity particularly since we’ve got a small group to talk about the issues as well.

Getting back to school I thought for some I was thinking back and I thought for some many of our kids it’s a really anxious time.  Some of them have been out of school for a long time.  I just would like to acknowledge all the children and young people that I work with that have some really difficult times in accessing education.

My title is Progress Towards an Inclusive Education for Children with Disability in Australia and Young People with Disability in Australia.  That’s very positive and unfortunately I really don’t have a positive story to tell you today.  There’s positive parts of it but we’re not making huge strides certainly in the opinion of the organisation that I come from in progressing inclusive education.  I’m really keen today to have a discussion where we talk about the ideas that we have for putting a rocket up this.  Interrupt me at any time with questions and we will take it from there.

Just an overview of what I’m going to talk about today.  I thought I’d give some of you an explanation of what CYDA does so Children and Young People with Disability Australia.  Some of you may know us some of you may not, talk about the current experience what we know.  Go through and it won’t take long I can tell you the policy frameworks and the major initiatives that are happening nationally.  I’m certainly doing a national focus because we’re a national organisation related to education specifically to inclusive education.

Other activity, one of the really good things that I have got to say there is a lot of activity a lot of noise about we need to do better in education.  We will talk about that and then really great to have a discussion at the end about where to from here.  I apologise if I take a few pauses, I’ve had a bug or something so feeling a bit queasy.

For those of you who don’t know Children and Young People with Disability Australia we’re the national representative person’s organisation for children and young people.  We cover age nought to twenty-five years so a big age range and across disability organisations.  You will see some national organisations that are diagnostic specific, great organisations but have a slightly different role to us in terms of their focus.  But being the representative person’s organisation it’s absolutely about representing the direct experience of our children and young people so we do that as much as we can with children and young people.

We also do work a lot with families because I think it’s 99% of children with disability live with families and as you would understand many of you young people are reliant or young children are reliant on their families to speak/represent them and their experience.  Obviously that changes as the kids grow older.

The direct experience is represented at all levels of our organisation so on our board it’s made up of young people with disability and also families of children with disability from around Australia.  Also at the operational level so at the moment we’ve got experience of – personal experience of disability on our operational team.  I’m a mum of kids with disability, I’ve got four kids two of my kids have disability.  We’ve got young people that work with us hopefully soon we will have some young people with disability that are on our operational team.  So a range of ways in which the direct experience is represented in our organisation.

Most importantly we’re a member organisation.  We’ve got 5,500 members nationally and our members frame what our work focus is.  We do a lot of consultation.  We speak with a lot of children young people and families about what the current experience is.  We reach out through social media through surveys through round tables, a whole range of different ways so we can really keep abreast of what the current experience is.  That then defines our work plans and our advocacy that we do.

We’re a rights based organisation.  We’re absolutely about progressing the rights of people with disability based on the social model extensively of disability where we see the impairments, where we see the barriers to participation as being in the community in the society not due to any individual’s impairments.

We’ve been around for a while now from 2009 we started.  We originally were all specified the Association for Children with a Disability in Victoria but we’ve since with the ratification of the convention of the rights of people with disability there was a very clear obligation for Australia to have its own representative body for children and young people on a national level.  We’ve gone through all that process and obtained separate funding.

So we’re funded through the Department of Social Services.  We don’t get a lot of funding but we get some funding.  I was hesitating then because I was going to say some people say are you compromised because you’re Government funded.  Well the day that we tailor our voice to the demands of a Government department or a Government is the day we pack up the boxes.  We certainly need core funding but we have a very strong role, which we take very seriously about representing the direct experience of children and young people with disability.

We’re not for profit.  You never know these days it’s a bit hard to tell especially with this new market system, the NDIS.  For those wanting to know more about us have a look at our website and we have quite an active social media presence.  Our Facebook page is more up to date than our website to be honest apologies for that but we’re constantly updating it with issues and the work that we’re doing.

As I said before, our work is guided by the direct experience of children and young people with disability.  From when we’ve begun from before we began – sorry I didn’t mean to do that, my son must have done that I wouldn’t be capable of intentionally doing that by the way.  The screen just spun around.

Education has been one of the most significant issues of concern for children and young people with disability and their families.  I don’t often meet a family that says what are you talking education issues, no access to participation, haven’t had anything happen that’s out of the ordinary or that I wouldn’t expect.  Unfortunately we have the opposite.  I don’t know if this is me – okay.  Don’t read that because I was looking at it last night and I thought there’s a typo in there that doesn’t make sense.  Read it if you like it will distract you but I will just say at the start there’s a typo.

What is common to us is very typical for students with disability particularly in a school setting is poor education experiences and poor outcomes.  This is fancy I didn’t know we could do this.  What we have commonly reported to us is limited opportunities, low expectations, exclusion, inadequate resourcing, inadequate access to expertise so support staff, teachers, behaviour support, Allied Health.

Often we have concerns raised to us about the professional development and the training and expertise of support staff and teachers.  But also actually accessing additional things that you may need in the school or a child may need in a school.  Bullying very common experience, which I’ll talk about later.  Discrimination and quite remarkable kind of increasing incidents of restraint and seclusion.

I wanted to emphasise too that we do – my presentation today is quite dark it’s not a positive picture at all but we do have positive experiences and pockets of good practice that are reported to CYDA.  We think that’s great and we hear and applaud when we hear kids having really positive educational experiences where they’re excelling, they’re doing all the things that we want out of a school.  They’ve got friends, social the whole thing is happening.  We meet with a lot of teachers, we work with a lot of teachers who are doing outstanding stuff and we think wow this is fantastic.

What I would say about that is the positive experiences are dependent on 99.99% or actually I would say 100% of the time are really dependent on vigilant family advocacy.  From day one, or before day one families have got into schools and really articulated what the specific needs are for the child, what the child’s strengths are and had no compromise throughout that experience.

I talk about too the stars aligning and it is the stars aligning because often it will be contingent on a principal that has fantastic social justice principles or a teacher that just has a particular expertise or a particular background or has a brother so they get it a bit better or the school is particularly rich or something.  It just usually depends on a whole lot of things just falling into place.

What we also see is that many families who don’t talk about their education often think it’s just part of the life of having a child with disability.  Having low expectations thinking my child won’t go to school and learn how to read because he’s got a profound disability so therefore it’s okay if he goes and has an education program where it’s about eating yoghurt and community access and all those names that we hear.  Often then because that’s an expectation, low expectations are deeply embedded in our society around disability.  You just kind of think it’s part of what you do and many families don’t question it.  They think it’s okay for their son or daughter not to go to swimming not to participate in the school play to go part time.

I can remember when my child started at mainstream school we would get calls saying, “He’s a bit tired can you pick him up?”  At the start I thought I better go and get him then and then I thought what, but some people think that’s just what you do, you just go with the system.  Coupled with that we see a lot of assumed expertise in the education system.  People will present to their local school and a principal will tell them what is really best for their child is they go to the special school.  It might be 12 k’s away, it might not be where their siblings go it might be not where the child wants to go but there will be this expertise that’s where her needs will be best met.  It’s based on nothing.  People often just go with kind of the inadequacies of the education system.

What is really important which I want to talk about later is the positive experiences are transient.  They’re not becoming embedded in our system and we’re thinking okay things are really getting better for kids with disability and our system is becoming more inclusive.  You often go back to a school five years later the principal has changed the student may have been a formidable advocate for disability and it’s a whole different scenario.  We will say go to – I’m making this up, Blackburn North Primary, don’t know if that exists, they’re fantastic, got a great reputation and people go what we were told don’t bother enrolling.  What we’re seeing is when there is really good practice it’s not getting cemented in.

I really have to get my son who is doing screen media to look at my PowerPoint presentation I think.

I just wanted to remind people we all talk about the right to education right to an inclusive education.  I haven’t put the whole part of it down there but we seem to overlook that.  I just think it’s really pertinent that we remember that.

Now I’m not going to talk a lot today about defining what inclusive education is.  Years ago in 2013 we did an inclusive in education towards equality for students with disability issues paper, which talks about we know that participation opportunities and the valuing of children with disability.  It’s also defined very well in general comment number four, relating to Inclusive Education of the UN.

I would recommend if people are wanting a great resource if you haven’t seen it already it’s our best seller.  We don’t sell it but we’ve had this downloaded since 2013 when we released it.  There’s been hundreds of thousands of downloads of it so that’s a really positive thing.  There’s obviously a real thirst to know more about inclusive education and what it’s about.

So e did a really thorough literature review of all the research, some international as well on inclusive education.  It discusses the considerable body of evidence that demonstrates the benefits of inclusive education for all students.  When I say all students I mean students with and without disability.  What we know very strongly from this paper is that inclusive education provides the best outcomes for students with disability over and above segregated education opportunities.

Obviously it’s a rights based approach.  If you’re wanting a copy of it I’ve got a few here today.  You’re most welcome to contact us or you can download it.  That’s just flicking through what’s in that paper.

I thought now we’d talk about what is actually happening in relation to education and what we do know.  From the start I’d say there is limited statistics.  Things have got better with the national consistent collection of data but limited national statistics.  It’s really hard we’ve got this, which I will talk about in a minute.  I’m a body of anecdotal experience direct experience is very strong that our education system is failing to meet adequately the needs of students with disability.  The statistics, the formal statistics are limited.

Just in your minds we’ve got about 8% of children young people naught to twenty-four who actually experience disability.  Looking at the Year 12 completion rates, this is nought to sixty-five so we need to take into account that generation gap but there is still a mark of disparity when the statistics available or the numbers available are around Year 12 completion.

Again, the difference in tertiary degrees are quite marked as well.  17% of people with disability have completed a Bachelor degree or higher compared to 30% of people without disability.  So really marked difference in where people are ending.

What we’ve seen, there was some statistics released last year, analysis of them and they showed some really interesting information.  What they said was that the students with disability, there was more students with disability attending special schools.  So they’ve gone up to 15% whereas in 2003 it was 11%.  The other thing that those statistics said which I haven’t put up there is that there was a move away in mainstream schools from the specialist classrooms.  Those separate units those separate classes usually specific for kids with disability there was actually a decrease in the number of students that was their form of education.  Whether that means those kids are now going to special school or those kids – it was difficult to tell but I thought that was really interesting.  That could be a positive sign I don’t want to be all gloom and doom.

What we also saw is an increase in the number of students with – this is not my language I just want to clarify that very quickly, severe or profound limitation.  My goodness who speaks like that, attends a special school.  That had gone up, it was 26% in 2015 which is the latest data that we have but in 2003 it was 225, which is a bit strange given that we’ve got a convention of the rights of people with disability that clearly says inclusive education is a right.  We’re going backwards.

I wanted to mention bullying and there is no national official data on this around students with disability.  It’s very common.  I’m going to talk to you about what we found in our survey, which is shocking in a minute.  I think many of you would’ve seen the fantastic Held Back report, 2012 I think that was released.  That showed students with disability were three times more likely to be bullied than the general population and 2/3rds. experience bullying or harassment.

The figure for kids generally is 27%, which is shocking in itself but I don’t know why our, well I do know, I think there’s clearly a very significant issue that we’re seeing this type of discrepancy.

We started doing a national survey in 2015 and we’ve had fantastic responses to that and it’s always been very representative of the different states and territories.  This is an exclusive for the DARU workshop, because we haven’t released any of this data to date because we’ve been analysing it.  The results are no surprise to students and families but they’ve been really important.

They’ve showed some really shocking experiences but they’ve been really important in giving us an evidence based to go to the wider community, to go to politicians, to go to the media and say this is what’s happening, here’s the figures, you don’t like our figures do your own and I bet you a million dollars they will come back the same.

Last year we had it was a bit down.  Usually we have over a thousand but we had 766 participants.  Some of them were students directly and some were families.  We don’t let service providers participate in this survey.  If they want to talk to us about education they can do it separately but this is really about the direct experience.

We had 68 respondents thought the support received by the student was inadequate.  47% reported that families had paid personally for specific supports or equipment to enable access and participation.  That’s things like I’m not talking about additional extras like we want I don’t know, something very fancy for our child, but things that we would expect would be a reasonable accommodation.  If you look at the rights of children with disability they’ve got a right to a free education and the accommodations are meant to be provided.

A positive, I was surprised by this statistic, 73% of students with disability reported having an individual education plan.  I thought it would be much lower because we certainly get a lot of reports to CYDA that that’s not the case.  38% of students were excluded from events or activities at the school in the last year so camps, swimming, concerts, some classes.  56% had experienced bullying in the last year.  19% of students with disability had experienced restraint at school in the last year so that’s nearly one in five.

21% of students with disability experienced seclusion at school.  We gave very strict definition I can tell you what they were but they basically aligned with the Australian Psychological Society definitions.  We asked has your child experienced this this and this we didn’t just leave it open.  We really defined what it was and we came back with these shocking statistics.  I thought this was shocking.  I don’t know the rates usually of suspension but 17% of students with disability had been suspended in the last year.  I’m not sure why disability is being clearly seen as something to discipline students about.  But it seems to me there’s something or I know there is something going not quite well.

We had hundreds and hundreds of examples of direct experiences. I’ll read them out, I wasn’t going to but I will:-

‘My son is currently doing open access at school at home due to bullying and being pushed to the ground at school by a Year 12 student.  This caused a disk prolapse.’

These aren’t particularly extreme but this was reported to us.  This was from last year’s survey but this is what we’ve had since we started as an organisation.

‘My child is allowed to attend 9.00 to 12.15 pm during the day four days per week.  She often gets sent home prior to 11.00 am at least twice a week.’

‘The principal phoned to say the classes were settled and they did not want to unsettle them with an ADHD child so no offer of enrolment would be forthcoming.’

That gatekeeping is a very common experience where people are going to their local school and being told either directly or indirectly that the school doesn’t have the capacity.  That’s not necessarily a criticism of the school because I think it’s a reality in many instances because our system isn’t allowing adequate needs.

‘I never get told about trips such as their annual Anzac Day tour or a next year a trip to Canberra.  I just see the photos of these trips with happy smiling kids enjoying themselves and I know my son was never considered part of the group.’

‘Segregated into a spot on the carpet which was a black square with her name written on it in chalk.’

‘Excluded from inter school sport because of “behaviours.”  She came first in age group for running but they sent the child who came second instead.’

‘Cyber bullying including suggestions to commit suicide.’

This picture is old it’s of a cage at a school or an enclosed pen I think it was called.  We had many many well I would say at least ten to fifteen people report to us in this survey that their kids were put in cages, which was a surprise to me.  This one is old and I think this one has gone but just that’s kind of quite typical.

This is fairly disturbing: ‘fairly constant harassment from other students, verbal nastiness inside and outside of class.  Has had food thrown at him during lunchtime and has had a student intimidate him and follow him home from school.  The student filmed his frightened reaction and uploaded it to Snapchat so other kids at school could make fun of him.’

I’m just going to put up, I’m just aware of time.  That’s just numerous examples of cages Leah that I can give to you and seclusion.

So what we found in these cases, certainly the bullying cases when schools went in quickly and did what they did around responding to bullying and educating all students involved and were respectful of diversity etc. etc. we saw really good results.  We saw that it was addressed properly.  What we often saw though was that it wasn’t addressed well and it then went to the student with disability seen as causing this because they’re different, they’re weird at some stages they’re called, and never been addressed, told to toughen up all those things which was very disturbing.

Enough of the direct experiences I think.  I want to talk around the national policy frameworks that are happening.  We do have the national disability strategy, which I am going to refer to which has a very clear learning and skills section in it.  That is basically how Australia is meant to meet its obligations under the Convention of the Rights of People with Disability and it covers all levels of Government.

There’s state plans associated with that where state and territory governments have put in but what generally in the disability advocacy has been is that they’ve found that the strategy hasn’t been very successful.  The Minister at the moment has got a new Disability and Carers – what’s it called Leah, I forget?  It’s a Council but it’s main task is to reboot the disability strategy.  There’s been no funding allocated to the National Disability Strategy and when you read it you think this is great.  What’s happened is it’s just become a tick box.

We’ve been involved with the department when they’re kind of doing the implementation reports I think they’re called and I often feel like we’re looking around for stuff that we can kind of paste in or we get asked to do a consultation with our members but in the past it’s been very limited notice so we can’t do a thorough consultation with our members.  It’s been very problematic in terms of the National Disability Strategy.  It’s nearly at an end, 2010 to 2020 and it’s deeply disappointing because the range of the areas that it covers it covers six areas for those of you that don’t know.  It’s been very problematic and how things have progressed is not clear but that’s our main strategy.

We’ve had national reviews of education.  We’ve had commonly known as Gonski 1.0 and Gonski 2.0.  Gonski 1.0 in a nutshell they left disability and said really substantial area but it’s too complex and too much work for this review go away and get a loading done, look at what needs to be done as soon as possible.  That then led to the nationally consistent collection of data, which many of you may have heard.  It’s a good initiative, it’s problematic and I think it needs some refinement but it’s around all schools across Australia identifying students with disability so we’re getting some better national data.

NDIS, I have to say the NDIS I think it’s really important that we know it’s not the magic wand and I think with the inadequacy of our education system that we can’t then say okay if my child’s only going to school part time we will just get the NDIS to fund a home tutor, they wouldn’t do that anyway.  It can’t be kind of the fall back for inadequate education.  We have to stay strong in demanding there’s progress made in providing equality education for kids with disability and inclusive education for kids with disability.

There’s been a number of state and territory inclusive and education policies.  I think some of them are very problematic.  The Victorian one for example has special schools in it.  They’re segregated settings they’re not inclusive so there’s parts that are okay but there’s part of the policies that are happening that are not okay.  Queensland I’ve looked at the draft Queensland Department of Education one and that’s looking good.  It’s based on the UN General Comment of Inclusive Education and that’s not out yet but I was really pleasantly surprised to read that.

I just wanted to touch briefly on the other activity that’s happening in Australia apart from policy initiatives.  Actually I’ll just go back because I didn’t mention Gonski 2.0, which is now happening.  Sorry I skimmed over it very quickly.  It’s called Achieving Excellence in Australian Schools which I think has some relevance for us because it’s all about how do we spend money using evidence based.  The reports are due out in March but unfortunately there was really limited opportunity to contribute.  We haven’t been met by the review panel and also the submissions I think from memory they could only be 3,000 words, which really gave us, limited scope.

Just to go back to the other activity what Australia has is really positive.  We’ve got some of the most phenomenal education academics that there are on the planet and I don’t if any of you have seen the All Means All online group, which is about inclusive education academics.  I think you can join as a parent but certainly as advocates.  You would have heard them speaking out and I know a lot of them I won’t say names because then I will miss some out but we’ve got a very strong reputable formidable body of expertise that is Australian that can really – so we’ve got the expertise in Australia to actually make inclusive education happen.  There is no doubt in my mind about it and they’re very committed to getting change.

Social media has happened.  It’s really changed in the last 10 years so we’ve got a lot of agitation between families between advocates.  Sometimes it’s not all nice but let’s be nice guys we can have a difference of opinion.  But a much stronger voice and ways of communicating around what’s happening and what our rights are, what the kid’s rights are.  That’s I think a real positive and we need to work out how we can use that.  I think we are using it effectively but keep using it really effectively so we can get the national campaign that we need to around progressing educational rights.

Great work happening by many of the state organisations, other stakeholder groups, lobby groups.  You probably would’ve seen many of them around.  Obviously state organisations like YDAS, YDAN, Julia Farr, Association for Children with Disability, there’s a couple of different ones in different states.  Also lobby groups like Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby; they’re pretty much a lobby group with parents and phenomenal work.  Really adding voice to a really growing awareness that we need to do better in education.

There’s been numerous enquiries.  I’m not going to read these out.  Leah I think these are four or five pages of the admissions alone that CYDA has contributed to just in four-year period.  So I’m onto Page 2 now, they’re either directly related to education or relevant reviews which we’ve actually gone full on with this because we actually want to get disability on the map.  Before it wasn’t there or it was there but we wanted to get it really firmly on the map and a key consideration.

Still going, okay finished.  So lots of enquiries but still we’ve had a lot of enquiries so we’re talking about a lot more which is positive but still we’re getting these poor experiences reported to us.

The other thing that I think is really positive is a range of stakeholders have clearly said we need to do better in education.  CYDA has worked really hard and other organisations have too around developing the networks a bit wider if you talk around what’s not right with education and kids with disability.  We’ve done lots of stuff with the unions, parent associations and there’s a real want to do better across a range of organisations – ACOSS.  Other people are actually getting a greater understanding of the direct experience of children with disability and shouting out that this is not good enough and their right to an inclusive education needs to be recognised in Australia.

Lots of media.  Lots of media and I really want to talk a little bit about how media has changed a bit.  I noticed a couple of years ago when we were working with a boy Tate, he was in the paper.  A great young kid who spent most of his school days in a cupboard in Harvey Bay Primary School.  I usually have to do interviews and I’ve done a lot of interviews and Leah can talk to this as well, but we have to explain why it’s not okay to restrain a child or why – kind of justify why a kid with a disability should have equality education and not be treated like an animal.  Well you wouldn’t treat an animal like that in these disgraceful ways.

What I saw and I have seen in recent times although on the weekend there was another incident, which made me think we still have a way to go, but certainly much more of a message in the media that this is not good enough.  Before that it was yes but kind of what else do you do?  Now there’s a real change in the media, which I think many of us as advocates have helped create.  There’s been lots of positives but despite all this the direct experience is not radically changing.  Still the experience of an inclusive education alludes most students with disability.

The way forward, got some ideas guys?  I have.  I’m happy I just want to quickly say that the UN General Comment Number 4 on Inclusive Education clearly articulates those issues as well.  If you haven’t read it I would suggest that you do read it.  If you want to contact me I can steer you in the right direction but you can find it.  I haven’t put a link up there apologies but it clearly articulates a way forward.  It doesn’t say close all special schools tomorrow.  It talks about a progressive realisation of inclusive education but it includes everything we can think of and that we will say today I think it will include.

In it it clearly talks about having a national party so Australia as a party to that so a signatory needs to have a national strategy for inclusive education.  My proposal is or what we’re planning to do as the national organisation is actually write the strategy for the Government.  We’re going to be reaching out really clearly to a range of stakeholders and advocates such as yourselves and kids and students and say here’s your strategy there is no excuses, implement it.  I am really interested in your – that’s a lot of work and we’ve got a limited capacity so we’re going to need lots of support.

For me our wheels keep spinning.  For my own – other people can speak to this my kids are 18 and 19 now that have a disability and nothing has changed in their schooling.  There’s bits around the edges that are changing and they’ve both had inclusive education but riddled with compromise and riddled with poor experiences at different times as well and they’re in a very fortunate position.

I’m interested to hear from you now as to questions and what you think is the way forward.  You’ve got to at least come up with one idea each or you can’t have morning tea or whatever’s next.

QUESTION:
Inaudible – no microphone

STEPHANIE GOTLIB:
There’s lots of things to that question.  I think the most one is around the funding model that is now being proposed with this new disability loading which we’re still yet to really see how it works.  I don’t understand and I’ve got a pretty good understanding of policy, what that means for the kids on the ground with disability.

With the nationally consistent collection of data that’s all about developing a disability loading and more funding but there’s been no articulation of what they’re going to do that is different with that money.  For me I’ve done the funding applications myself, I’ve supported lots of families that have done that too.  Really the fundamental question is how is your school going to ensure the educational needs of your child’s are met.  It doesn’t matter if they get funding or not.

The program for students with disability they’ve still got the same legal obligations.  I know Julie Phillips will talk to you ad-nauseam about this in the next session.  I think we want more accountability for our child’s learning.  That’s a huge issue.  I think funding is absolutely critical to having a more – if we’re going to realise an inclusive education system.

The fundamental question for me is no matter what kind of – because the funding is fairly arbitrary at the moment, whether you fit this criteria that governments have established, I was going to say made up.  Really whether you – they’ve got very clear legal obligations which Julie Phillips will go through very extensively in the next session I’m sure where they must meet legal requirements to ensure that your child can access their education on the same basis of a child without disability.

The funding is really important but for families we have to talk about needs rather than not, I know it’s really hard, but not get caught up in the dollars.  That’s not our problem but they’ve got a legal right to provide.

QUESTION:
You’ve also got families who don’t acknowledge their child has additional needs so they don’t apply for funding.  It’s almost like the funding gets watered down.

STEPHANIE GOTLIB:
Those kids probably wouldn’t get funding.  Many kids don’t get program for students with disability funding many many kids.  But our education system still has the obligation to ensure that their educational needs are met.

QUESTION:
I think the kids between IQs of 70 and 90 really fall through the gaps of our education system.

STEPHANIE GOTLIB:
Yeah, absolutely kids with dyslexia.  The new nationally consistent collection of data is meant to address that.  I can give people more information if they want it but it’s around different levels of adjustment needed.  They’ve got from no adjustment up to extensive or substantial but there’s four levels of adjustment.  That should address that but to me it’s not really articulated well as to well what’s that going to mean on the ground for families, what are we going to do.

We don’t just want more aids we don’t just want more of the same because it’s not working so we need a really important – like some of the things you were saying before around teacher professional development around how we have better accountability for learning.  It’s a whole lot of things that needs to happen.  I think why are we all agonising over getting funding for specific disability funding for our children the schools still have the same level of obligation.

A child with disability or any child but for the children with disability that we’re talking about every school needs to articulate how their educational needs are being met and that they’re getting the same educational opportunities as kids without disability.

I leave it with them.  One of my kids only gets – he needs line of sight. I hope there’s people here from the Education Department today, line of sight support every minute of the day.  I think he gets level three or four funding or something that they use with their criteria which bore really no relevance to meeting his needs and said here he is you sort it out and they’ve sorted it out.  It’s tough.

QUESTION :
Stephanie thank you for a great presentation.  It certainly represents the grass roots experience from a family point of view.  One of the things that we observe in our experience is that schools are not necessarily demonstrating and using evidence based practice.  I think that can encompass all sorts of things so the way they teach literacy to the way they manage behaviour so a whole range of things.

I think sometimes it’s not necessarily about resources but about how the resources are actually spent.  To give an example in our school the principal very proudly told me that he’s spent $5,000 on readers but they were readers that were actually not considered to be good in terms of them not being decodable for students who were struggling to read.

I think it’s a complex question about resources and I think in terms of accountability it would be great to see some checks and balances at a national level about governance, about how resources are spent and the way that teachers are actually teaching as well.

We have in our health care system we have very strict national standards.  We have in childcare in nursing homes we have national standards.  But we do not have the same standards in education and I think actually something like that needs to be considered.

STEPHANIE GOTLIB:
Again that is articulated in the General Comment as well.  But there is a really strong movement around that and I think also around the – we do have a really vocal group of really skilled academics which we can link you into but it’s then how do you do it and then how does the school have the capacity to do that.

I can remember working with one school about looking at their use of classroom support saying actually having someone glued to the child with a disability that’s not ideal and there’s a whole range and giving them a whole – and they were very receptive to a whole range of research which showed that was questionable practice and probably not optimal for children’s learning.  They were like we don’t know how we’re going to actually have the capacity to implement this in the school because we have to change everything we do.

That’s kind of our role and even if they did it may happen when the principal is there and then it changes back when a new principal comes.  That’s where we’re really keen to do some real strong leadership and be reaching out to you very strongly around how we articulate this in a strategy so it becomes systemic.

We keep doing patchy little stuff and the evidence based.  Our system is riddled.  There’s a lot of assumed expertise and often with the best of intentions but often causes not optical outcomes and sometimes harm.

Author:
DARU

Date published:
Fri 16th Feb, 2018