Monday 4th August, 2014: 1:30am - 2:30am
Stephanie Gotlib, Executive Officer, Children With Disability AustraliaStephanie commenced with CDA in 2008. Stephanie has a social work background and has worked in the area of disability for 20 years. This has included working in direct service provision, management and governance. Stephanie has experience of disability as a sibling and as a parent. Stephanie’s professional and personal experience has enabled her to … Continued Photo of Stephanie Gotlib, Executive Officer, Children With Disability Australia
Nicholas Pole, Deputy Secretary, Regional Support Group, Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Nicholas Pole took up his current position in April 2012. Prior to moving to Victoria, Nicholas worked in the New Zealand Ministry of Education where he had responsibility for Special Education Services and more latterly the department’s regional services. Following the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, Nicholas led the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s … ContinuedPhoto of Nicholas Pole, Deputy Secretary, Regional Support Group, Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Madeleine Sobb, Advocate and Student
Madeleine is the Project Officer at the Youth Disability Advocacy Service in Victoria and works with young people with disabilities on systemic advocacy projects that address issues that are important to them. Madeleine is a wheelchair user and is in her final year of a Health Science degree in Disability Studies.Photo of Madeleine Sobb, Advocate and Student
Elizabeth McGarry, Chief Eexecutive Officer of the Association for Children with a Disability (ACD)
The Association is a Victorian based, not-for-profit family-focussed organisation which exists to assist children with a disability and their families through the provision of information, support and advocacy. The Association is resolute in its belief that real life experiences must inform the development and implementation of public policy. Like many involved with ACD, Elizabeth has … ContinuedPhoto of Elizabeth McGarry, Chief Eexecutive Officer of the Association for Children with a Disability (ACD)
With all the talk about Gonski reform, disability loading in schools funding, social inclusion and belonging, how can we ensure that children with disabilities achieve a meaningful learning experience? This panel session, chaired by Stephanie Gotlib, Executive Officer of Children With Disability Australia, discusses policy that will positively impact on inclusive education for students with a disability.
- Inclusion in Education: Towards Equality for Students with Disability (PDF) by Dr. Kathy Cologon, Macquarie University
I’m going to hand this session over to Stephanie Gotlib. Stephanie is the Executive Officer of Children with Disability Australia. She commenced in the role in 2008. She has a social work background and has worked in the area of disability for twenty years. This has included working in direct service provision, management and governance. Stephanie has experience of disability as a sibling, as a parent and one of the great things about Steph is that she challenges the system to make improvements for children and families of children with disability
It is my great pleasure to hand this session over to Steph who will chair this inclusive education session.
Thank you very much everyone for attending what I am sure will be a very thought provoking and informative discussion on inclusive education this morning.
I’d like to spend one minute speaking briefly about Children with Disability Australia? We are the national peak body for children and young people with disability. We have around 5000 members nationally, we’re a fairly young organisation in many ways, being independent and launched in 2010.
Our work is informed and driven by the direct experiences of children and young people with disabilities so we cover the 0-25 cohort across all levels of education.
Throughout our short history, it’s fair to say that CDA has been inundated by member’s concerns regarding equal access and equal opportunities to education. Education is one of the most significant areas of concern raised by our constituents and is the central focus of the work we undertake.
It’s frequently reported to CDA that children and young people wih disability, through their educational experiences, are subjected to limited opportunities, low expectations, exclusion, inadequate resourcing, inadequately trained staff, bullying, discrimination and increasing incidents of restraint and seclusion which is very much a product of a system that is struggling to meet the needs of these children.
The relentless nature of these experiences led CDA to commission Macquarie University to developed the ‘Issues Paper’ called Inclusion in education towards equality for students with disability Issues Ppaper.
Since it was launched in October last year, we have had a phenomenal uptake of this paper with over 10,000 downloads up to June this year.
CDA was keen to know what available research and evidence already said about inclusive education. We also had the more positive experiences that were reported to us and that we learnt from and realised that these involved a common theme of inclusion. So we looked at what was available and what we know about it and pulled these themes together.
well, what is inclusive education? I’m sure we’ll discuss that today. Let’s start by saying that I think it is one of the most contested terms in education, but certainly in terms of the Issues Paper which we’re using as the base to our discussions today, kathy Cologan, the author, gives this definition:
“Inclusive education involves embracing human diversity and welcoming all children and adults as equal members of an educational community. This involves valuing and supporting the full participation of all people together within mainstream educational settings.
Inclusive education requires recognizing and upholding the rights of all children and adults and understanding human diversity as a rich resource and an everyday part of all human environments and interactions. Inclusive education is an approach to education free from discriminatory beliefs, attitudes and practices, including free from ableism.
Inclusive education requires putting inclusive values into action to ensure all children and adults belong, participate and flourish.”
What the Paper clearly demonstrates is that inclusive education is best practice in relation to education for students with disability.
Inclusive education however is not a reality for too many students with a disability in Australia.
In this session, We’re going to hear from our panel of speakers about their thoughts and experiences of education and inclusion and there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion following their presentations.
First of all, we have the lovely Madelaine Sobb. Madeleine is a Project Officer for the Youth Disability Advocacy Service. She works with young people with disability on systemic advocacy projects and is in her final year of a Health Science degree in disability studies.
Then we have Nicholas Pole. Nick is the Deputy Secretary in the Regional Services Group of the Victorian Department of education and early childhood development. The Regional Services Group supports regional partnerships, regional early childhood services, schools and other educational providers who deliver services.
Last, but not least, we have Elizabeth McGarry. Elizabeth is the Chief Executive Officer of the Association for Children with Disability in Victoria. ACD Vic assist children with a disability and their families through the provision of information, support and advocacy. Elizabeth has personal experience of disability in her family and strongly believes that real life experiences must inform the development and implementation of public policy. And, boy have we had a few discussions about that over the years!
So, we will start with Madelaine.
Hi, my name is Madeleine and I am 24 and, as Stephanie just said, I am the Project Officer at the Youth Disability Advocacy Service and a university student. I grew up in Newcastle in New South Wales and moved to Melbourne in 2007 to go to university.
I attended mainstream Catholic schools throughout my primary, secondary and senior schooling. My primary school experience would mostly be positive. I was the first person with a disability to attend my primary school and because of that I feel the school did a pretty good job in providing me with the same school experience as my peers.
However, when I was seven years old I had some major spinal fusion surgery that meant I was in hospital for a long time in Sydney away from my family a lot and had a lot of time off school. Once I came home from hospital I spent a further 18 months needing to lay flat on my back which meant I only attended school two or three days a week being pushed around on a portable bed.
The school did the best they could to support me during this time, but I still manage to fall behind academically because of how much time I had had off school.
My parents did what they thought was best at the time, but, looking back now I wish that the school had discussed with my parents about possibly repeating a year because I didn’t realise how much I had fallen behind until I got to high school.
My secondary schooling was a school that was year seven to 10. The school that my parents wanted to send me to was a wheelchair users nightmare. There were six different levels and it was not accessible at all.
There was a lot of discussion before I went there as to whether I was going to be able to go there at all and be with my friends. That was the school that all of my friends were going to.
I was very excited when the school was able to install an elevator and fix up some of the other access issues. I thought that everything was going to be smooth sailing from then on.
The elevator continually broke down, with me inside it, My classroom teachers continually didn’t provide me with the support I needed, such as copies of notes from the blackboard, and sometimes a little extra time to get my assignments done.
I was always the last thought when it came to school excursions, which generally meant that my parents had to drive me to and from an excursion instead of travelling on a bus with my peers.
Two issues during my secondary schooling included a physical education teacher in year 8 who failed me in the subject because I couldn’t participate in the practical classes.
Instead I was given activities to do with another student from my class who had an eating disorder who wasn’t allowed to participate in case she lost more weight.
It was suggested to this teacher that she assess me based on my horse riding program that I was doing on a weekly basis instead of Friday afternoon sport. she didn’t like this very much.
the second issue I had was when I decided to take on a textile and design subject as an elective for year 9 and 10. I was never allocated much time with an integration aid previous to this however at this time I was allocated 4 hours per week for the practical classes for this subject. As you get older the work load gets bigger and I was not well enough supported in my classes.
My parents and I continually approached the school about needing more time in classes with an aid but was continually told that there was no money.
My senior high school, year 11 and 12, was my most positive schooling experience. The school took the lead in organising my transition arrangements and sometimes even thinking ahead about issues before I’d even thought of them.
The school already had an elevator but, again, it continually broke down but this time the school moved as many of my classes downstairs that were possible.
I generally had very accommodating classroom teachers who did their best to support me. One significant thing being an issue that I remember was when all year 12 students were to go on a compulsory retreat. I had told the school before that they would need to provide a bus with wheelchair access and a hoist to allow me to stay in my wheelchair for the trip. I gave them the contact details for the bus company who had the right buses but I’m still waiting for the right bus.
They forgot to order the bus and my wheelchair had to be stored underneath, not tied down, and my support worker had to carry me up the stairs. not very dignified for a 17 year old.
The toughest part of my senior year schooling was fitting in socially. I had 500 students in my year and I didn’t feel like I fitted in with my friends because I didn’t have an afternoon job or I wasn’t thinking about which boy I was going to kiss at the party at the weekend.
It was difficult because I felt it was a time in my life when I thought my social life should be taking off but instead I felt that I didn’t have the same opportunities to a social life like my friends did.
In conclusion, I feel as though we make inclusive education seem like it is one big scary thing that if we can’t provide all things a person needs all at once that we don’t even try at all. We put it into the too hard basket.
No student’s education experience is perfect, and mine certainly wasn’t, but I feel as though if we continue to look at students individually there will always be changes that can be made to enhance their experience. Inclusion starts with putting in some thought in the first place.
Thanks Madeleine, that was great. Now over to Nicholas.
Can I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to Elders past and present. Madeleine, thank you for that wonderful story of your experience. Standing here representing “the education system”, so to speak, how do I defend that?
You can’t. I think what is crucial is that we are here today and involved in conferences such as this listening to the voices of people who have those experiences and looking at what we can do to address those.
I’ll go to the slides. Firstly we are absolutely committed to ensuring and improving opportunities for all learners in the system without exception. It’s our fundamental belief that actually learners are engaged and progressing and achieving within their schools, within early childhood settings and in post school environments. What is absolutely critical to this is that students are welcomed into their school of choice and fully included. I think the report you referred to outlines clearly what that should look like.
There are 7 key platforms when I’m thinking about how well a school is performing. I’m going to focus just on schools here cause we also work in maternal child health services, early intervention services and post school. If we’re reviewing a school, if I’m trying to influence a school, if I’m looking at the dimensions within a school, that need to be successful in terms of inclusion, they are as follows:
- Strong governance. I think in victoria we too often don’t look at what the role of the school council is in setting the expectations within a school.
- Clear vision and strategy in the school. this should include elements of inclusion and supporting diversity.
- Effective management and leadership.
- Positive and inclusive culture
- Effective teaching practices. Teachers know what is required in terms of adapting their curriculum and classroom practices.
- Foundation of productive partnerships.
- Use the resources they have effectively to support learning for all learners.
I’ll now go into these with a little more depth.
School councils need to represent their communities in terms of governance. they need to be active in listening to the needs of all in their community and representing all voices. Ensuring in particular that they resolve all issues that may come before the school.
In terms of the work we are doing as a department, we are looking at addressing three areas of governance:
- a review of governance is presently underway.
- looking at a new performance and accountability system that is being rolled out across Victorian state schools which has strong elements in terms of how schools are supporting inclusion and diversity
- reviewing complaints and issues management
In terms of strategy that the school has for itself, ensuring that values of inclusion and diversity are the absolute starting points. The strategy underpins what the school is doing and that they are active in looking at the data and how well they are doing for each and every learner within the school. there is an explicit agenda between what the school is doing and the learning of each and every student.
Our focus is to have schools clearly articulate and describe what they are trying to achieve through strategic planning and annual implementation plans. We are looking to ensure that within those documents, inclusion, supporting diversity and students with disabilities, is absolutely explicit in their critical goals.
In terms of effective leadership and management, research in education says that the biggest impact on learning outcomes,ouside of the home and external environment, is the classroom teacher. I would actually say it’s the leadership within the school.
It’s the Principal and senior management in the school that set the values, ethos, what’s important in the school and what’s not important. So when I go into a school, I look for high expectations for student learning and this is for every student’s learning and that every staff member is committed to successful outcomes for every student.
There are clear roles, structures and accountabilities in the school including accountabilities for student welfare and for supporting students with additional needs so Madeleine doesn’t have to wait for the bus that never comes.
There are clear goals and a monitoring system that teachers are being held to account for that. We’re placing a lot of focus and emphasis in transforming these areas.
I can’t deny that I come across schools who don’t have a welcoming environment. We need to hold them to account. They need to provide safe physical and emotional learning environments. They should actually have two lifts, Madeleine, not one.
They need to be caring cultures but I’ve too often worked with schools where you go into the school and people say they’re doing God’s work and aren’t they special and working beyond. No they get a salary to do that and it is their core job. Actually I don’t want just a caring environment, I want an environment that’s going to challenge and educate those kids that are in that classroom.
We also need an environment that actively looks at intergrating allied health and welfare services within school environments. Effective teaching practices, much has already been said about this. Yes we do need to look at initial teacher training, we do need to look at an ongoing drive to lift the capability and capacity of every teacher in the state – the capacity to work with a broad ix of students with challenging and different needs.
They need to, however, start from a basis of practice that is evidenced and there is a research foundation to it. Then, on top of that, monitor and adjust what they are doing in line with the impact it’s having, in particular, what’s not working and then adjust their practice.
Productive partnerships and working with disability education I think requires a much stronger intent in terms of working in a productive way with multiple players and multiple supports.
Firstly and paramount, is the criticality of the relationship with parents and making sure it’s right for the parents as well as the learner – Looking at including other service providers in there and how you can operate as an integrated team.
We’re doing a lot of work at present around the concept of “team around the learner”. Equally, in terms of thinking about the Barwon site for NDIS, thinking a lot about how we might develop models where we are much more integrated with those external providers to the school.
Now my last platform, using the resources that you have as a school effectively and managing those and ensuring that they are in realigned with the learning journey.
Quite often schools will say, “Well I’m not resourced enough for dealing with this particular child with this particular need”. this is crap. the school needs to look at it’s full resource including its professional staff, it’s relationships, it’s networks and it’s good will.
I’ve seen some very small schools in very isolated areas working with young people and doing stunning things with very few resources. It does sometimes go wrong. Schools and our system need to be active in managing that.
All too often I see agreat diversity of approach in dealing with issues, a lack of recognising and acknowledging issues and issues and problems that crop up and take too long to resolve and escalate beyond the school gate. I would say that the best and most effective way of resolving issues is within the school.
we have a program of work at the moment, looking at our complaints and issues management program. Strengthening the role of our Disability Coordinators, looking at how we can better support training and complaints management.
For this conference, actively looking at the role of advocates in the system. I strongly believe in the role of advocacy on behalf of people who have issues with the system. It’s an important factor and we need to, within our school system, look at how we formalise that role.
Lastly, how can we strengthen some of our central processes to ensure there is independent scrutiny and stonger feedback loops into policy and practice into resolving issues.
Thanks Nicholas. I’m sure there’ll be lots of questions around that. I know I’ve got a few but I’ll keep them until later. Last but not least, I’d like to welcome Elizabeth McGarry to speak.
Thanks Stephanie. Thanks very much, it’s great to have the opportunity to sit on this panel.
The Association of Children with Disability has been operating in Victoria for over 30 years and a key area of our work, as it is with CDA at a national level, is supporting students with a disability. We have a free telephone service to support children and their families to try and achieve the best outcomes they can in education and so many other elements of their lives.
Consistently over the years that I’ve been heading up ACD, just over 6 now, we have supported anywhere from 600 to 800 families each year in an advocacy role to try and support them to try and achieve good outcomes with whatever the hitch is that they’ve encountered.
I’m going to talk to you about 3 areas where genrally those 600 – 800 issues fall but before I do that, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that people come to us when they’ve got a problem. So it’s important to recognise that, yes, these issues exist but there are also lots of good teachers out there and lots of good Principals doing a good job but we don’t hear about those. It’s important to create a context around what I’m going to say and give some balance.
Clearly the department’s policies ar good but the rubber hits the road when in practice it doesn’t actually happen on the ground. It doesn’t just sit with the department around trying to fix that as there are issues outside of the department which I’ll talk about.
The 3 categories are:
- communication and when it breaks down
- exclusion and how that occurs
- when challenges become significant there can be a tendancy to focus on the child.
Going back to communications, as I said, policies to all intents and purposes are good but it’s when they’re not implemented is when problems arise.
To a certain extent that’s around skill level of teachers and issues around sitting with students and families to develop an individual learning plan or to be participating in student support group meetings. Often there will be conversations between the people around the table and individual learning plans will be developed and strategies and ideas that could be explored or have been demonstrated to have worked in the past have been identified but then what happens is that they’re not implemented down the track.
Equally, student support group meetings where there’s opportunities to readjust and review what’s been happening and put new ideas in lace or to go back to some of those original strategies. Often this doesn’t happen and a key area of student support meetings are talking bout what’s gone wrong. It becomes an incident driven meeting rather than a planning implementation meeting.
it’s also around valuing what students and families say works and the educators recognising and honouring the experiences that students and families bring to the table.
Often communication issues begin to build some tension which means that having a resolution or a solution focussed conversation doesn’t occur. It’s at this point when communication breaks down that we start getting the phone calls.
Exclusion tends to happen, as Madeleine was saying before, when you are not planning and thinking through how a student can be included in whatever the activity might be. It’s when teachers and educators don’t have the skills to adapt what they might be doing or what they’re planning to do.
Parents will be told that we’re going on an excursion but your child can’t come for whatever reason. This is particularly an issue for camps so we often get a spike around October with parents saying, “My child isn’t going on camp at the end of the year. We’ve just been told so what can you do about it and can you help us come up with a better solution to that?”
Sometimes it can be even less obvious than that. When communication breaks down and we’re getting to the pointy end of trying to resolve issues and they’re escalating, the focus then becomes the child. It’s almost like the onus is on the child to fix things and to adjust their behaviour to do something different to make the situation go away. The focus is on the symptom rather than reflecting on what the cause is and working out how to resolve the cause.
That level of self reflection for educators to ask themselves and think about, “what can I do to change the situation to become a circuit breaker”. that doesn’t happen often and the advocacy meetings that we become involved with is often about trying to change the conversation from “the kids doing this” or “the kid’s doing that” to looking at what can be done to circuit break the situation.
So they are the three general areas that we do most of our work.
I’m going to give you some quick stats here. At the moment we’re looking at finalising our state election campaign and working on our platform around education.
A key area of this is better pre-service training so that graduate teachers coming into the classroom are better skilled. Some of our investigations at this stage have been looking at the actual curriculum that’s provided in Victorian universities around under graduate degrees.
There are 49 under graduate education degrees currently being provided in Victoria. Only six of the nine offer units that focus on individual or disability support in education. Out of the 49 courses there are only 10units that focus on either individual learning or specifically disability education. Nearly all of those 10 units out of the 49 are electives and education students are not required to complete them in order to graduate.
If study of individual or disability support is desired by tertiary students further study is required in post graduate or additional certificates.
As you can see, a student teacher can actually go through their whole professional training and come out into the school system and not be skilled. Clearly this is a massive issue because they just aren’t equipped and are being set up to fail.
At ACD we can’t create all the changes that need to take place in education so we are working on key areas that we think are really important.
I might leave it at that so we can have some further discussion.
Thanks very much Elizabeth. That was very interesting.
I’m happy to kick of with a question. It strikes me, in a lot of the work that we do, is that there is a greater recognition of reform but we’re still stuck in integration where we are trying to get the kids to fit the system and I’m wondering what everyone’s experience of that is and what you think we need to do to progress that change from integration to inclusion.
I think the comment that Nick made earlier about all schools are there to teach all children and the issue of students with a disability being provided through the Program for Students with Disability (PSD) is the way that students should be supported. For many people this equates to an intergration aid so that is the first challenge.
Even before that is that schools need to see that their global budget is there to support all children and that it’s not children with a disability equals PSD.
I think the general direction that education is travelling is that all students need to have their individual learning goals and objectives set and established. It’s not just that we will do this for a particular group of students.
Classroom teachers need to look more at having the voice of the student in helping to determine what their objectives are and what they are trying to achieve and build that into their classroom practice.
I think we are in a state of change. We have much more team teaching, much more group work and learning from each other. i would like to see students with disabilities being the one that everyone learns from.
I think schools and general classroom teachers should not be surprised wehn they have a student with a disability in their classroom and that also comes back to the expectation that classroom teachers do need specific training and i think that seems to be the only way forward. Classroom teachers need to be more aware that the student generally knows what their needs are, as does the family that’s supporting them.
QUESTION FROM THE FLOOR:
Hi, I’m Maurice Gleason. I’m giving my age away but I lost my sight suddenly at the age of 13. In October my vision droped, by November I was totally blind and the following February I was enrolled in a special school for the blind. It ws for students who had multiple disabilities or were blind or vision impaired and it was a bording school.
I’m not sure, if today this happened to me now, I would have coped as well because in those days our every need was catered for as far as social development goes, the physical education, peer support it was wonderful. the academic side was lacking a bit though.
I think the problem today is that we label people with disability as if we just somehow all fall into one catagory and we’re all the same. If we are blind or vision impaired or have a physical disaiblity, we are all unique which is a huge ask for the education system or a classroom teacher to become experts in every area of disability. that’s going to e a huge challenge. The concern I have for a lot of students today is what do they do as far as physical education goes, after school activitiy and what happens to those who don’t have a supportive home environment?
So you’ve got to have the capability, the capacity, but more importantly, the commitment.
I wonder now, without those specialist schools now, is it better? Is it worse? Is it no differenct?
Blind Sports Victoria will be working with La Trobe University to do some research in this whole area so in some time we might have some evidence as to what the changes are.
Thanks for that. Would anyone like to respond to that?
I can comment. I head Teaching Parents and grew up and lived onsite at a school for the blind in another jurisdiction. In that situation, young blind children from the age of 3 were taken away from their families across the country and put into residential arrangements until the age of around 21 when they left those centres.
I think that the arrangements that we have now where vision education sits with every community and it the responsibility of every school doesn’t mean that we have to look to a not for profit community group to provide quality education. We should be expecting that the sort of experience you are talking about at the school that you went to, is being delivered for every student in every city.
Certainly it goes to the guts of our paper that when we look at what the evidence is saying is that best practice is inclusion. that doesn’t mean that people aren’t learning well in separate or specialist settings but best practice is inclusion.
Now with greater prevalence of students with disability being in every class, at least one or two students with disability, that we need to look at how we provide enriched education for all students.
QUESTION FROM THE FLOOR:
My name is Jarad and I’m here on behalf of YDAS today. I went to a special school as well and it wasn’t really the best education academically but it did help me physically to get wheelchairs etc. My question is, “Do you guys think that special schools are skills scapegoats for mainstream education systems where people rock up with their disabled child or become disabled during school and they just automatically get told that there is a wonderful thing called a special school where all your problems will get solved. Do you think that government and schools are spending too much money and time focussing on putting people through special shcools because the bricks and mortar are already set up to accommodate them physically and sometimes intellectually they fail academically.”
That’s a tough question. My response to that would be yes. A lot of families tend to send their child to a special school with the idea that all their therapy and equipment and other needs will be supported. The family might be unaware of the educational experience will receive at a special school. Families tend to focus more on what their child’s physical needs are at the time.
I think one of the issues, Jarad, is around medical science. I don’t think that there’s a simple answer to the question that you pose. I think that mainstream education hasn’t kept up with the advancements that medical science has achieved. So therefore, we have children of student age who are using ventilators and have extremely high medical needs that are almost nursing care level.
To create inclusion universally, we actually have to build it first and then people will come. If mainstream educators have the right skills and create the right environment,
people will choose mainstream over specialist. We have quite a few families who choose specialist because they feel like their children are more likely to be bullied in mainstream so sometimes it’s more of a protective issue.
it’s around 90% of students with disability who actually attend mainstream schools.
I would like to reitterate Elizabeth’s comments and add that presently the policy platform is providing choice.
I’d have to say that it’s not an informed choice. Elizabeth would know this, that when you speak with so many families who are confronted with different options, they are made to feel welcome at the local school who say they are unclear on how they will meet the particular needs or sometimes schools can make you feel very unwelcome and it is clear that they are full of ignorance and lacking expertise. so you go with the option that you feel your child’s needs are best going to be met whether this be educational, physical or academic.
I think that what Elizabeth said about building a framework first and then we’ll see some different decisions.
QUESTION FROM THE FLOOR:
Thank you very much. My name is Kylie and I’m from Warrnambool and I’m first and foremost a mother of a young man who is 13 in mainstream education who uses a wheelchair for mobility and also has a hearing loss. He was born very premature so you know that these children are often born with not a lot of hope in their lives but fortunately once they get over the incideous medical problems that they face then they grow and prosper very well.
I would like to acknowledge one point from Nicholas about the right to education. I think this is a very important point but the right of education in one’s own community is even more important. Living regional we don’t have choice. We don’t have options and often we’re left with the education systems that are presented to us.
How do we change their ideaology and culture and make them more accommodating to our children is doing some of the things that you’ve all touched on today, in particular Madeleine and my son is still waiting to get on the bus. it’s something that’s not going to go away. But what disturbs me is when governments, unfortunately, make it difficult for infrastructure to change.
My personal experience of this is during the building revolution when my son was in primary school. There were ramps to his educational facility but this changed when older temporary units to be upgraded and the ramp was then not included in the upgrade.
What does this say to the community? What does this say as a government? What does this say as an education forum? Yeah we want to educate these kids but you know what, let’s not worry about the access. that really is the very first point of call is the access. Yes it’s going to cost money. Warrnambool special school is overwhelmed with students at the moment and access to the other educational platforms in the community are reduced because there is no access.
My son, being the wheelchair user, chose the site, chose the school with the six different levels and it’s working. But I think the conversation and the real starting point outside of the learning experience is the infrastructure and the environment and the culture. the culture won’t change until we look at our buildings.
Thank you for your time.
Fundamental to that is attitude. an attitude of inclusion and an expectation of inclusion.
I would say it’s a rule, it’s an expectation and I’d like to talk with you afterwards about this.
I’m sorry everyone but we’re out of time. In conclusion I’d like to thank our speakers very much, they’ve done a wonderful job.
I’m very mindful I was looking at the letters in the paper today about a baby that talked about support needs, costs and burdens and I just want to remind everyone that it’s very clear, again in our paper and through our own experiences, that a school community is greatly enriched by having students with disability as part of it.
it’s very clear that there are positive outcomes for the student themselves and for their peers, their teachers and we need to keep at top of mind when we’re looking at what we’re doing here around inclusion.
Thanks again everybody and I’ll hand back to Robyn.
Thank you, Stephanie, thank you panel.