Stephanie Gotlib

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Public Education Day 2020

It is really important that we celebrate Public Education Day. This year with the outbreak of Covid-19, it has been a telling reminder of how important public education is. When the majority of education provision moved to remote learning it has profoundly impacted our daily lives. Apart from the many practical considerations of managing other work and life commitments, many families have had to undertake a different role in teaching their children. Consequently, there is a renewed respect for teachers.

We have also had cause to realise what an integral part of community our school is. Many students and their families are sorely missing direct contact with friends and other activities in schools which contribute to us feeling valued and create a significant sense of belonging.

The majority of Australian kids receive their school education through the public system, including over two thirds of students with disability. I am extremely committed to ensuring that students with disability are afforded their right to an inclusive education. This has been an extensive focus of mine as a disability advocate and a parent. There is much needed reform needed in Australia to enable the experience of inclusive education to become a lived reality for every child with disability. I have met and worked with so many people who work in the public education system who acknowledge the significant barriers which exist and are focused and committed on progressing the educational rights of students with disability. I have no doubt that our public education will continue to lead the way in this journey.

My son, completed Year 12 last year at Fitzroy High School. He has extremely high behaviour and communication needs and every aspect of his curriculum needed adjustment throughout his school life. He was a valued member of the school community and his disability was regarded as an aspect of diversity which enriched his school community and beyond. I am convinced that his experience was only possible because of the commitment and values inherent in our public education system.

I take this opportunity to sincerely thank all teachers, support workers, principals and others who work in public education, including many of my family, friends and colleagues, for your dedication and expertise. Happy Public Education Day!!Stephanie Gotlib for Public Education Day 2020

Stephanie Gotlib, Disability advocate and former CEO of Children and Young People with Disability Australia