Senate Inquiry calls for Gonski to meet disability need


18 January 2015

A Senate Inquiry into disability in schools has found the Federal Government must implement the full six years of Gonski funding and keep its promise to increase disability funding to schools in 2016 to meet the urgent unmet need.

The Inquiry confirmed what educators already knew – that a chronic shortage of resources for disability means that thousands of children are being denied a quality education.

It said there was: “Overwhelming evidence regarding the many barriers faced by students with disability and their families. Access to education is a basic human right, but for many students with disability in Australia, it is a right which they are prevented from accessing.”

The inquiry heard from parents, principals and disability organisations who were united in their view that the current system was not working and things needed to change.

It called on the Turnbull Government to improve resourcing by honouring the full six years of the Gonski agreements, and by keeping its promise to use the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on Disability (NCCD) to deliver more funding for students with disability based on need in 2016.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the Senate Inquiry was another piece of evidence in favour of Gonski and that the lack of funding for disability in schools was preventing students from reaching their potential.

“Educators are going above and beyond every day to give a great education to children with disability, but they are hampered by the lack of resources,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Too many students are not receiving the in-class support, equipment or individual learning plans that could make a huge difference to their schooling.

“We need Malcolm Turnbull to keep his promise to lift disability funding in 2016 to meet the real needs of students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This situation cannot continue. Every year that we delay is another cohort of students who do not get an education that equips them for work and life.

The final results of the NCCD – a comprehensive survey of disability in schools – were presented to governments before Christmas and showed that the majority of students who need funded support at school are not getting it.

The NCCD found that 12.5 per cent of students need “supplementary, substantial or extensive support” at school – compared with only 5.3 per cent of students currently getting funded support.

This would amount to 467,842 students needing some kind of funded support at school – far more than the 190,887 that the Productivity Commission found received it in 2013.

The NCCD results were supposed to drive a new funding system that would at last meet the real needs of students with disability, something which was a key recommendation of the Gonski Review.

But schools are still waiting despite a series of promises from the Federal Government that funding which met the real needs of students would be delivered in 2016.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said as recently as June last year that from 2016:

“Every child in Australia with disability will be able to receive the correct loading, as they should, to match their disability’

However there has been no increase in funding to schools, and no timeline from new Education Minister Simon Birmingham when one may happen.

The Senate Inquiry has also endorsed the AEU’s call for all teaching degrees to include compulsory training for teachers on how to teach students with disability.

Ms Haythorpe said that the AEU’s State of Our Schools survey had identified this as a key issue for teachers.

“It is clear from our surveys that a majority of classroom teachers believe they were not given enough training in teaching students with disability,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Teaching students with disability is complex and teachers need more training both at university and through ongoing professional development throughout their careers.

“We need a cultural change in our education system so that we can fully realise the potential of students with disability, but the most important step is to ensure that our schools have the resources they need.”