Morrison govt funding cuts hit Students with Disability

19 February 2019

Nearly four in five public school principals say they do not have sufficient resources to cater for students with disability, according to a survey of public schools across Australia.

According to the Australian Education Union (AEU) 2018 State of our School survey, 88% of principals say they use funds from other areas of the school budget to assist students with disability.

These survey results follow Morrison government funding cuts for students with disability in five states and territories in 2018. The worst hit were Tasmania, with funding cuts of 46 per cent from $18 million to $9.7 million, and the Northern Territory, with a 36 per cent cut from $26.7 million to $17.2 million.

Students who received an educational adjustment due to disability make up nearly one in five of all students in Australia. According to the Education Council’s Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability, this was 724,624 students.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that public schools work hard to ensure that students with disability can learn in a safe, inclusive environment, but they need more resources to account for the extra costs involved.

“The Morrison government’s cuts to public school funding for students with disability are simply unacceptable,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“They severely impact on the capacity of public schools to support all students to access a high-quality education. Every child, regardless of age, gender, race or ability, has the fundamental human right to education.”

“The Morrison government slashed millions of dollars of funding for students with disability in public schools and moved on,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Almost 75 per cent of students with disabilities attend public schools, however their needs are being ignored by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.”

“It is unacceptable that Australia, a nation which prides itself on the notion of a fair go, currently has a federal government that does not consider these students and their needs as a high priority,” Ms Haythorpe said.

According to the 2018 State of our Schools survey:

  • 65% of principals disagreed that they had sufficient resources to appropriately meet the needs of students with disabilities
  • 36% of schools had at least 15% of students enrolled with a disability requiring additional assistance
  • 88% of principals use funds from other areas of the school budget to assist students with disability
  • 81% of principals say they do not have sufficient resources to cater for students with disability
  • Re: students with disability:
    • 82% of principals lack assistance for teachers in the classroom
    • 63% of principals lack specialist support
    • 51% of principals lack funding to pay for the professional development of classroom teachers
    • 50% of principals are in schools which lack appropriate learning spaces

Ms Haythorpe called on all parties to commit to address the underfunding of students with disability in public schools.

“Students with disability have a fundamental right to a high-quality and fully-resourced education,” Ms Haythorpe said.

This is critically important for students with disabilities, who face challenges that others do not.”

“Many of these students will also experience compound disadvantage, as they may also live in rural and remote locations, be indigenous, or come from a low socio-economic background.”

“Our schools work hard to ensure that issues such as access, specialist support, staffing and health and wellbeing are appropriate for their students so that they can learn in a safe environment. However, this comes with extra costs for schools and must be fully resourced,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“All students deserve a fair chance to reach their potential. We call on all parties to reverse cuts to funding for students with disability, and to review loading for students with disability to determine real costs of ensuring that all students with disability can access a high-quality education.”

“Students with disability have been largely invisible in the school funding debate to date, and this must change in the lead up to the federal election,” Ms Haythorpe said.

The Fair Funding Now Van tour will be visiting school communities across Australia to talk about the importance of restoring the Morrison Governments $14 billion cut to public schools.