Govt has failed to deliver for students with disabilities

Govt has failed to deliver for students with disabilities

School funding cuts for students with disabilities must be reversed now, says the Australian Education Union.

An overwhelming majority of public school principals surveyed by the AEU have reported inadequate funding for students with disabilities.

In the AEU’s recent State of Our Schools survey, 88 per cent of the almost 700 principals surveyed said that government funding for students with disabilities was not enough to adequately educate and support them.

In the lead-up to the federal election, all political parties need to spell out how they will address this underfunding, says AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe.

“Despite the Coalition government’s big promises in relation to the disability loading, it failed to deliver the funds needed to teach students with disability,” she says.

Nearly one in five school students receive an “educational adjustment” due to disability, according to the Education Council’s Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability. Almost 75 per cent of students with disabilities attend public schools.

Providing appropriate specialists, health and wellbeing support, staffing and access for students with disabilities costs extra, and schools must receive enough funding to cover these costs, says Haythorpe.

“Every child must have the chance to receive a high-quality education. This is critically important for students with disabilities, who face challenges that others don’t, and who may be impacted by other types of educational disadvantage.”

Under the Morrison government’s 2017 school funding legislative changes, federal funding for students with disabilities was standardised across all states. According to the formula, a base amount is provided for each student, along with additional funding for any of the three levels of additional support needed: supplementary, substantive or extensive.

But this was actually a smokescreen for major funding cuts, says Haythorpe. Commonwealth funding for students with disabilities was cut for five states and territories in 2018. Worst hit were Tasmania (a 46 per cent cut, from $18 million to $9.7 million) and the Northern Territory (36 per cent, from $26.7 million to $17.2 million).

“The funding cuts must be urgently reversed, and the new system of disability loading reviewed. All political parties must understand the vital need for proper funding for students with disabilities,” Haythorpe says.