Students With Disability Neglected by Education System – Senate
15 January 2016 at 5:08 pm
Australia’s education system is failing students with disability, directly setting them up for a life of “diminished capacity”, according to a senate report.
The Senate Committee investigating the lack of access to real learning for people with disability found that they received inadequate support and faced numerous barriers.
It recommended that the government fund all students with disability on the basis of need by reversing its cuts to the final two years of the Gonski Reforms.
“The committee is shocked and saddened by the evidence provided of schools failing to recognise their responsibilities to educate all children and disappointed by the underlying assumption of some that students with disability do not require or deserve to have their future life, especially career prospects, taken seriously,” the report said.
“Multiple submitters told this inquiry that a significant barrier for students with disability in accessing education, is widespread ignorance of the Disability Standards 2005 (the Standards) or the right of all children to have access to education.
“For the students themselves, inadequate education access at school will result in their diminished capacity for the rest of their lives. Under-education leads to unemployment, lower levels of health, social isolation and a lifetime of disadvantage.”
The committee also received multiple submissions from parents and carers which described the use of restrictive practices, such as physical restraint or isolation in separate rooms, and abuse in schools against students with disability.
The Australian Greens’ spokesperson on disabilities, Senator Rachel Siewert, said the report identified barriers faced by students with disability who were struggling at school unnecessarily.
“These barriers include some schools deliberately preventing children with disability from attending, excluding students from activities, not addressing students’ needs as well as financial challenges,” Senator Siewert said.
"Failure to provide a comprehensive education for students with disability impacts on their life prospects and the whole of the community as their participation is undermined.
“Students with disability deserve a fulfilling and supportive experience at school. It was important these barriers were identified so that we can work towards full access to the school system for everyone.”
Nationals Senator Birdget McKenzie offered a different reaction to the report, saying that the committee had failed to acknowledge vital facts.
“[An] important point that the Chair's Report failed to acknowledge was that, although the Commonwealth provides a substantial financial contribution to school education, it is not the primary funder of schools in Australia,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The fact remains that the Commonwealth provides one-third of recurrent school funding while the states and territories are responsible for the majority two-thirds portion.
“States and territories are responsible for the overall quality of school education in their jurisdictions. The Committee heard that some states do a better job of supporting students with disability.”
But she admitted that action did need to be taken when it came to the accessibility of the education system for people with disability.
“School leadership, improved teacher training, best-practice teaching and an inclusive culture within schools are all significant factors which contribute to better outcomes for students with disability and Coalition Senators support the recommendations in the Chair’s Report which address these issues,” she said.
“There was concerning evidence presented to the Committee that a number of schools, across jurisdictions and sectors, were blatantly disregarding the Disability Standards. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency by state and territory governments to ensure that schools comply and that students with disability do not experience discrimination or exclusion from the education system.”
The report also called for the the reestablishment of a Disability Discrimination Commissioner. The full-time position was dropped after the former Abbott government ended Graeme Innes’s tenure.