$156M Boost for Students With Disability
19 April 2016 at 10:53 am
The Victorian Government has announced a $156 million funding boost to provide additional support for students with special needs following a landmark review.
The Program for Students with Disabilities Review Report revealed 15 out of every 100 children need disability funding, but less than one-third of those children actually receive it.
Next week’s state budget will include $50 million to support an additional 1,750 students expected to be eligible for the students with disability program, and $22 million for students with autism and dyslexia as part of the package.
The state government has also committed to making mainstream schools more inclusive and providing additional support for teachers.
Former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes, who led the review, told Pro Bono Australia News that inclusion of students with disability in mainstream schools was key, and Victorian policy was “going against the trend”.
“The key findings were the importance of inclusion of kids with disabilities in mainstream schools, and the need to stop the trend in Victoria which has been reversing that,” Innes said.
“Mainstream schools for kids with disabilities is a worldwide trend, and Victoria is going against the trend and so that needs to be addressed.”
He also said that there was inconsistency and a lack of transparency in the program for students with disability.
“Some of the other new initiatives will be able to address that issue to an extent, but the real key will be the functional-based assessment, moving away from the medical model and determining what support kids need, rather than doing it on the basis of their particular disability,” he said.
“In the short-term the extra funding promised in the budget will have a significant impact.”
The Andrews government said it supported 21 out of the 25 recommendations in the review, with the final four recommendations still under consideration.
“The ones that they are still considering, really they need to wait to see where the NDIS funding and assessment instruments go, I think in the circumstances that’s a very understandable response,” Innes said.
The Australian Education Union in Victoria welcomed the Victorian Government’s commitment, but said the state needed federal support to solve the disability-funding problem, which has “hit crisis point”.
“At the 2013 election the federal government promised to increase resources to students with disability so that all students who required support received it. That promise has been repeated time and again, but schools have seen no money and students with disabilities continue to miss out on the support they need,” AEU Victorian president Meredith Peace said.
“[The] funding commitment by the Victorian Government will mean schools are better able to support students with dyslexia or autism who are not receiving any targeted disability funding. This funding will mean earlier screening, better reading and language intervention and extra training and support for school staff.
“Victoria needs federal Gonski funding to ensure that schools can deliver support for children with disabilities and learning difficulties long-term. Prime Minister Turnbull back-flipped on delivering Gonski funding for our schools, and has also left schools high and dry without additional disability loadings promised.”