Aussies ‘uncomfortable’ with students with intellectual disability in their child’s school
10 February 2020 at 4:24 pm
But disability advocates say the segregation of kids with disability in education is a fundamental breach of human rights
Almost one in five Australians are uncomfortable with their children sharing a classroom with people who have a significant intellectual disability, new research shows.
An Endeavour Foundation survey of 1,000 people found opinions were divided on whether special education or mainstream schooling was better for students with intellectual disability.
Just over half (55 per cent) said they preferred special education schools, while 45 per cent said they favoured mainstream schools.
But disability advocates say the segregation of children with disability in education is a fundamental denial of human rights, noting that students with disability face exclusion, bullying, and physical restraint in Australian schools.
Endeavour Foundation CEO Andrew Donne said it was shocking that so many people were uncomfortable having their children share a class with a student with an intellectual disability.
“We need to make sure educational options are available to everyone, whatever their ability, so they can make the choice that best meets their needs,” Donne said.
He noted the proportion of people favouring segregated education had actually increased eight per cent during the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Donne said this could suggest that Australians believed young people with intellectual disability should be sheltered or protected.
“Or it may mean that people don’t believe mainstream schools are equipped to meet the needs of all students,” he said.
“Ultimately, there must be a place for both options in our society based on individual need and choice.
“Families must be supported to make the choice that best meets their needs and schools must also have the funding and capability to support their decision.”
Down Syndrome Australia responded to the research on Twitter, noting that: “Everyone has the right to inclusive education. This is a fundamental right for all Australian children, with or without disabilities.”
DSA also shared its position paper on the issue, which said access to inclusive education was a right outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), of which Australia is a signatory.
The first hearing of the disability royal commission focused on education, and considered the significance of the UNCRPD.
The Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education – a new national coalition advocating for an evidence-based approach to education for children with disability – recently called for an end to segregated education.
Children and Young People with Disability Australia CEO Mary Sayers told Pro Bono News in October that segregation was one of the key systemic issues affecting students with disability.
“Families are told there isn’t the right support at this school or they’d be better off going to a special school up the road,” she said.
“CYDA wholeheartedly agreed with the UN when it recently said that Australia needs to lift its game and stop the segregation of children with disability in education – which is a fundamental denial of their human rights.”