Developing a school submission to the inquiry

Please follow the steps below to access support resources to develop your submission to the inquiry:

1. With your Federation Workplace Committee, review information on the current state of education provision for students with disability to develop your school’s submission.

Current state of education provision for students with disability

Department of Education figures show that around 15 per cent of the total 780,000 students in NSW public schools have adjustments to their learning due to disability and/or difficulties in learning or behaviour.

Please consider the following information when developing your submission. The information has been organised under each term of reference.

a) Equitable access to resources for students with disability

The continued refusal of the federal Coalition government to fund the Gonski Students with Disability (SWD) loading means growing numbers of students are not gaining equitable access to education or improved life outcomes through schooling. The federal government’s own data collection shows that 13.6 per cent of all students need funded support at school but only 6.2 per cent are getting it. This affects more than 270,000 students across the country.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) 2016 State of our Schools survey found that:

  • 87 per cent of principals reported having to shift funding from other parts of their school budget to assist students with disability (up from 84 per cent in 2015)
  • 62 per cent of teachers say the needs of students with disability at their school are not being properly met

The 2016 Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) Education Survey found that:

  • 67 per cent of parents do not think the level of support their child with a disability receives at school is adequate
  • 73 per cent of students were receiving individual support at school, but only 57 per cent received specific individual funding.

CYDA’s Inclusion in Education issues paper states that “People who experience disability form the largest minority group in our world today. However, the rights of people who experience disability are repeatedly denied. Exclusion or discrimination on the basis of disability remains a common occurrence and children who experience disability are amongst the most excluded in Australia and throughout the world” (pp. 7-8).

Further, employment rates of people with disability have been stagnant since the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, with their labour force participation at 54 per cent compared to 83 per cent for people without disability. About 45 per cent of people with disability in Australia live near or in poverty – more than double the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 22 per cent. Australia is the worst performer in the OECD on this indicator, ranking 27th out of 27 OECD countries.

b) Impact of Every Student, Every School

The Department’s Every Student, Every School (ESES) Learning and Support Framework implemented in 2012, aimed to find better ways of ensuring that the additional learning and support needs of every student in every school are met.

The $47,9 million provided to NSW through the Australian Government’s National Partnership initiative, More Support for Students with Disabilities were used to implement ESES. The Department described this as “an important opportunity for public schools In New South Wales to build their capabilities to meet the additional learning and support needs of students with disability.”

Funding for students with disability via the NSW Resource Allocation Model continues to be distributed predominantly via the Student Learning Needs Index (SLNI) established under Every Student, Every School, which serves as a mechanism to distribute capped funding based on relative needs of the school within the system.

In 2012, NSW Treasury dictated education policy to cap and reduce funding for students with disability. A Boston Consulting Group report recommended $100 million of funding cuts to special needs education. The government's funding formula, implemented via Every Student, Every School, was designed to stem the 11 per cent annual growth in the cost of special needs education.

c) Developments since the 2010 Legislative Council Parliamentary Inquiry into the provision of education to students with a disability or special needs

The following is an excerpt from the Chair’s Foreword of the 2010 Inquiry Report:

“This Inquiry received more than 700 submissions and heard evidence from over 70 witnesses…

The overwhelming view among inquiry participants is that there are significant inadequacies in the NSW education system for students with disabilities and special needs. The Committee believes that the NSW Government needs to take immediate action to address these inadequacies if it is to meet its legal obligations to ensure equal access to the education system for all children.

Inquiry participants argued that one of the major barriers to the effective inclusion of students with disabilities and special needs in the education system is the lack of appropriate funding in both the government and non-government sectors. We therefore call on the NSW Government to substantially increase funding for these students in NSW Government schools, including Schools for Specific Purposes.

The current efforts of principals, teachers and support staff to promote a safe and inclusive learning environment for students with disabilities and special needs is commended by the Committee. However, we recognise that school communities would benefit from additional support and guidance on how to effectively maximise the use of available resources to assist students with disabilities and special needs.”

d) Complaint and review mechanisms within the NSW school systems for parents/carers

The following information does not relate directly to complaint and review mechanisms but does provide recommendations and commentary made by the Audit Office of NSW and NSW Parliament Legislative Council regarding areas to strengthen parent information, engagement and consultation.

The performance audit conducted by the Audit Office of NSW recommended that the Department:

  • improve information on its website for students with disability and their families by:
  • developing clearer, more readily accessible information in plain English
  • providing guidance on reasonable adjustments, including case studies on how schools tailor support to meet students’ needs
  • provide additional guidance to schools and parents to strengthen their understanding of what effective consultation looks like regarding support for students with disability

The following is an excerpt from the Chair’s Foreword of the Final Report of the 2012 Legislative Council Parliamentary Inquiry into the transition support for students with additional or complex needs and their families:

“Positive transitions play a key role in the educational outcomes of students, and can lead to better

employment opportunities and a more meaningful community life for young people with additional or complex needs.

Unfortunately however the transition support service system in New South Wales is fragmented and complex, with information about transition support difficult to find and hard to understand. Many families are not even aware that transition support or services even exist, and those that are aware struggle to navigate their way around such a disjointed system.

While there is some guidance available to families through case managers and transition support staff, this support is only available for limited periods of time and is not available to everyone. The same issue applies to support services for students with additional or complex needs in general, many of which are withdrawn at key transition points. The lack of continuity in care is exacerbated by the fact that there is no single agency responsible for transition planning and support, and is a major issue for students and their families.

(e) any other related matters.

Gonski enables improvements for students with disability

The Gonski SWD loading was due for release at the beginning of 2015 but has not been delivered by the federal Coalition government. The loading, as detailed in the Australian Education Act 2013, is applied at:

  1. 223 per cent of the respective Schooling Resource Standard for students attending a special school
  2. 186 per cent of the respective Schooling Resource Standard for students attending any other school

The full implementation of Gonski – including the Students with Disability Loading – could deliver:

  • additional executive release and specialist teachers to support every teacher working with students with disability
  • early and ongoing access to specialist support such as speech pathologists and mental health professionals
  • time for teachers and Learning Support Teams to undertake collaborative transition planning with students and their families
  • adequate levels of targeted provision (e.g. integration funding, specialist placements) based on need
  • ongoing professional learning on effective inclusive practice for all teachers.

2. Share the Inquiry webstory with your principal and Public Service Association (PSA) representative. Seek the principal’s support to develop the school’s submission. Principals will receive an email regarding the inquiry directly from Federation.

Federation is asking every member and every workplace to lodge a submission to the NSW Legislative Council parliamentary inquiry established to investigate and report on the provision of education to school students with a disability or special needs.

Submissions close on February 26, 2017. Resources to support the development of your school’s submission are being emailed to Federation Representatives and can be found on Federation’s website here.

Department of Education figures show that around 15 per cent of the total 780,000 students in NSW public schools have adjustments to their learning due to disability and/or difficulties in learning or behaviour.

Commitment to equity

Federation continues to campaign for the right of every student to receive a public education of the highest quality and for all students to become successful learners. Too many students with disability are being denied fundamental rights through inequitable access to additional support; missing out on improvements to their learning outcomes, wellbeing and future lives.

The inadequate provision of education to students with disability cannot continue.

The Review of Funding for Schooling (Gonski Review) confirmed that it costs more to deliver on equity and excellence for students with disability. Accordingly, a Students with Disability (SWD) loading was included in the National Education Reform Agreement (NERA) and Australian Education Act 2013. The Nationally Consistent Collection of Data will inform the loading and resolve the issue of inconsistent definitions of disability across the country.

The NSW government, via state Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, reiterated its strong commitment to Gonski as recently as October 17 in correspondence to principals, affirming, “My role is to continue to strongly advocate for the Gonski Agreement and the needs-based funding model”. He made this commitment also in his address to the Primary Principals Association State Conference on October 20.

Challenges to be addressed in the context of the Every Student, Every School (ESES) policy and the allocation of funding through the Resource Allocation Model include:

  • Integration Funding levels
  • Access Request and placement panel processes
  • provision of support class placements
  • timely access to specialist support
  • equitable resource allocation to Schools for Specific Purposes (SSPs)
  • time and professional learning for personalised learning.

Parliamentary inquiry – an opportunity for change

The NSW parliamentary inquiry established in August this year will look into and report on the provision of education to students with a disability or special needs in government and non-government schools throughout the state.

As teachers, we need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to work with a diverse student population, the systemic supports to provide early interventions and the time to understand and plan from the needs, strengths and hopes of our students, together with their families.

The inquiry is an opportunity to register unmet need, call for equity and share what equity for students with disability could look like in your school with the full implementation of the Gonski funding model. The inquiry is an opportunity to unite with parents/carers, colleagues and community members in lobbying local MPs to present evidence and mount the case for the federal government to deliver the Gonski SWD loading.

The inquiry’s terms of reference

  1. equitable access to resources for students with a disability or special needs in regional and metropolitan areas
  2. the impact of the government’s “Every Student Every School” policy on the provision of education to students with a disability or special needs in public schools
  3. developments since the 2010 inquiry by General Purpose Standing Committee No. 2 into the provision of education to students with a disability or special needs and the implementation of its recommendations
  4. complaint and review mechanisms within the school systems in NSW for parents and carers
  5. any other related matters.

Find further information on the inquiry here.

3. Customise and send the corresponding letters to your school’s parents/carers and P&C President to encourage the development of their own submissions.

Click here to download letter to send to your school’s parents/carers

Click here to download letter to send to your school’s P&C President

4. Set a Federation meeting date to discuss the submission with your colleagues. Send the suggested meeting invitation to all Federation members.

Click here to download a template of a meeting invitation to send to all Federation members. 

Be sure to insert the correct [Date], [Time] and [Location] in the template.

5. Consider seeking specific input from the following:

  • Learning Support Team (LST),
  • the LST Coordinator,
  • Learning and Support Teacher/s,
  • Support Class Teachers,
  • Learning and Wellbeing consultants
  • Executive,
  • School Counsellor.

6. Lodge your workplace's submission.

After the meeting use the Federation's submission pro-forma to lodge your workplace's Submission.

Alternatively you can submit directly to the inquiry committee here

7. Encourage people to lodge individual submissions

Encourage people to lodge individual submissions via the Federation’s submission page or directly to the inquiry here.

8. Click here for more information

Click here to view a submission from the AEU

Click here for an article published in Education, November 2016.

Special Education Position Paper Public Education: An Inclusive System of Provision for Students with Disability

Annual Conference Decisions – 2014


9. Submission terms and conditions

For more information about the publication of your submission and the protections afforded under the parliamentary privilege, please refer to the Guide to writing submissions. Note the following in particular (copied directly from the Guide to writing submissions):

“Most submissions received by the committee are made public and published on the committee's webpage. If you would like all or part of your submission to be made confidential, please contact the committee staff.