The O’Farrell Government’s changes to special education announced today are part of a Treasury driven cost-cutting exercise.
The changes are designed to reduce expenditure on our neediest students over time. By changing the way students with autism and mental health disorders are funded and by re-designating specialist teacher positions into a generalist role, students with special needs and disabilities will miss out on the support they need.
As reported by Boston Consulting Group, these changes are consistent with what happens in Victoria, where special education funding has been capped and reduced over time.
These changes are a state wide rollout of the trial conducted in the Illawarra and South East Region. To win acceptance of the changes in this trial, additional funding was allocated. The long term plan, however, is to withdraw this additional funding once the new model has been accepted.
It’s apparent the O’Farrell Government is now going to use the $48 million from the National Partnership for students with disabilities to bolster the state wide rollout. When this National Partnership is discontinued in two and a half years time, however, a new model will have been introduced that has the effect of capping and reducing funding for students over time.
Of further concern is the notion that current specialist teacher positions could be redesignated into a more generalist role. It is unrealistic and unreasonable to expect classroom teachers and colleagues in these redesignated roles to provide support to all students across the full range of special needs and disabilities. Where students need specialist support, it should remain available.
This announcement follows the ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ cost cutting model that is being imposed on public schools. This special education announcement reflects the same approach - cap, then reduce funding.
Federation will continue to campaign against any changes that diminish the quality of education for students with special needs and disabilities.