Union attentive to promised transformation of education of students with disability

Federation will be vigilant over changing approaches to the education of students with disability and hold the NSW Government and Department of Education to account, Claudia Vera, Officer with carriage of disability matters, told Annual Conference earlier this week.

Ms Vera said work by the Delivery Unit – together with the Educational Services review, the curriculum review and the Department’s development of a strategic plan to “ensure every student is known, valued and cared for” – presents an opportunity for improvement in the education of students with disability.

The Department has responded to the union’s concerns and will abolish the Student Learning Needs Index (introduced under Every Student, Every School) which caps equity funding and works within existing resources by distributing resources based on relative need, not actual need.

“Transition planning points to the work required to underpin and inform what replaces the Access Request process,” Ms Vera said. She told Delegates the replacement process needs to be “a genuine, transparent and responsive planning mechanism, which identifies early and ongoing needs of students and activates services readily available in a system well equipped and designed for diversity and triage in every community”.

“It is only then that we will have adequate provision of support placements – and more importantly, placements that actually give students access to the qualified teachers, specialist practice and targeted support they need, rather than merely moving on a complex problem.”

On the matter of federal government funding to support students with disability, Ms Vera told Delegates that average funding growth is about 5.7 per cent, when their own data says there’s been a 122 per cent increase in need this year alone.

Federation has been running a new Trade Union Training seminar, titled Organising for Intervention. So far, about 100 participants have engaged in learning about how to access and advocate supports for students with disability. Ms Vera said both city and country associations will host the seminar in Semester 2. Associations are encouraged to talk to their Organiser if they are interested in hosting the seminar for members.

The Centre for Professional Learning’s inaugural Mental Health of Students with Disability Conference will be held in week 4 of Term 4.

“The conference is designed to connect teachers with leading experts and practitioners in the field of mental health of children with disability, and aims to support improved outcomes for students through practice, which assists with early detection and prioritises effective intervention strategies,” Ms Vera said.

Federation will host a disability symposium on November 10.

“The symposium will bring to the forefront the urgency and efficacy of investment by looking at disability as it intersects and is impacted by early education and care; literacy skills; adverse childhood experiences, particularly for refugee students; the rise of preventable disabilities, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; and mental health,” Ms Vera said.