Enabling Equity: Education Quarterly, Issue 7 2023
Federation regularly receives enquiries regarding the access of support for students with complex needs in mainstream and specialist settings. Every teacher is committed to the education of every student, this includes accommodating those who need extra support to engage with their learning on the same basis as their peers.
But what happens when local arrangements do not meet the needs of these students? How can schools access further support? What options do members have should the Department deny schools the support they need?
It is the responsibility of the Department of Education to provide this support when and where it is needed.
While the Department promotes its Team Around the School model, provided by the Delivery Support unit within the Student Wellbeing Support Directorate, reports from members in schools consistently indicate the support provision is predominately inadequate or simply non-existent.
Members in all settings also continue to report to Federation ongoing issues with the access request system in enabling the provision of local support or a support class placement. For example, a primary school in western Sydney reported that two students who meet the eligibility criteria for support class placements have had their access requests “deferred” due to a lack of available placements.
To defer these requests is to deny these students specialised support that would enable them to engage with their education. Further, the same school reports that 22 students in their Learning Support Program are not receiving adequate levels of support.
Such reports indicate a serious shortfall in the provision of support for students with complex needs. This shortfall has serious implications for the education of these students.
As a result, workloads are higher and classroom teachers are taking on roles that should be performed by specialist and support staff . The current state of support for students with complex needs is unsustainable and puts the wellbeing of students and teachers at risk.
Federation will continue to pursue improvements with the Department and the Minister for the provision of support to students with complex needs. However, in cases where additional support has been sought then subsequently denied or is inadequate, members should make contact with their local Organiser for support and advice to escalate the matter where all industrial and political options will be considered.