Ensuring all reach potential

Enabling Equity: Education Quarterly, Issue 8 2023

Through the national For Every Child campaign teachers continue to ensure students with disability are a focus for governments.

The challenge is that the policies and practices in place to ensure students with disability can participate in education on an equal basis to their peers are not matched by adequate levels of needs-based funding delivered under the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).

This vital funding is needed to:

  • increase the number of qualified teachers and education support personnel
  • give more time for teachers to consult with students and family/carers, develop and implement individual education plans and classroom adjustments
  • give teachers time to collaborate with their colleagues, specialist teachers and allied health professionals and undertake professional learning
  • improve system-wide support and ongoing professional development to help principals, teachers and learning support teams
  • increase allied health support in schools to ensure rapid response to student needs.

According to Australian Education Union data (State of Our Schools 2023), fewer than one in five principals say they receive enough funding to meet the needs of students with disability. Almost 90 per cent say they are taking money from other areas of the school budget to compensate for the shortfall, with an average annual amount of more than $120,000 redirected.

The failure of the Commonwealth and state governments to meet the full SRS means that public schools miss out on $600 million in funding nationally to educate students with disability each year.

In NSW, expert support that schools traditionally relied on to implement individual and school-level strategies to meet the needs of students with disability has been withdrawn by the Department.

This means that excellent outcomes in the education of students with disability really come down to the extraordinary efforts of teachers, principals and parents rather than any systemic response to ensure students with disability are happy, safe, and can participate fully in their schooling.

The For Every Child campaign is also advocating for students with wellbeing issues and poor mental health.

The wellbeing of students has a direct effect on their engagement in education and the results they achieve, making the provision of well-resourced teaching and learning programs critical for their future.

Principals and teachers report they are navigating copious wellbeing policies and programs without Departmental support, and with a lack of time and resources to choose and implement the most effective pathways.

Teachers also report a lack of available support for students identified as at risk due to a shortage of school counsellors, particularly in rural and remote areas. A plank of the campaign is to increase the number of school counsellors to a minimum of 1:500 students in primary and 1:250 in secondary schools.