If there is one challenge that our new Education Minister needs to meet straight away – it is making sure every child with disability in Australia can get a decent education.
Children with disability need to be able to participate at school, and get an education that lets them realise their potential.
At the moment that is not happening. Every school in Australia is dealing with the challenge of educating students with disability with inadequate resources.
While extreme examples of shocking practice make headlines, what gets lost is the daily struggle of schools to offer an inclusive, quality education to students with disability, when their funding needs are not met by governments.
In-class support, specialist services like speech pathology, equipment and individual lesson plans make a big difference but cost money from already stretched school budgets.
A Senate Inquiry into resourcing of disability education in our schools is hearing that thousands of students across Australia are missing out on the support they need – and that this will have long-term negative effects on their lives.
This message is not just coming from teachers, it is coming from parents and medical professionals.
A disability can be a barrier to learning, but we need to make sure that a lack of resources doesn't make it an insurmountable barrier.
The difference that can be made if schools get the time, tools and training to properly educate students with disability can be life-changing.
On a recent visit to Canberra with parents of children with disability to speak to MPs about this issue, I was told of an 11-year-old child with severe autism, who had recently shifted into a mainstream school.
Before arriving at the school this child had never spoken, yet with the assistance of a support worker, the stimulation of other children, and specialised communication software, he had spoken his first words. Imagine how that makes a teacher and a parent feel.
Yet the funding that allows this child two-hours of one-on-one support per day is continually under threat. And his parents know that when he goes to high school next year he may not end up in a school which is as well resourced.
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