Children with disability need the same things at school all children need – to feel accepted and happy, to learn to the best of their ability, and to get an education that equips them for life and work after school.
Unfortunately this is not happening for many, despite the efforts of teachers, principals and support staff.
To give an idea of the scale of the problem, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found there are over 290,000 children with a disability in schools in Australia, yet the number receiving any kind of funded support, no matter how small, is just 183,000.
Half of all parents of a child with disability say their child has not been able to fully participate at school, due to a lack of necessary support. At the same time, over half of educators believe they do not have the support, training and resources they need to teach students with disability well.
These findings, from a 2012 Victorian Human Rights Commission report, show the human cost of our neglect of students with disability.
Every year this neglect continues another cohort of students with disability will leave school with their potential untapped and their prospects for higher education or work needlessly damaged.
Changing attitudes to disability remains important, but we cannot fix this problem without finding funding for better facilities, more support staff and training for teachers.
Chronic underfunding of students with disability has been a long-term problem in Australian schools. We have a mess of different definitions and funding systems between States. Many students with disability aren't eligible for assistance and, for others, the funding their school gets does not cover the real cost of meeting their needs.
Fixing it will take time, money and political will, but it is something we must do.
This is why the recent announcement, from a meeting of Christopher Pyne and State and Territory Education Ministers, that an increase in funding through a "disability loading" will not happen in 2015 as promised, is such a setback to the cause of giving students with disability the education they deserve.
A "disability loading" simply means giving schools which educate students with disability funding which actually reflects those students' real needs, and lets them participate in school on the same basis as other students. This sounds like basic fairness, but it is not happening now.
The Gonski Review recognised the huge shortfall in funding for students with disability which meant their basic needs were not being met.
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