Education funding for students with disability delayed again

Tuesday 15 December 2015
Media reports reveal that promised additional funding to support students with disability has been delayed again and will not begin in 2016.
Last week Education Ministers discussed disability funding at the Council of Australian Governments education council meeting, but did not refer to it in the communiqu? [COAG Meeting, 11 December 2015].
Data collection on prevalence of disability in Australian schools has been a long-winded process first initiated several years ago. The final data was presented at last weekÕs meeting.ÊThe AustralianÊreports that PricewaterhouseCoopers is reviewing the Òquality of the dataÓ and will provide a report in March.
A report inÊThe AustralianÊtoday states:
A confidential agenda item from FridayÕs meeting, obtained by The Australian, shows É about 18 per cent of all students, 673,693, have a disabilityÉ although most of these Ñ 12.5 per cent of all students Ñ would need Òsupplementary, substantial or extensiveÓ support, ?requiring more teacher support and money É At present, about 5 per cent of students have funded support at school [Delay on student disability funding 'just cruel'].
The prevalence of disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is not known. We do know that the prevalence of disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is twice that of the general population, often undiagnosed and not appropriately supported.
FPDN calls for a coordinated approach which focuses on the unmet educational needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander with disability to support Closing the Gap strategies. Closing the Gap in education is at risk because of ongoing delays to school disability funding. Doing something to address the impact of disability on educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is a vital step in meeting this target. Failing to act now will have life-long impacts for individuals and the wider community. Denying students with disability appropriate support now will lead to poor employment prospects and an increased likelihood of contact with the justice system.
Last month, FPDN presented to the Senate Committee on education of students with disability, as part of its senate inquiry. FPDN made the following recommendations as part of its submission.

1. Establish schemes that support learning disabilities across a spectrum, in according to a childÕs learning needs.

2. Ensure that the implementation phase of the recently released National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy contains specific objectives and outcomes relating to disability.

3. Include awareness raising on the prevalence and impact of disability as a national education strategy, building on the successes shown by pilot programs, which are an established starting point for an awareness raising strategy.

4. Support awareness raising initiatives through the development of practical guidelines which educators can use to detect disability as factor in a childÕs education, and respond accordingly. This should be based on assessment as a first report, rather than defaulting to a disciplinary model.

5. Recognise Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) as a disability and ensure there are equitable learning supports for children and their families who are affected. In other words, support the need, not the label.

6. Ensure coordinated effort and links between various government initiatives and action plans, including the National Disability Strategy, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Disability Action Plan National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy and Indigenous Advancement Strategies.