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Disability forum puts pressure on governments

August 18, 2018

In the Fairfield area, teachers have a strong history of being adept at recognising and supporting the learning for our students with disability.

Teachers from Fairfield Teachers Association, increasingly frustrated and angry at still not having the disability equity loading and appropriate settings to meet their students’ needs, took further action.

The action began in May when more than 50 teachers, executives and principals from Fairfield schools attended the Special Education Seminar, Organising for Intervention, which led to the forum on 2 July.

The Fairfield Disability Education Forum brought together more than 30 public school communities in the area to discuss these pertinent matters.

What was made abundantly clear to all, with 300 members of the school communities in attendance, is that schools continue to struggle to meet need in the context of inadequate resourcing, from both a staffing and funding perspective.

Local federal MPs Chris Bowen and Chris Hayes joined Fairfield state MPs Guy Zangari, Hugh McDermott and representatives from Nick Lalich’s office to listen to parents express their frustration and anxiety at being either denied or not having secured an appropriate placement or resources for their child.

Principals and teachers called for additional support classes, a school for specific purposes (SSP) and appropriate resources to meet their students’ needs in all settings, including the mainstream, in Fairfield. Individual teachers, primary and secondary principals outlined how their students were missing out and opportunities were being lost.

The level of passion, anger and deep commitment from Fairfield public school communities to ensure children with disability have access to what they need to thrive was shown by the unanimously endorsed forum communique.

The audience vowed to take further action in each school community in Fairfield until every child has equitable access to funding, staffing and appropriate settings to meet student needs.

Federation will hold a Students with Disability Symposium on November 17, which will bring together a range of experts and build broad alliances.

The greatest adverse impact on the learning outcomes of students with disability is the Federal Government’s failure to fund the Students with Disability loading since the NSW Gonski funding program began in 2014.

While every other area of educational disadvantage (Aboriginal background, socio-economic status and English language proficiency) received significant increased levels of funding since 2014, the Turnbull Government has refused to provide the necessary funding to the Students with Disability loading.

Approximately 75 per cent of students with disability attend public schools. This is a significant figure and area of great need especially when the Federal Government has acknowledged that the number of students with disability has increased by 120 per cent from 212,000 to 470,000 students.

Sadly, the Federal Government has only increased its funding for students with disability by 6.2 per cent.

Amber Flohm Multicultural Officer/Organiser