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And so we shift gears. The election outcome is a particularly bruising one for students with disability.
In the absence of Labor’s targeted additional disability funds, two things become apparent:
- existing Resource Allocation Model (RAM) funds from the first four years of Gonski must be secured as additional permanent staffing to strengthen the universal layer of support for the almost 80% of students with disability in regular classes in mainstream schools.
- practical steps have to be taken to guarantee a strong Federation presence and capacity to organise amongst all settings, particularly support classes in SSPs and support units, to position members to make demands and take action for equitable targeted support.
Members wasted no time in organising for change. June Council sent a clear message of notice to the Department. Members are no longer willing to compromise their health, expertise and capacity to deliver for their students with complex needs.
The motion states:
“The failure to provide equitable resourcing continually puts student learning, teacher morale and health and safety for all at significant and unnecessary risk. Governments at every level have legislated obligations that are compromised by the current inequities. The weight and damage of such risks cannot and must not be sustained and carried by teachers, or allowed to continue for students who have a right to quality schooling.”
Council passed the motion unanimously, endorsing the commitment of Federation resources to a coordinated approach engaging all members. For support classes across settings, the motion also called on the union to seek information about levels of specialist provision, members’ views on necessary improvements and rates of incidents compromising health and safety.
Members have committed for this to be a priority matter for the union over the next six months. All members, particularly those in support settings, are asked to encourage all colleagues to join the union and ensure their workplace has an elected Federation Representative, Womens Contact and Workplace Committee.
To support this commitment, the Federation’s Special Education Restricted Committee (SERC) has already met twice this year.
SERC members are Federation Councillors voted onto the committee by Council for a term of two years.
Meet your newly elected SERC for 2019-2020:
Cameron Abood teaches in Wagga Wagga High School in a Support Unit with four support classes. He teaches students with a range of intellectual disabilities and loves being able to help students of all abilities. He wants all students to be able to access quality education and feels that this is not the case at times, so in joining this committee, he hopes to make an even bigger impact for our students to provide them with additional learning opportunities, supports and outcomes.
Hannah Archer-Lawton (relieving convenor) has recently started shadowing Claudia Vera in the role of officer with carriage of disability matters and is excited to learn more about this vital area. She has a background in speech pathology, English and Drama secondary teaching and has spent the past few years working and studying a Masters in Special Education. These experiences have shaped her mainstream teaching and made her even more passionate about ensuring every student has access to a quality education with purpose, opportunities and high expectation. She grew up volunteering for her mum’s business – Springsure Farmability – a farm stay for adults with disabilities. Her mother’s work pushes boundaries, expands horizons and focuses on what people can do – their abilities. Having this background as inspiration cements what she does in special education and she is proud to be working with Claudia in this area.
Fiona Beasley is a Learning and Wellbeing Officer working from Batemans Bay Office, supporting schools on the Far South Coast to the border. Over her 23-year career, she has been an Itinerant Support Teacher (Hearing), primary teacher and support class teacher and assistant principal, among other roles. Fiona was part of the initial SERC with activists and officers Ted Kenny, Rob Deacon and Noel Crenaune. This is the third time she has been elected to the committee and she sees the time has come to bring special education to the forefront, with the government continuing to fail, not only on the education front but also in the social services space in the form of NDIS.
Emma Bruce teaches at Holroyd School. Holroyd is a school that caters for students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. Many of the students have multiple disabilities. She has taught from stages K-6 and currently teaches a beautiful class comprised of stage 5 and 6 students. She ran for election on the SERC due to the systemic shortfalls affecting the education and wellbeing of students with disability and the staff that work with them across school communities. She has seen and experienced these shortfalls and promises not to let the matter rest until they are addressed and resolved.
Elyse Burns teaches in a multi-category class at Albury High School. Her school and support unit in particular, supports students and families with a range of complex learning and social and emotional needs, by engaging them with the school and wider community. She states that at her workplace they do a lot with very little and often thinks about what could be with adequate and appropriate supports and funding. This is why she is on the SERC.
Tracey Gocher is a long-term member of SERC. She is the assistant principal at Cook School, a School for Specific Purposes (SSP) in Sydney, which is a reintegrating ED/BD setting. Tracey began teaching as a high school science teacher and retrained in special education in the late 1990s. With 20 years teaching across numerous settings, she has taught students right across the intellectual, emotional and behavioural spectrum, including children and youth with complex co-morbid diagnosed and undiagnosed disabilities. Tracey is currently tutoring at UTS in behaviour management and inclusion. She has recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Education Law and has an interest in policy and practice surrounding all students with disability and special education settings, ensuring they are afforded access to resources that allow for high-quality public education.
Claudia Vera Officer attached to Special Education Restricted Committee