‘Urgent and critical reforms’ needed

‘Urgent and critical reforms’ needed

There is an urgent and critical need for reform in education in relation to students with disability, warns advocate group, Children and Young people with a Disability Australia (CYDA).

CYDA is the national representative organisation for children and young people with disability, with over 5,500 members. The organisation has done extensive work over the years around students with disability and education, including the development of the NCCD and other funding issues. 

The calls come as new data shows that more than half of students with disability who need funded support at school are not getting it.      

Stephanie Gotlib, CYDA’s CEO, told The Educator that while the Federal Government has been clear in its commitment to disability reform, “critical and parallel” changes are also needed in relation to education.

“The year is very new and it is unclear how highly funding with students with disability will be prioritised. This government has been clear in its commitment to significant disability reform in the renewed attention to the National Disability Strategy and its ongoing commitment to the NDIS,” she said. 

“I would hope that the critical and parallel reform in relation to education and students with disability also occurs. CYDA believes education reform is crucial, otherwise the success of these other significant reforms will be greatly diminished.”

In December, Gotlib questioned the accuracy of the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) after major discrepancies were discovered following its release.

Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, said there was likely to be “long way to go” until the data could be used as the basis for a new funding benchmark. 

However, Gotlib says there cannot afford to be any further delays.

“There is an urgent and critical need for reform in education in relation to students with disability. Adequate funding is essential to enable this to occur. Students with disability typical experience poor education experiences and outcomes,” she said.

“The great need for Australia to do better is acknowledged by the majority of stakeholders, most importantly students with disability and their families.  Any delay has very significant impact on the children concerned.”

Gotlib said that “a typical education experience” for students with disability involves discrimination, limited or no funding for support, inadequately trained staff, a systemic culture of low expectations, exclusion and bullying.

“Further, there is a lack of accountability for educational outcomes for students with disability. The immediate personal impact on students is profound with many experiencing low confidence, stress and anxiety,” she said.

“Children with disability consequently also are denied many of the social benefits which school typically affords.”

She said this also means that students with disability are frequently leaving school without the necessary knowledge and skills to participate in further education and employment, adding any further delay in funding will have “extremely significant consequences” for students with disability.
‘Significant disparities’

Gotlib pointed to statistics which illustrate significant disparities in educational attainment and outcomes of students with disability in comparison to their peers without disability:
  • 45.8% of people aged 15-64 years with disability’s highest level of education was Year 10 or below, compared to 25.7% of people without disability;
  • 41% of people with disability have completed Year 12, compared to 62.8% of people without disability
  • 17% of people with disability have completed a Bachelor Degree or higher compared to 30.1% of people without disability.
Gotlib said there is a lack of accountability regarding learning outcomes for students with disability, pointing to the additional $118m the Federal Government provided last year. 

“It is unclear what accountability there is for this funding from the jurisdictions,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government faces an unexpected $3.7bn hole in funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (DNIS) after it emerged the Coalition did not have the power to transfer an education fund into the landmark initiative and would require the approval of a hostile Senate.

Labor has declared it will ­oppose the move to transfer the education funds into the NDIS. The opposition’s research spokesman, Kim Carr, described taking money from the EIF to fund the NDIS as a “false ­dichotomy”.

“The government has $50bn in proposed tax cuts sitting there yet it wants to deprive the country of essential research infrastructure that will drive innovation into the future,” Senator Carr said.