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Schools 'babysitting' students with disabilities due to lack of funds, primary principals say

By Bonnie Christian, 4 Nov 2014

MAP: Perth 6000

Students with disabilities are being babysat at school rather than being given the resources and time they need to learn, Western Australia's Primary Principals' Association says.

President Stephen Breen said a leaked report by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed the average number of students with a learning disability was 18.6 per cent, but only 5 per cent received funding.

Because of the lack of resources... you have an instance where a lot of children are being babysat, which is a real pity.

Stephen Breen, WA Primary Principals' Association

Mr Breen said not enough was being done for students with disabilities.

"These children do need expert guidance and expert teaching and expert care," he said.

"This means that schools and teachers are receiving 5 per cent of resources for the children, but in fact there's something like another two thirds that do need resources to actually...maximise their learning," he said.

"Because of the lack of resources, and here we're talking about teacher time, we're talking about education support time and professional learning have an instance where a lot of children are being babysat, which is a real pity.

"What we really need to do is maximise their learning."

The federal and state ministers for education have been contacted for comment.

Schools diverting funds from other learning areas

Mr Breen said more funding was needed.

"If you're going to have an inclusion policy, you have to actually fund it," he said.

"If you don't, it puts enormous pressure on other students, it puts enormous pressure on teachers, enormous pressure on supporting staff and for the individual student who has a disability - a massive pressure."

He was keen to see a more level playing field.

"It's a huge worry, we would call upon the Federal Government to act immediately on this so that we can have all of our students, and I mean disability students and non-disability students, all on a level playing field," Mr Breen said.

He said schools were compensating for the lack of funding for students with disabilities by diverting money from other areas such as computing or physical education.

"What we're having at the moment is that schools are robbing Peter to pay Paul," he said.

"What they're doing is they're using some of the funding that they have for other areas to make sure the children with disabilities receive a good education."

Topics: disabilitieseducational-resourcesaccess-to-educationperth-6000

First posted 4 Nov 2014, 12:13pm

LISA Comment:  The situation in Victoria is slightly different in practice, but similar in principle.  It is mostly adults with disabilities who suffer minder-care in both group homes and day services..

Our experience of the current education for children with disabilities, provided by the Victorian Education Department, through its special and special developmental schools, is good.

Although the teachers in these schools work very hard to ensure their students do not move to day activity centres, adult training and support centres (ATSS), many do have to move to these services under funded by the Department of Human Services (the department), most of which provide little more than minder care.

Whilst most students with disabilities leaving school need to continue their skill and quality of life development, the department insists the day services it funds meet its criteria of ‘adult programs’ and ‘minimum base activities’. 

In practice, for a person with high support needs, this equals very basic activities like a walk in the park and a coffee at the local café, rather than continuing the comprehensive skill training they received at school, with just a degree of adult activity experience.

Dr Norman Doidge, MD, in his book ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ says, “the revolutionary discovery that the human brain can change itself, as told through the stories of the scientists, doctors, and patients who have together brought about these astonishing transformations. Without operations or medications, they have made use of the brain's hitherto unknown ability to change.

For four hundred years this venture would have been inconceivable because mainstream medicine and science believed that brain anatomy was fixed. The common wisdom was that after childhood the brain changed only when it began the long process of decline; that when brain cells failed to develop properly, or were injured, or died, they could not be replaced. Nor could the brain ever alter its structure and find a new way to function if part of it was damaged”, is untrue.  Hence the reason everyone with limited intellectual capacity needs far more than minder-care.

With services moving towards NDIS, it is essential stakeholders ensure that during the service evaluation process, services for their person includes adequate skill and quality of life enhancement – not just basic care and support.

Extra 1:  Seeking Rights, Not Avenues

Extra 2:  Moving down the Poverty Road

Extra 3:  NDIS – “What’s in it for residents of group homes?”

Extra 4:  Implementing NDIS Service Intention

Extra 5:  NDIS Annual Report – 2013/4

Extra 6:  Australian Disability Enterprises (“Sheltered Workshops”) by Carers
                 Alliance, NSW – Nov 2014.

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