Far reaching changes to the treatment of students with special needs have been recommended by a unanimous NSW Parliamentary Inquiry and should be a wake-up call to the government.
The report handed down today sets a new path for special needs education and includes a brutal acknowledgment that the system is failing too many children who need and deserve far more.
It recommends giving children and their parents greater rights and respect with a fundamental presumption in favour of inclusive education and major reforms to the complaints process.
Greens MP and committee member David Shoebridge said:
“We heard case after case of children who are profoundly in need of help instead being subject to corporal punishment and seclusion in a system that has far too many cracks for children to fall through.
“There are inspiring examples in our state schools where the special needs of children are not only accommodated, they are welcomed and embraced with children being given every possible start in life. But this was coupled with other cases of neglect or worse in a system that lacks consistency.
“Adopting a fundamental presumption in favour of inclusion is the first step in welcoming children with special needs into our school system and ensuring they are respected and can flourish.
“Many participants told us how the complaints system in NSW education is broken and this is why we recommended major reforms to make the process independent and transparent. The secrecy must end.
“Changing our education system to bring out the best in children with special needs ultimately benefits all students because an individualised learning approach, focusing on the needs and circumstances of each individual child, benefits every child in a classroom,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Greens Member for Ballina and NSW Education Spokesperson Tamara Smith MP said:
“I am very pleased to see the committee’s call for greater funding of our public schools to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. We have seen the Liberal/National Government systematically downsize the resourcing of programs for students with disabilities and downgrade the number of qualified teacher experts employed to teach students with disabilities. Inclusion means removing the barriers to equality and cutting back funding and reducing the number of qualified teacher professionals with the expertise to deliver life changing programs for students with disabilities does not deliver real inclusion.
“I know that the disability sector will welcome the committee’s recommendations around improving processes for student support and family’s being able to raise issues of concern in more supportive and transparent ways. I look forward to working with parents, students, principals and teachers to see what that needs to look like on the ground.” Ms Smith said.
The report is published here: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2416#tab-reports