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Learning the hard way

Monday, 28th May, 2012

School disability funding slashed

By Emily Roberts

The State Government has come under fire after it was revealed that funding was being slashed for students with special needs.

The NSW Labor Opposition revealed during this week that the Government was slashing the funding in at least 272 schools.

Under the Government’s ‘Every Student, Every School’ policy, these changes could start at the beginning of term three. 

Opposition Leader, John Robertson, described the cuts as “callous and uncaring” while Shadow Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, said schools with special needs students would have to slash staff and programs. 

But the Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, refuted the claims of cost cutting.

“This transformational change will build the capacity of all NSW Government schools to better understand and meet the learning and support needs of students with disability, wherever they enroll,” Mr Piccoli said.

“There has been an increase of over $69 million in allocations directly to Government schools under this initiative. Nearly 90 per cent of schools will receive more funding.”

He said that said any changes to funding reflected changes to enrollment numbers and different learning needs in schools.

There was no change in the way students with moderate or high learning and support needs were funded, he said. 

That includes students with intellectual disability, mental health disorder or autism, and students with hearing or vision impairment as well as those with physical disability,

But the President of the Barrier Teachers Association, Maureen Clark, said it was disappointing that schools would lose funding for their most disadvantaged students.

“It is hard to see how the government can fulfill its promise to improve the educational outcomes of all students when they have slashed funding for the most needy students in some schools under the Every School Every Student policy,” Mrs Clark said.

“Effectively this means that some schools will lose funding for disabled, behavioural and reading program support staff, and principals will have to make up the shortfall from somewhere else in their school budgets.”

Mrs Clark said the government had taken a number of specialist teacher roles involved in these areas and rolled them into one general position that will become an “advisor” to classroom teachers. 

“We need less ‘advisors’ and more hands-on people in our classrooms today,” she said.

“Although Mr Piccoli states that opposition is unwarranted and that funding is increasing, so is the need for it increasing.

“There is a noticeably marked increase in anti-social behaviour and mental illnesses among students in our schools and children with learning disabilities who require individual support. 

“The incidence of autism and Asperger’s (syndrome) is becoming more common.”  

Mrs Clark said this meant the responsibility and workload of classroom teachers would increase. 

“But the real losers will be the children who will slip through the cracks and they don’t deserve this,” she said.

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