SA report recommends disability help
A South Australian Upper House committee has reported on access to the school system for children with disabilities.
The committee recommends South Australian schools face consequences for unnecessarily restraining students with disabilities.
It also calls for suspension or exclusion not be used to manage challenging behaviours, among over 90 recommendations.
Another suggestion was for schools to be audited to find out how well they accommodate children with disabilities, and give more compulsory special needs training to teachers.
Committee chair Kelly Vincent said some schools were clearly supportive of special needs students, but the system has failed others.
“Unfortunately I think, because of those attitudinal issues, where we don't expect the student with disability to achieve as much as a non-disabled student, we don't invest in them as much,” Ms Vincent said.
“And because of the lack of resourcing available, we're not currently meeting our very serious obligations to these students.”
In the course of its hearings and submissions, the committee heard parents felt excluded from the education system, while many schools struggled to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
“I think there's a consensus the existing legislative framework we have to protect the rights of students with disabilities is sufficient,” Ms Vincent said.
“It's just not being carried out, so there's a need for more awareness of parents, students and school staff alike.”
The committee said the negotiated education plans for students with special needs should be more regularly reviewed, and electronically stored for when children move between schools.
“We want to see big changes in negotiated educated plans where students with disabilities have their additional supports that they require assessed and laid out,” she said.
“Also we want to see the student itself having input in that plan.”
The Australian Education Union’s submission said about half the state's teachers felt unprepared to support special needs students.
The committee called for compulsory special education training for teachers while they are studying, and a requirement for all teachers working in special schools to have a degree in special education.
“This report has always been about finding the best way forward for students and that will create the best way forward for teachers,” she said.
“Because the more respected and supported a student feels, the more likely it is that the environment will be easier to work in for teachers as well.”
The committee also said the lack of specialist staff in rural and regional areas should be addressed.
Education Minister Susan Close says she will consider all of the recommendations.
“We'll make sure we go through the report and see where errors have been identified for further work,” she said.
“We need to look at the reality of what it's like with for a child with a disability in our school system and not shirk away from criticism that people have.
“I'll be reading it [the report] with great interest and seeking advice from the department about how we can improve.”