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Special education gets a review

By 23 March 2009 12

Andrew Barr has announced he’s roped in “Professor Tony Shaddock, an internationally respected expert” to conduct a review of education for students with special needs.

    “The ACT Government is determined to ensure equity for every student in the ACT,” Mr Barr said. “This means ensuring that every student gets an education that challenges them, meeting both their abilities and their needs.

    “The nature of and demand for special education in the ACT has changed significantly over recent years. This review is about helping us ensure we continue to meet the needs of students with special needs in schools across the ACT.

    “I announced this review last year and I am pleased today to announce Professor Shaddock has agreed to lead our expert and dedicated review team to help us determine the way forward in this very important area of education,” Mr Barr said.

We’re promised a discussion paper for public comment before final decisions are made.

UPDATE: The Liberals’ Steve Doszpot is not impressed:

    “The terms of reference clearly state that the review is to provide advice on future options for the provision of service for students with a disability within the existing budget provision.

    “This means despite the findings of this eminent group of experts, everything that is recommended must come at no extra cost in the budget.

    “The shortfall in services for students with a disability in ACT schools is not a new issue.

Another Update: There’s a dedicated website for the review which has more information and detail on making a submission: www.actspecialedreview.com

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12 Responses to Special education gets a review
#1
Inappropriate10:45 am, 23 Mar 09

Hopefully he’ll recommend removing them from mainstream classrooms and putting them back into special classes and schools.

Mainstream classrooms and teachers cannot give them the attention they deserve; children with special needs draw the attention away from the regular and gifted children.

#2
Granny11:54 am, 23 Mar 09

Many children can and do benefit from mainstream schooling:

When Rebecca turned five she went to a local primary school. The first weeks were difficult with some making it plain they didn’t feel Rebecca belonged, an attitude never shown to the parents of children without disabilities.

At first, Jane remembers, there were a few who welcomed her, a few who were neutral and a few who didn’t like it. In spite of some support in those early days Jane says she felt so unwelcome. “But when people asked how it was going, I’d say ‘wonderful, it’s going really well,” said Jane.

“We chose the school, just as other parents do, Rebecca had a right to go there and she was going there.”

Gradually Rebecca’s charm won and she became a valued member of the school. Jane joined the PTA, Gerard was co-opted to the Board of Trustees, and they formed friendships with many of the other parents.

Rebecca’s Life in a Nutshell

The whole site is worth a read actually.

#3
poptop1:37 pm, 23 Mar 09

Hang on . . . if the commitment is that “every student gets an education that challenges them, meeting both their abilities and their needs” surely every child will have special needs.

This approach of “diagnosing” the individual and popping them into [or out of] a special needs category, then singling the special needs group as the target recipients of inequity free service and pretending it provides a personalised service for everybody is the worst kind of spin.

I don’t begrudge the focus on kids with disabilities, they mostly have fewer options both in and out of the education system, I just think the opening gambit is deeply disingenuous.

#4
midlife1:52 pm, 23 Mar 09

While people generalise that disabled children do not belong in mainstream schooling I would ask them where is the line between able and disabled? My son has aspergers and is in a mainstream school which is resourced to support children with such mild disabilities. There is no better schooling available. My son being a bit different still generally fits in with the population. To keep him in mainstream schooling ensures that he faced with the real world and eventually get a job out in the workforce. What other options are there? Place him in a school for the disabled and ensure that he cannot get access to the normal education that he needs? Every disability is different and requires different approaches. There is a reasonable range of schools and services in canberra. Physical disabilities are easier to identify and service compared to mental health conditions like autim, aspergers, anxiety and depression. By the way it is probably cheaper to support a child in mainstream schools. The trick is to find a school that can be bothered to try and educate the challenging pupils. From my experience public schools are very happy to accepty mediocrity.

#5
Granny2:07 pm, 23 Mar 09

As with any other child, the parents will want to reserve the right to choose the educational setting they feel is most appropriate to the needs of their child.

#6
BerraBoy682:53 pm, 23 Mar 09

Agreed granny! ANd it’s grea to see Steve Doszpot is again on the ball on this important issue!

Granny – can you please let me know a few times you might be free next week and I’ll set that meeting we’ve been discussing off-line up for you. Either by yourself or in a group I’m sure is fine.

#7
Granny3:16 pm, 23 Mar 09

BerraBoy68, I really appreciate all your support, and I will certainly email you.

#8
grunge_hippy4:41 pm, 23 Mar 09

as a special needs teacher, this opens up a whole can of worms…

firsly, tony shaddock is a god in special education. this man knows A LOT! i have the utmost respect and admiration for this man who i know professionally, and have had the pleasure of knowing while doing my post grad studies. I know he will do his best to find a solution for all, and not just for the government.

i agree with midlife. What is disabled? Those that are severely disabled are already in special schools, cranleigh, black mountain, malkara, turner. (which is a “mainstream” school with a very large spec ed cohort). We cannot go back to the old way of shunting those considered “disabled” to special schools who are quite capable in a mainstream classroom. Aspergers and Autism being the focus there. Many of these students are quite able and cope in both mainstream classes and special units in mainstream schools. It would be archaic to return to that system.

If anything needs to happen it is training and further studies for teachers. This has occured to an extent in the last 2 years with departmental scholarships to go to uni and do grad certs in inclusive education (special ed). There also needs to be MONEY. Resources are hard to come by when there is no money in the school because it has been spent on other things.

there is definately a need for a review, hopefully it can be done with minimal cost to the taxpayer, but having a blanket “lets put them back in special schools” is near sighted and frankly barbaric. back to the 50′s with you innapropriate.

#9
astrojax6:50 pm, 23 Mar 09

and one would hope that a review could be carried out and then decisions like ‘put them in xx …’ policies could be determined, not the reverse chronology..?

good to hear some positive remarks about the appointed reviewer, who is ‘appointed’, i understand, and not ‘roped in’ per the original post…

all that said, there is certainly a need for such spec ed schools – aspergers and autism being excellent examples. as i am sure you, g/hippie and midlife each know, children (and adults) can present with these psychopathologies along a range of the sepctrum of the disorder, some quite undeniably high functioning (temple grandin, for instance, or daniel tammet!) but there are many who are impossible to place in mainstream systems.

let’s hope the balance is attained, eh? and that it tips towards responsible care for the needs to nurture potential, not deal with perceived inadequacies…

#10
Nemo9:43 pm, 23 Mar 09

My best friends son has autism and goes to a special school in Canberra. For several years she has been fighting for her son to have an education, as opposed to spending his days in what increasingly feels to her like a day care facility.

She believes, rightly so, that her son is entitled to the same basic education that all parents expect for their children. Her son is unable to attend a mainstream school (she tried for years) and she has no other schooling options available to her.

He deserves better than he is currently getting and this review is a great start. Lets hope appropriate funding follows.

#11
Granny10:21 pm, 23 Mar 09

We’ll get there, Nemo. Be very sure of that.

#12
nyssa7611:12 pm, 23 Mar 09

There are cases though out there of parents refusing anything but an LSU – despite their child having more pressing needs than the other students in the LSU (size no bigger than 8 students).

I know of one case where a parent has refused to put their child in one unit who have staff trained in working with students with that form of disability, and elected a unit which has no staff trained in their disability, putting the other students at risk of neglect.

Basically the amount of time the teacher and STA spend with this one child is more than they can spend on the other 5 students. The level of need for one child far outweighs the parents right to chose a place that is not suitable for their child’s needs.

ACTDET approved the move but are not willing to supply training or a staff member trained to work with that student.

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