The prevailing trend in Australia and in education systems around the world, is for the delivery of what is known as ‘inclusive’ education. In other words, a system which ensures all students, even those with disabilities or special needs, have equal access to a quality education.
The provision of education to students with special needs requires significant resourcing by both the government and non-government education sectors. Putting the right level of resources in place in the government and non-government school systems, with appropriate funding, is a constant challenge faced by governments and educators.
Our two most populous states – New South Wales and Victoria – have well-developed programs in place for meeting the education and learning demands of students with special needs, including those with disabilities. But, as pointed out in a Whitepaper published by the Victorian Government, while its Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) has earned it a “strong reputation” for the way it has so far met the needs of those current students with disabilities, it now has to ensure it has the resources in place for supporting future students with similar needs.
The debate on special needs education in Australia, and in countries like the US, is wide-ranging on the issues and challenges faced by governments and educators alike. Ongoing issues include:
- The level of so-called ‘inclusiveness’
- Required reform of the school systems
- Adjustments to education standards and continuous evaluation of those standards
Here in Australia, the federal government is doing its part to support the state and territory governments and educators in terms of providing adequate resources. The required level of resources – including financial – is consistently put in place to meet the needs of students with special needs; those with disabilities and also indigenous students.
The federal Minister for Education Christopher Pyne has just introduced legislation into the parliament that, if passed, will give an extra $6.8 million to non-government schools with indigenous boarding students, while also “protecting” $2.4 million for students with disabilities.
The federal government trumpets its commitment to significant levels of funding which it will allocate to schools nationally over the next four years. The collaboration between the federal government, state and territory governments and educators, encompassed in the legislation just submitted to the parliament, will see the spotlight shine on areas such as:
- Teacher quality
- Principal autonomy
- Engaging parents in education
- Strengthening the curriculum
In addition to bringing these issues to the forefront of the community, according to the Minister, the legislation will also deliver “sound administration and extra funding” as part of the government’s “students first” approach.