Directions for South Australia – School Education and Disability

“We must support educators to raise expectations and deliver a more positive experience to all students.” – Kelly Vincent MLC

Introduction:

Dignity Party not only upholds the right of children with disabilities to access an adequate and meaningful education, but believes if fully welcomed within a valued system of inclusion, these students (more than 15,000 in SA) have much to offer schools and the broader community.

Problem solving, adapting access technology to science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) curriculum and understanding ability and access differences (as we have aimed to do with cultural and linguistic differences) are some of the exciting opportunities students with disabilities offer education settings.  Dignity understands that celebrating diversity is not just about valuing and responding to cultural difference.

Yet, two parliamentary inquiries into the education of children with disabilities (State and Federal) reveal that children with disabilities are receiving a ‘raw deal’ when it comes to accessing an education in Australia.

Over 90 recommendations are listed in the 2017 report,[i] aimed at such things as remediating gaps in resources, significantly increasing teacher education and training, improving systems of complaint and providing opportunities for input and power for students in the planning of their own education.

As an OECD country Australia prides itself as progressive, yet many aspects of the parliamentary findings are comparable to the same shortfalls experienced in under-developed countries. When comparing the education of children in some of the world’s poorest countries Australia appears to have progressed little further. For example, Plan International states:

“Children with disabilities are often unable to go to school because of unsuitable school buildings. In addition, there is a limited understanding within their communities and among teachers about their learning needs, which is often fuelled by prejudices around disability.”[ii]

Both government inquiries noted examples of progressive schools that were creating adequate learning opportunities for children with impairments.  However overall, the messages are more closely aligned to the stories described by Plan International than the community would expect to see in Australian education.

Hon Kelly Vincent MLC, Chair of the SA Parliamentary Inquiry stated: “There’s a consensus the existing legislative framework we have to protect the rights of students with disabilities is sufficient … It’s just not being carried out. And because of the lack of resourcing available to fill gaps we’re not currently meeting our very serious obligations to these students.”

By denying children access to an adequate education, we not only breach basic human rights, we deny a group of South Australians to become (for themselves and for their community) the best they can be. The best education for student with disabilities realises not only great social benefits but economic benefits as well.

Action:

Dignity Party want to ensure relevant and meaningful access to education for every South Australian child by a commitment to the following:

  • Demanding all systems of education (public and private) adhere to the legislation governing the educational rights of all South Australian students
  • An expectation that the recommendations outlined in the SA Parliamentary Report (May 30th 2017) will be addressed, and implemented
  • Strengthening processes of complaint and redress for parents (and students)
  • South Australia education to equal or exceed world’s best practice in the education of students with disabilities
  • Schools, state-wide, to actively celebrate the International Day of People with a Disability (3rd December) annually.

Dignity Party OPPOSE the ‘head in the sand’ approach to the unacceptable gaps in the education of children with disabilities in South Australian schools.

Dignity Party PROPOSE that South Australia raise the expectation for success for students with disability.

 

Parliament of South Australia REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM FOR STUDENTS WITH A DISABILITY. Accessed 21st August 2017.  http://a4.org.au/sites/default/files/Report%20of%20the%20Select%20Committee%20on%20Access%20to%20the%20South%20Australian%20Education%20System%20for%20Students%20with%20a%20Disability.pdf

Plan International website accessed 21st August 2017. https://plan-international.org/education/inclusive-education-children disability?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI4dnUhK7n1QIVA3y9Ch1JxQ2BEAMYAyAAEgLCB_D_BwE