Victorian students with disability to benefit from $1.6b State Government education support

Tags Education Government

Posted 8 months ago

More than 100 extra staff will provide on-the-ground implementation support and program delivery for Victorian schools through new a State Government Disability Inclusion package [Source: iStock]
More than 100 extra staff will provide on-the-ground implementation support and program delivery for Victorian schools through new a State Government Disability Inclusion package [Source: iStock]

The Victorian Government has announced $1.6 billion in funding to support students with disability in the classroom through an Australian first Disability Inclusion package.

The Victorian Government has announced $1.6 billion in funding to support students with disability in the classroom through an Australian first Disability Inclusion package.

The record investment will double the number of students receiving extra support in the classroom to 55,000, and is expected to create up to 1,730 jobs across the State by 2025.

The Disability Inclusion: Education for All package will provide funding for every Government school to boost their capacity to teach students with both mild and severe disabilities such as autism, dyslexia or complex behaviours. 

Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino says this is the biggest change in disability support in schools Victoria has ever seen.

Our kids are far more than their diagnosis. This will completely change the way we support children in our schools – focussing on what they can achieve, rather than what they can’t," says Mr Merlino.

"We will work with schools and families through each step, making sure students are at the heart of every decision that is made."

According to the Victorian Government, this new approach will give students more opportunities to promote their own strengths, interests and learning needs, and provide the support they need at school. With additional funding, schools will be able to better plan and adjust support for students throughout all stages of their schooling.

This investment also includes $102.8 million to deliver new resources and support, and to build the skills and knowledge of school staff in delivering inclusive education for every student. 

More than 100 extra staff will provide on-the-ground implementation support and program delivery for schools. New facilitator roles will also be established to help schools and families work together.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Victorian autism peak body, Amaze, Fiona Sharkie, says the announcement is recognition of the need for dramatic change.

"For too long schools have not had the capacity to create learning environments where students with disability can achieve what they are truly capable of," she says.

"Around one third of autistic students do not make it past Year 10 – with many leaving school even earlier. The gap in education outcomes compared with their peers without disability is enormous and unacceptable."

However, Ms Sharkie says the Government needs to provide clear targets and indicators.

“It is important that we are ambitious about lifting school outcomes for students with disability – such as Year 12 completion rates. As a community, we need to be able to track the impact of these reforms.”

Senior Lecturer at RMIT’s School of Education in Victoria, Dr David Armstrong, who appeared at the Disability Royal Commission as an expert witness on behaviour in schools and the exclusion of students with a disability, welcomes the investment.

“Investment in the inclusion of kids with disability is an investment in the quality of schools, and this welcome news places Victoria at the forefront of efforts to modernise Australia’s education system and meet international commitments to an inclusive school system,” Dr Armstrong says. 

“The recent Disability Royal Commission hearing revealed just how many schools need to change culture and attitudes to make inclusion happen though. We hear shocking reports of how many students with disability end up out of the education system, excluded due to a one-size-fits all approach.”

“The 100 extra staff mentioned as providing ‘on-the-ground implementation support and program delivery for schools’ will require some expert support to make the most of their roles.”

A pilot in more than 100 schools will now be rolled out across the state, to identify and respond to the needs of students with disability.

This announcement comes as the New South Wales Government pledges $13 million a year over the next three years to support the NSW disability advocacy sector.

Serena Ovens, Convener of the NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance and CEO of the Physical Disability Council of NSW, says the commitment announced in the 2020-21 Budget ends more than three years of funding uncertainty.

“The Government commitment will come as a welcome relief to the 1.37 million people with disability across NSW who rely on access to independent disability advocacy for lifesaving support and advice in cases of discrimination, access and inclusion issues,” Ms Ovens says.