Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 28 October 2010) . . Page.. 5323 ..
Education is the great leveller, Madam Assistant Speaker. However, unlike ICT, which seems to be the minister’s flavour of the month, students with disabilities is an aspect of education that is not sexy enough to warrant his attention. This is in light of the fact that over and over again teachers in our school system have consistently ranked additional support for student disabilities or behavioural issues in their first or second factor that would most improve student outcomes.
In fact, to add salt to the wound, Minister Barr is quite willing to shift support services to DHCS, as has already been proposed. First, the minister cuts support services to students with disabilities and then he ships them off to the department of disability. Now, Madam Assistant Speaker, this sounds like giving up on disabled students. There is a nuance here that the government fails to understand. Education takes the “dis” out of “disability”. If I need to spell it out any further, education, even for students with disabilities, is about giving them ability. Again, it is about empowerment.
As a parent, I know what it means to send your child to school brimming with hope for their future, that they can someday look at themselves in the mirror and be proud of being who they are, no matter what their social station or standing in life might be. I do not think that the minister fully comprehends that in all his sophistry to defend his lack of leadership and cynicism throughout this episode, by targeting families that have always had to defend their children, he has made this personal. This is not micro-economic reform, as he likes to call it, for the many families that were affected. This is a personal attack. You cannot water down the future of people’s children like a tick-and-flick checklist. There has to be consideration and consultation on the merits.
Again and again, Mr Barr speaks of changes in service delivery models or that services will be provided directly to schools, but he is scant on any further details. He says that the information is on the website, but it merely parrots the minister’s superficial statements. Without being able to articulate specific efficiencies, the minister’s first run on the department’s efficiency dividend obligations is, in truth, an ugly resource cut.
Much of today’s MPI bridges across broader issues in the education system, but we feel that special focus on disability in today’s MPI is warranted as so much of the resource cuts were targeted at students with disabilities. It also targets the teachers who must work with these students and provide the best possible outcomes for them. Teachers need to be supported, and not just through professional development programs. Without adequate support staff it means that their work burden and responsibilities increase. (Time expired.)
MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (4.17): I will be very quick. I just want to point out that I was chair of the education committee. The report that we put out on disability education looked at a number of the recommendations put out by Professor Shaddock. The key concerns that came out of that were around individual learning plans and how they are monitored, the way funding is distributed within schools, monitoring outcomes, post-school options and the definition of disability. Those were some of the key issues that came out.