Page 1763 - Week 05 - Thursday, 2 April 2009

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We are very fortunate indeed that Professor Shaddock is leading the team to undertake the review. Professor Shaddock is a leading expert in the provision of special education and was on the committee that steered the review in 1996. His research includes studies of teachers’ responses to the challenging behaviour of students with special needs and mainstream options for students with autism and other disabilities. Professor Shaddock has high credentials. He has published over 100 books, chapters and articles and is a frequent contributor to national and international journals and conferences.

Professor Shaddock has assembled a distinguished team, which includes Dr Loretta Giorcelli, who works as a specialist consultant in special education with schools and parent groups; Julie Hook, who has over 26 years experience working in the special education field in a range of roles; Nancy Macdonald, a previous principal of an ACT special school who was recognised for her service to special education in the ACT, receiving the Commissioner for Public Administration Award; and Michael Arthur-Kelly, who has conducted applied research in a range of areas in disability and special education. I think we can confidently state that, with a distinguished team like this, the outcome of the Shaddock review will be a quality product that will provide the committee’s inquiry with well-informed and researched findings.

The number of students with a disability in ACT public schools is increasing and the needs of some of these students are becoming greater. To put this in perspective, in February 2004 there were 1,606 students with a disability accessing special education programs and services. In February 2009, there were 1,784. So in just five years there has been an 11 per cent increase. This is a staggering increase. Why is this happening? Two factors seem to be behind this. Improved medical intervention has resulted in increased survival rates of babies who were born early with complex issues, and better and earlier diagnosis has meant children with autism are being identified. As such, it is timely we re-examine what we are doing to support these children and to ensure they are given every opportunity to learn and to become valued members of our community. We cannot rest on our laurels. We aspire to provide the best for all students and in particular students with a disability. There is significant research being done. We have a better understanding of brain development, how we learn and how we can best support children whose disability might affect their learning.

For this reason we have assembled a team of experts who will look at what we are doing in the context of recent research. They will be out—in fact they are already out—talking to parents, teachers and other experts. There is ample opportunity for the community to be involved. I anticipate a discussion paper will be available at the end of this month to provide a stimulus to the comprehensive consultation period. The final report is due at the end of July and there will be a further consultation period following the submission of the final report.

The Shaddock review is about what and how we teach. The terms of reference I propose for the committee go further than this. We need to look at aspects such as the student centred appraisal of need, post-school options, therapy services, community expectations and demographics that impact on the delivery of services and programs. The Shaddock review, along with the findings of the committee inquiry, will provide

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