Page 738 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 26 February 2013

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MS BURCH: I thank Dr Bourke for his interest in the therapy assistant program. In 2011-12 the government trialled the innovative therapy assistant program across five Canberra schools—Caroline Chisholm school, Florey primary, Gowrie primary, Harrison, Mother Teresa Catholic primary school and two of our special schools, Cranleigh and Malkara.

The program has proved a great success following its implementation and continues to be staffed by therapy assistants, including a part-time clinical leader, a part-time speech pathologist, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist and four therapy assistants. The program was designed to improve and enhance access to therapy services for students with developmental delays and developmental disabilities and to provide support to teachers to implement strategies within the classroom to support their students’ learning outcomes.

The use of therapy assistants within schools enables students to access therapy programs and support during their school day. The program offers an holistic approach to intervention and includes individual intervention, group work and collaboration with teaching staff to support therapy goals in aspects of the classroom program.

The therapy assistant program pilot looked at improving functional outcomes for individual students based on their own therapy goals, increasing the number of children who were able to access these services, enhancing the opportunities for students to practise therapy goals, and providing teachers with information and skill development.

The therapy assistant program works with schools to put into place whole class team teaching with health professional, individual or group client programs delivered by the therapy assistant or learning support assistant, and professional development for teachers.

Evaluation of the program indicated success across these areas. In fact the pilot evaluation report showed results obtained against all project goals exceeded expectations. Feedback from the surveys conducted was positive with regard to the effects for individual children, classrooms and families. Constructive suggestions for improvement to communication processes were received during the first evaluation process and were incorporated into the second six months of the project. The changes resulted in an improvement to communication between all stakeholders during the final phase of the pilot. The program has been well received and well regarded by students, families and schools.

MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Dr Bourke.

DR BOURKE: Minister, how is the therapy assistant program meeting the needs of those who are accessing the program?

MS BURCH: The therapy assistant program is a valuable service and continues to meet the needs of those students who are accessing the program. The evaluation of the

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