Bloomsbury Education and Childhood Studies-Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in Primary Education (Austr
Loading
Bloomsbury Education and Childhood Studies

Subjects

Content Type:

Article

Education Level:

Primary Education

Place:

Australia

Related Content

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in Primary Education (Australia)

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in Primary Education (Australia)
by Tiffany Banner

Tiffany Banner is a teaching fellow at Murdoch University, Western Australia. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

Search for publications
,
DOI: 10.5040/9781474209489.0002

  • Editor(s):
    Laura Perry (Regional Editor), Maria Teresa Tatto (Editor in Chief) and Ian Menter (Editor in Chief)
  • Publisher:
    Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
  • Identifier:
    b-9781474209489-002
  • Published Online:
    2019
Collapse All Sections

Research on special education, needs, and disabilities

In Australia, all states and territories have committed to a policy of inclusive education, aimed at improving support for students with a disability. The notion of inclusive education for all students is a consistent feature of research into students with disabilities, as are adaptations and accommodations to meet the needs of individuals. Inputs from key stakeholders (practitioners, students, families) are viewed as crucial for successful interventions. Resources and approaches need to be varied and differentiated (O’Connor et al. 2015). A holistic, “ecological” view of student performance is a feature of responses that best meet learner needs (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA] 2012). Literature also identified the need for the professional development of knowledge, skills, and understanding related to authentic instruction for students with special educational needs and disabilities (ACARA 2012; Cologan 2015).

Research highlights many barriers to the realization of this right to inclusive education for children with disabilities and their families (Cologan 2015). These barriers include negative and discriminatory attitudes and practices, lack of support to facilitate inclusive education, and inadequate education and professional development for teachers and other professionals. The literature outlines a requirement to provide a broad, balanced, relevant, and differentiated approach to the provision of education for students with disabilities emphasizing attitudes, skills, and competencies rather than the curriculum (ACARA 2012).

Programs and policies

In Australia, children with a disability are those who, in addition to falling within the broad definition of disability set out in anti-discrimination legislation, meet the disability criteria employed by the Department of Education (ACARA 2014). This criteria includes a range of conditions: language, physical disability, intellectual disability, hearing and vision impairment, mental health problems, and autism. The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008) commits to supporting all Australians to become successful students, and promotes equity and excellence in education and this provides the policy framework for the Australian Curriculum (ACARA 2014). It includes two goals: Goal 1: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence. Goal 2: All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC 2016) explains that inclusive education relates to a commitment to meeting the needs of all children in regular schools and classrooms. Inclusive education is therefore part of a broad human rights agenda that emphasizes the value of educating all students in mainstream education (World Health Organization [WHO] 2015). The introduction of the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD) in schools surrounding the provision of adjustments for students with disabilities and an increased focus on personalized learning and support to meet primary school students’ needs has been included in the reforms and policies.

Regulations

Children with a disability in Australia share universal rights with all people and share the additional rights of all children as identified in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, UNICEF 1989). In relation to primary education, the UNCRC (1990) states that persons with a disability should be guaranteed the right to inclusive education at all levels, regardless of age, without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity. Australia’s commitment is also reflected in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and in the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR] 2012a) that clarify and elaborate on legal obligations associated with inclusive education.

The Disability Standards for Education (DEEWR 2012a) mandate the obligations of all educational organizations to ensure that all students are treated equitably and are offered equal opportunities to access fair and equitable education. According to the Disability Standards for Education (DEEWR 2012a), education providers must make “reasonable adjustments” to their programs to enable students with disabilities to participate, and access their facilities and services, on the same basis as a student without a disability. The Australian Education Act (2013) outlines the provision of Australian government education funding and in doing so outlines responsibilities in relation to the provision of education. Australia has joined other countries in a global effort to promote equal and active participation of all people with disabilities, with the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2008.

The National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 also provides a ten-year national policy framework for improving life for Australians with disabilities, their families and carers in all aspects of life. It includes the implementation of the More Support for Students with Disability (MSSD) initiative, and the NCCD.

Resources and support

Children in Australia are primarily educated by government schools, Catholic schools, and independent schools. The decision on where to enrol a student with a disability or special needs depends on a number of factors, including parental choice of educational setting, the student’s learning needs, the capacity and availability of support services, and proximity to local specialist services (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth [ARACY] 2013; Children with Disability Australia [CDA] 2015). In terms of mainstream primary education, there are a range of learning and support resources available to students with a disability. Schools can personalize the learning for individual students by making accommodations and adjustments to the way the curriculum is taught and the way students learn, and the educational environment to enable students to access educational content and outcomes.

Specialist support classes are available in some regular schools for students with moderate to high learning and support needs. These classes often have fewer students than regular classes and a special education/education support teacher to plan the personalized learning and support for each student. Students also have access to itinerant support teachers (for hearing or vision needs, and transition), specialist provisions such as examination support, and access to transport assistance. Schools for specific purposes support students with moderate to high learning and support needs. Other special schools support students facing particular challenges due to health or injury, complex learning difficulties or emotional issues and can include hospital schools, tutorial centers, and programs (which can help to provide intensive behavioral and educational support).

Funding

The NCCD initiative was introduced to all Australian schools to collect nationally consistent and reliable information about students with disabilities. From 2018, the student with disability loading is based on the NCCD, which means targeted and nationally consistent Commonwealth funding for students with disabilities. Funding is informed by the NCCD and based on a per student amount at each of the three levels of additional support needed by a student with a disability (supplementary, substantive, and extensive) that are calculated as a percentage of the base per student amount each year. The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides additional funding support to people with disabilities, including school aged children and young people. The scheme funds supports that enable participants to attend school education, where these supports are required by the participant to engage in a range of community activities.

Teachers and teaching

To be an accredited teacher in Australia, teachers must meet minimum requirements set by the Education Standards Authority (ESA) of their state or territory. These requirements ensure that teachers comply with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. As part of this accreditation system, teachers complete initial teacher education and produce a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate a standard of proficiency. All teacher education courses provided by universities and teacher education institutions in Australia contain a mandatory unit in special education and this content is embedded and delivered throughout the course.

In Australia, the responsibility and obligation is principally on the teacher to make “appropriate curriculum adjustments” to cater for the needs of all students including those with a disability. The adequacy of teacher time, skill, mindset, and experience was raised in the literature as a key limitation on the provision of differentiated learning for students with disabilities. The attitudes of teachers and preservice teachers towards inclusivity are critical to the success of inclusive practices (Berlach and Chambers 2011; Children & Young People with Disability Australia [CYDA] 2016). It is unsurprising, therefore, that attitudes were identified as a major barrier to nondiscrimination in education for people who experience disability in the 2012 review of the Disability Standards for Education (DEEWR 2012a).

School personnel

Advice and support is also available in each state or territory of Australia in different structures, however all schools have access to professional and paraprofessional support. Schools generally also have access to a learning and support resources package that gives the school an allocation of flexible funding as part of the school budget. Nonteaching professionals might include psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists. Schools employ nurses or therapists on their staff, receive access to professionals through their state or territory education authority, or use private practitioners, funded by the relevant government program for students with disabilities. Paraprofessionals are school staff who support students with additional needs. They work under the direction of the classroom teacher to support students with classwork, help with personal care, and prepare teaching materials.

Further reading and online resources

Children with Disability Australia (CDA). 2015. “Hear Our Voices: Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Current Levels of Access and Attainment for Students with Disability in the School System, and the Impact on Students and Families Associated with Inadequate Levels of Support.” Accessed October 25, 2018. http://apo.org.au/node/57343 .

Children & Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA). 2016. “CYDA Education Survey 2016 – National Summary of Results.” Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.cda.org.au/education-survey-2016-national-results .

Cologon, K. 2015. “Inclusive Education means all Children are Included in Every Way, not just in Theory.” Maquarie University, August 17. Accessed October 25, 2018. https://www.mq.edu.au/thisweek/archives/2015/08/inclusive-education-means-all-children-are-included-in-every-way-not-just-in-theory/#.W9G9ZSOZM_M .

Commonwealth of Australia. 2011. National Disability Strategy 2010–2020. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/05_2012/national_disability_strategy_2010_2020.pdf .

Department of Education and Training. 2016. “Review of the Program for Students with Disabilities.” Program for Students with Disabilities . Melbourne, VIC: Department of Education and Training. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/department/PSDReview-Report.pdf .

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) 2008. Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians . Melbourne: Curriculum Corporation. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/National_Declaration_on_the_Educational_Goals_for_Young_Australians.pdf .

References

Auditor-General Victoria. 2012. Programs for Students with Special Learning Needs . Melbourne: The Victorian Auditor-General Office. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.audit.vic.gov.au/publications/20120829-Special-LearningNeed/20120829-Special-Learning-Need.pdf .

Australian Human Rights Commission. 2011. “Information Concerning Australia and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, August. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/legal/submissions/2011/201108_child_rights.pdf .

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). 2012. Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting in Special Educational Needs and Disability: A Thematic Overview of Recent Literature . Sydney: ACARA. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://docs.acara.edu.au/resources/ACARA_Research_for_Publication_Final.pdf .

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). 2014. “Student Diversity and the Australian Curriculum: Advice for Principals, Schools and Teachers.” Sydney: ACARA. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/StudentDiversity/Pdf/StudentDiversity .

Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). 2016. Children's Rights Report 2016. National Children's Commissioner . Sydney: AHRC. Accessed October 25, 2018. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/AHRC_CRR_2016.pdf

Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY). 2013. Inclusive Education for Students with Disability: A Review of the Best Evidence in Relation to Theory and Practice . Melbourne: Australian Government or the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Berlach, R. G. and D. Chambers. 2011. “Inclusivity Imperatives and the Australian National Curriculum .” The Educational Forum 75 (1): 52–65 .

Children with Disability Australia (CDA). 2015. “Hear our Voices: Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Current Levels of Access and Attainment for Students with Disability in the School System, and the Impact on Students and Families Associated with Inadequate Levels of Support.” Analysis & Policy Observatory, September 10. http://apo.org.au/node/57343 .

Children & Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA). 2016. “CYDA Education Survey 2016 – National Summary of Results.” Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.cda.org.au/education-survey-2016-national-results .

Cologon, K. 2015. “Inclusive Education means all Children are Included in Every Way, not just in Theory.” Maquarie University, August 17. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.mq.edu.au/thisweek/archives/2015/08/inclusive-education-means-all-children-are-included-in-every-way-not-just-in-theory/#.W9G9ZSOZM_M .

Commonwealth of Australia. 2005. “Disability Standards for Education 2005.” Accessed October 25, 2018. http://education.gov.au/disability-standards-education .

Commonwealth of Australia. 2011. National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 . Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/05_2012/national_disability_strategy_2010_2020.pdf .

Commonwealth of Australia. 2012. Government Response to the Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005 . Accessed October 25, 2018. https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/government_response_to_the_review_of_the_disability_standards_for_education_2005.pdf .

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). 2009. Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia . Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia.

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). 2012a. “Disability Standards for Education 2005.” https://docs.education.gov.au/node/16354 .

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). 2012b. “National Quality Framework.” Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.deewr.gov.au/earlychildhood/policy_agenda/quality/pages/home.aspx

Department of Education and Training. 2016a. “Inclusive Education for all Students with Disabilities and Additional Needs: The Government’s Response to the Review of the Program for Students with Disabilities. Program for Students with Disabilities.” Melbourne, VIC: Department of Education and Training. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/department/PSD-ReviewResponse.pdf .

Department of Education and Training. 2016b. “Review of the Program for Students with Disabilities. Program for Students with Disabilities.” Melbourne, VIC: Department of Education and Training. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/department/PSDReview-Report.pdf .

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). 2008. Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians . Melbourne: Curriculum Corporation. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/National_Declaration_on_the_Educational_Goals_for_Young_Australians.pdf .

O’Connor, M., J. Quach, S. Goldfeld, L. Gold, R. Aston, R. Beatson, and D. Hopkins. 2015. “Approaches to the Provision of Educational Support for Children and Young People with Additional Health and Developmental Needs: Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Melbourne, VIC: Centre for Community Child Health. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/department/psdlitreview_EducationalSupportforStudentswithASD.pdf .

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 1994. Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education . Paris: UNESCO Special Education, Division of Basic Education.

World Health Organization (WHO). 2015. WHO Global Disability Action Plan 2014–2021: Better Health for all People with Disability . World Health Organization. Accessed October 25, 2018. http://www.who.int/disabilities/en/ .

Usually consists of years from pre-year 1 to year 6/7 and is compulsory schooling for all children. Primary education is normally a five-day school week, spread across four terms consisting of about ten weeks each.

Defined as any limitation, restriction, or impairment that restricts everyday activities and has lasted or is likely to last for at least six months.

A public statement of what constitutes teacher quality. The standards provide a framework that makes clear the knowledge, practice, and professional engagement required across teachers’ careers.

Programs that every child has access to, can participate meaningfully in, and experience positive outcomes from.

The opportunity to be involved in everyday environments that are vital to the health, development, and quality of life of all children.