Education International
Education International

Australia: union calls for increased funding to support students with disabilities

published 5 January 2017 updated 9 January 2017

In response to data released by state and federal governments, the Australian Education Union has highlighted the funding gap to support students with disability.

More than one in eight students (12.5 per cent) in Australia need supplementary, substantial or extensive support for a disability or learning difficulty. This is more than twice the number receiving funded support in schools. That’s according to Maurie Mulheron, Deputy Federal President of the Australian Education Union (AEU) who was commenting on newly released nationally consistent collection of data on disability (NCCD) data for 2015.

This number includes 13.6 per cent of students in public schools, which have consistently educated a higher proportion of students with disability than private schools.

Essentially, over 270,000 students who need funded support are not getting it, Mulheron said. This “exposes years of inaction by a federal government which had failed to keep its election commitment to properly fund students with disability”.

Must act now

Noting that the federal government has known about this data for over a year and done nothing, he said it was “time to act and deliver children with disability the funded support they need to succeed at school.

“Every year we delay is another cohort of students with disability who will miss out on vital support and the chance to benefit fully from their education.”

The NCCD data is backed by surveys of parents of children with disability and the AEU’s State of Our Schools survey from April 2016. The latter revealed that 87 per cent of principals reported having to shift funding from other parts of their school budget to assist students with disability, up from 84 per cent in 2015.

Broken promise

Mulheron highlighted the Federal Government’s 2013 election promise to fund all students with disability from 2015. This promise was later repeated by then Education Minister Christopher Pyne in June 2015, when he said that, from 2016, “Every child in Australia with disability will be able to receive the correct loading, as they should, to match their disability”.

But now, the AEU leader insisted, it is reported that this funding will not be delivered until 2018 at the earliest.