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Special Ed Announcement Deeply Disappointing

Special Education Announcement Deeply Disappointing

Today’s announcement by the Associate Minister of Education David Benson-Pope of an increase of $30.7 million in government funding for special education is welcome but is still deeply disappointing in terms of the quantum needed for children with special education needs to become effective learners in the classroom.

This money is to be spread over 4 years and amounts to an overall increase of less than 2% per year in special education funding over this time.

Equally disappointing is that there is no plan to change the funding mechanisms which are at the heart of the problems with special education.

For example QPEC has repeatedly called for changes to the way the Special Education Grant is allocated to schools. After 7 years this fund (more than $30 million) is still bulk funded to schools irrespective of the number of children with special education needs enrolled at a school. This means that a school which has 2 children with moderate special needs gets the same funding as a school with 20 children with moderate needs.

This method of allocating SEG is bizarre, wasteful and plainly unjust.

The extra government funding is to be allocated in 3 ways -

Supplementary Learning Support:

Increasing the number of children funded to 1,500 over 4 years. This is for children with high needs who have missed out on ORRS (On-going and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme) funding. However the 1,500 children represent less than one quarter of the children missing out on ORRS who were originally intended to receive it.

There are also problems already inherent with SLS as a funding mechanism because the teachers working with these children often itinerate around as many as 7 different schools and the wastage is huge. Much of this funding will be burned up at the traffic lights.

Increasing funding for teacher aide hours

The increased funding for teacher aide hours is welcomed as it will enable more children to become effective learners in a mainstream classroom. However again the quantum amount is very small in terms of the needs and many children will continue to be sent home from school because the school is unable to provide teacher aide time to support them when they need it. Alternatively increasing numbers of parents will dip into their own pockets to fund teacher aide time for their children.

Developing effective assessment:

We are unable to comment on the effectiveness of this funding as not enough details are given as to its use.

Overall the Minister’s announcement makes only a very small start to begin to address the special education needs identified by schools in a survey conducted by QPEC last year. The survey found -

Serious underfunding across special education which is resulting in

-overworked professional staff

-lack of flexibility for schools

-lack of quality options for parents

-teachers/SE professionals struggling to provide quality learning opportunities for children with special education needs

97% of schools indicate the Special Education Grant is inadequate to meet the needs of their children

89% believe the SEG grant must be increased by at least 100% to meet their needs with 25% indicating it must be increased more than 200%

80% indicate the funding for ORRS students is inadequate

The ORRS threshold being set too high so that many children with high needs are missing out

The desire for a range of quality options for children with special education needs including properly resourced mainstreaming, special education units and special schools

Poor targeting of some existing funding (eg SEG is bulk funded to schools so that a school with 20 children with moderate special needs gets the same allocation as a school with just 2 children with moderate special needs)

Special Education District Reports

A quick survey of a sample of these reports released today is once more very disappointing.

These have been prepared as a result of the out of court settlement of the Daniels case. That settlement came after 4 years of protracted legal proceedings taken by 14 parents – co-ordinated by QPEC - which argued that the government was not meeting its legal obligations to children with special education needs.

The Daniels settlement required Group Special Education to produce -

“Comprehensive district reports to be produced including parent perspectives of the adequacy and appropriateness of local resourcing; identification of gaps between resourcing and the needs of students; any recommendations for any changes needed in funding mechanisms and any recommendations concerning the need to have or maintain special educational units in that locality”

However these reports do not contain any quantitative data and appear to be well short of the legal requirements of the settlement.

We will carefully review these reports over the next few days and check the legal situation.

John Minto

National Chairperson

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