Children and Young People with Disability (CYDA), with their partners at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, and UNSW Canberra, have released three survey reports on the experiences of children and young people with disability in early childhood and education settings.
The results are confronting.
In early childhood settings, 29 percent of family members reported their child had been excluded from excursions, events or activities. 28 percent reported bullying from other children or staff. 20 percent reported that their child had been refused enrolment.
Reports on school settings were even more dire with 70 per cent of students saying they had been excluded from events or activities at school and 65 per cent reporting bullying. Only 35 per cent of families felt teachers and support staff had adequate training and knowledge to support their child.
CYDA chief executive officer, Skye Kakoschke-Moore, said “The results are disappointing and show discrimination is significantly impacting the education and wellbeing of Australian students with disability.”
“Children with disability face discrimination and exclusion from an early age, in school, in the health system and in the community, while they are going through a significant developmental phase. The impacts can be lifelong.”
Federal government organisation Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports around 10 percent of school aged children in Australia have a disability, and almost one in eighteen students has a profound disability. Eighty-nine percent of students with a disability attend a mainstream school, though some students participate in special classes designed to support their learning needs. Most students with a disability attend a government school.
Dr Catherine Smith of The University of Melbourne said “What is clear from the data is that students with disability face some significant exclusion in schools. This comes in the form of excursions and other events offered as rewards, but also from more common activities within schools and accessing the curriculum.”
The experiences of students with disability in segregated “special” schools is also addressed in the reports. One family member spoke about being bullied by students and a teacher. The family shared details of a number of incidents and complaints made, speaking to their child’s feelings of trauma and anxiety “We have a broken child that we are trying to piece back together … we do not have a roadmap, there is no accountability, and it feels like we have just been left on our own to work all of this out and somehow get our boy back.”
Ms Kakoschke-Moore called on Minister for Education Jason Claire to hold the states and territories accountable in the next National School Reform Agreement. “We need to see support and incentivisation for inclusive education and delivery of full inclusion for all students in mainstream schools.”