Monday, 18 April 2016

Specialist school funding boost

Ballarat Specialist School gets bigger and bigger with a huge staff, expanded modern facilities and a growing enrolment. Apparently it's a different story for other specialist schools in the state.

Many specialist school principals say their students have to learn in dilapidated conditions that would not be tolerated in mainstream schools.

And on Monday, Premier Daniel Andrews declared that specialist schools had been ignored for too long. 

He unveiled a $156 million funding boost for students with disabilities, including $68.5 million to upgrade 20 specialist schools.

The package, which will be included in next week's budget, sets aside $50 million to support an extra 1750 students.

"It's the biggest investment in special education that this state has ever seen," Mr Andrews said.

"For too long, too many governments have ignored special developmental school and kids with special needs who rely upon them."

Children with Disability Australia chief executive Stephanie Gotlib welcomed the extra funding, but said students with a disability achieved the best outcomes when they were educated in inclusive mainstream schools. She said special schools were "no different to apartheid".

"I am not saying that students with disabilities don't learn in segregated settings. But at the moment we have a system where many families are using segregated education because of the inadequacies of the mainstream settings." 

Ms Gotlib said many students with disabilities were turned away from mainstream schools.

Education Minister James Merlino said the extra funding would give schools no excuse to turn away students.

"There are many schools that do the right thing and are fully inclusive, but we know it happens. I hear it from parents and it just has to stop," he said.

Dr Shiralee Poed, who co-ordinates the special education, inclusion and early intervention programs at the University of Melbourne, said Victorian schools were not funded to offer tailored support for kids with special needs, which had driven up enrolments at special schools.

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