Every Student Every School

Have you heard of Every Student Every School? No? Neither had I until yesterday.

But this is a far-reaching initiative that will impact everyone – students with special needs, teachers, aides, other students and families alike.

The premise of the new model is to better train teachers so they can better support students with special needs. I don’t disagree with this as more specific special needs training is much needed right now.

What I do disagree with is the introduction of a funding threshold and the slashing of support teaching hours for students with lower level needs.

The document doesn’t spell out this in detail but does make reference to students with moderate, complex or high level needs still maintaining existing levels of support.

Information directly received from several public schools confirm that students with lower level needs (such as those on the higher end of the autism spectrum) will miss out.

Currently students receive funding based on their needs as identified in the application for funding lodged by the school. If they are indentified as requiring $2000 worth of funding, they get it.

Under the new model, students with lower level needs (eligible for less than $6000 in funding) will not receive any funding at all.

I found out yesterday that my son’s autism funding at his public school is being taken away because he falls under this threshold. That most kids across NSW with lower level needs are going to lose access to aide time they so desperately need.

All because they have changed the funding model and want to save money by slashing teachers’ aide hours.

And it’s not just in public schools. It’s affecting early intervention services too.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I think this is going to lead to a hell of a lot of problems for a lot of people.

Teachers will lose the practical daily support of teachers’ aides in the classroom. Although they may gain access to a specialist teaching support, who’s going to help them out when a child has an issue in the classroom while they are looking after 25 other students as well?

Students will have less support in the classroom with just one teacher to go to, who may very well be spending a lot of their time dealing with the special needs student. What sort of quality teaching will be happening in those classes, I wonder?

Obviously students with special needs will lose out too – who is going to give them the support they need to operate to the best of their ability in a mainstream classroom?

And their families will be forced to pick up the pieces each day. Vainly trying to advocate for more assistance while trying to support their increasingly anxious child and evaluating alternate options for education.

What other options will there be?

If your child is of average or above average intelligence you can’t access special education classes. You could try private schools and see how you go there, but historically funding has been easier to access in the public system.

And I bet independent schools won’t be able to cope with an influx of students with special needs who cannot be supported in the public system. Where will they go then?

What bothers me the most is the accepted principle that the public system is there to provide a quality education for every student. Isn’t this sort of policy sailing perilously close to discriminating against students with lower level needs?

How long will it take for principals in the new world to take parents aside and advise that they can no longer provide the help their child needs to thrive in a mainstream classroom? That they’d be better off in another setting?

According to this document on the NSW DEC website, 90,000 students, representing 12% of the entire student population have a disability or special needs.  Currently 35,000 of these have access to some level of funding.

Since 2003 the rates of students with autism have tripled while the rates of students with mental health disorders have doubled.

And now funding is going to be slashed for the majority of these students.

It doesn’t make sense to me.

My son is going ahead in leaps and bounds in a mainstream class this year. He has his classroom teacher and an untrained teachers’ aide who helps out across the entire class. She takes him and the other kids out of the classroom if they need individual help or if they become upset or frustrated or overwhelmed.

My son doesn’t care that she is not a trained teacher. He cares that she is there to help him out when he needs it. That she can see when he’s struggling and nip it in the bud so he can continue to be a part of his class.

If she is not there to provide this assistance, what learning is he or any of his classmates going to receive? If the teacher is busy trying to deal with several kids with special needs on his own what hope does that class have of learning anything?

Sure, the teacher may be trained up superbly on how to deal with a child with autism in the classroom but when that child goes into full meltdown while in class, what happens then? How is the child going to be dealt with and how is the rest of the class going to be supported?

I fear that this move will force kids with special needs out of public schools because they will simply not have the capacity to help.

Kids like my son who is intelligent and thriving in a challenging classroom. Who may be forced back into a special education setting purely due to the lack of basic support in the mainstream classroom.

This cannot be allowed to occur.

I will be writing to my local state member of parliament as well as to the NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and to the Premier Barry O’Farrell to protest these changes.

I encourage all of you to do the same if you care at all about the quality of education in our public schools. Because I can tell you now, there be will be little chance of any quality of education, for anyone, if these changes do go ahead.

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23 Responses

  1. Hi Kirsty,
    Yes, I had heard of the changes, from a Deputy Principal at my old school, but we only talked generally about the “bucket” of money that schools would get and finding support via that.
    I would be disappointed to see even more taken from special needs kids..your Gilbert, my grandson…these are kids in mainstream because of added support of TAide time.
    I knew a new funding model was coming, and I have another friend in Spec Ed. so may pick her brain at some stage.
    Your idea to write to both the Minister and Premier is sound.
    What a pity you even have to do this though.
    Denyse
    Denyse Whelan recently posted..Mother’s Day Memories.

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks so much for your reply Denyse.

      I was actually going to email you tonight to see if you had heard anything about this. DEC are trying to put a positive spin on the changes and yes it will be lovely to have real special ed teachers in each school but they cannot replace teachers aides. More importantly, it is not fair to deny higher functioning children with special needs basic assistance to help them thrive in a mainstream setting. I am so worried for my son and for others in his situation – I can only hope sanity will prevail and DEC will review their current plans.

      If you do hear anything further please let me know – knowledge is power and I need as much of that as possible to try to fight this change. Thanks D!

  2. Donna Murray says:

    Hi Kirsty. Thank you so much for all this information. I will have to make an appointment with our Principal and see what will happen with Rhys. They haven’t said anything to me, and I know he is still receiving his aid. A very worrying time for all parents with special needs children that rely on this service so our kids cope well with the every day life of school.

    Thank you so much.

    Talk to you soon.

    Donna

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting Donna.

      It is a worrying time, particularly when it’s so hard to get to the heart of the information to make an informed decision. I hope the policy gets reviewed, I am so worried about how my son will fare if he loses access to an aide in his classroom. I will keep you informed of anything else I hear – let me know what you find out from your school too.

  3. TrISh says:

    Very scary stuff. My son’s class has a full time aide from what I see. Though they have a child with very special needs in mainstream class. Two other kindy children have left their class for the schools own SN class since they started. The aide is invaluable .
    TrISh recently posted..Rise to the challenge and experience Sydney’s highest outdoor adventure ~Sydney Tower Eye Skywalk

    • Kirsty says:

      Trish, thanks for your support. All aides are invaluable and I would hate to see any of them lose a job over this change. The ones at my son’s school are all fabulous and they would volunteer their time to look after the kids if they could. It would be such a tragedy to see all their good work wasted just because of an ill-conceived cost cutting measure. Let’s hope sanity prevails before too long…

  4. Concerned teacher says:

    Hi Kirsty
    I am a teacher of special needs students. Our school has lost $64,000 in funding and where we used to have 29 students funded now only 15 get funding.Other school teachers I talk to are saying similar things with some schools losing 7 out of their 10 teacher’s aides and losing support teachers. At our school our teacher’s aides are integral to helping children reach their learning outcomes, the children know they are there to support them and our aides are often the ones the children turn to and respond to when there is a meltdown. I don’t know how teachers are going to be able to cope in a class of 30 when 8 of them may have learning difficulties and disabilities.It is going to be a nightmare. And when will they have time to sit with a specialist teacher to gain advice on strategies that would assist them. After school? Before school? They will need help in the classroom, to guide them and help them and one specialist teacher cannot be in 8 different rooms at once.
    Every School Every student is a catchy phrase but nothing more.In reality it is the government’s attempt to slash fundng for students with special needs. Students receiving funding has grown exponentially over the past decade so the government needed to halt this. They did this by removing funding from students with lower levels of need; in fact breaking the connection between the student’s condition and the funding. They now fund on the incidence of 1 in 100 students having a disability. Of course in some lower socio-econmic areas the incidence is much higher.
    The fully qualified support teachers you refer to now coming into school are not in fact qualified to deal with the range of disabilities and have to undertake 110 hours of online training. I have done this online training. Each course lasts for 20 hours. The courses cover Understanding and managing behaviour,Autism, Motor Coordination , Expressive Receptive language disorder and Dyslexia.
    The redistribution of specialist teachers of behaviour, language, literacy and numeracy has recently occurred; so your school might get a support teacher who has specialised in autism or you might get one that has only ever worked with behaviour. I don’t believe teachers are going to be happy with the advice they get on supporting an autistic child in the mainstream from someone who has never worked with autistic children.
    While the NSW teacher’s federation is strongly opposed to the changes it is really parents that the government listen to. Can I suggest you organise a petition from parents to take to your local member as well; I’m sure every teacher and parent at your school would be happy to sign that. If we all did that at all our schools I’m sure the government would reconsider slashing the support of students.

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. Your thoughts mirror my husband’s too, who is a teacher as well. I have been quiet for the last week waiting to hear more before I go further but the picture is bleak. You are right, funding will now be based on incidence in the community combined (as I understand it) with the bottom 10% of naplan results. Plus the functional assessment tool is going to change but no-one has seen it yet.

      I will be publishing an open letter to Barry O’Farrell, Adrian Piccoli and the DEC this week and will be seeking support from as many people as I can to show them how unjust and devastating this policy will be for everyone – special needs students, teachers, aides and classmates alike.

      Thanks for your support and for your suggestion – I’ll see what we can do!

  5. Concerned teacher says:

    We have been instructed not to let our parents know that their students are no longer attracting funding or we will get slapped with a code of conduct letter. Can you get in touch with aspect and let them know they need to be making a lot of noise about the fact that kids on the spectrum have been the first ones wiped off the integrated funding list. This culture of secrecy and lack of transparency hiding behind a slick catchcry and spiel by the government is very worrying.

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks for letting me know. I will ensure ASPECT is made aware of the situation (if they are not already). What you have been instructed to do is wrong – parents have the basic right to know what funding their kids are receiving, including when they are not receiving any. Hearing that, together with the lack of clear information on this policy, just reinforces how wrong it really is. I have spent the evening putting my two cents in on a number of autism forums and pages on Facebook – hoping we can mobilize statewide support to oppose this ill-advised policy if we can get enough parents concerned enough to take action.

  6. Debi says:

    Let me know how I can help. I am using my Girls on the Spectrum twitter account to tweet key people and politicians. I’d love others in the twittersphere to help me.

    I have a 13yr old daughter on the spectrum and the old funding system and criteria were bad enough. As she didn’t present badly in the class (i.e. act out) and she would internalise her stress and difficulty, the criteria did not lend itself to that kind of “behaviour” or presentation. The little she did receive, was given to anything but helping her cope in the classroom.

    Leaving it up to the principals in how to utilise this “one size fits all” funding is as varied as each individual principal in each school. Not every principal is a good one (unfortunately) and each have their own agenda of what they feel in important. If special needs and learning difficulties in not it… then funding will not go there (or only the bare minimum). The ratio 1:100 will never fit neatly into every school.

    It really seems to be a thin smoke screen to make the ability to receive funding for these children even harder as the state governments continue to cry poor. What they don’t seem to be acknowledging, it that these children will become adults that will (without help and interventions at school) will be more of a financial burden on the state and federal government in resources as adults.

    The irony is that I decided to train as an SLSO as I coiuld see what a vitally important role it was and the course is funded by the NSW government through TAFE. As much as I’d love to have a job, the future of each and every child worried me greatly. What next, redefining the disability pension/ assistance so they won’t get help as adults either?

    • Kirsty says:

      Debi, I have checked out your page and I’m following now. I have a daughter with Aspergers too so it’s going to come in very handy for me.

      I agree with every one of your points. I am also worried about the future – if these kids do not get the support they need what future will they have? It does seem like short term cost cutting measure that will lead to greater long term costs.

      I have signed an online petition against this policy and have shared on my page tonight – http://www.change.org/petitions/families-protesting-against-the-every-student-every-school-policy#. Maybe by getting people to sign up to this we can get some traction on this issue.

      In the meantime I will keep posting and trying to raise awareness in the autism forums that I am a member of on Facebook. I will also follow up with my local member later this week if I hear nothing before then. Good luck in your fight – if there is anything that I can do to help, please let me know. I will do the same.

  7. Suzie Johnson says:

    Hi Kirsty,
    was just wondering if you had written that open letter and if there was a copy of it somewhere. We are wanting to formulate a letter to be circulated around our Autism/Aspergers association here on the Mid North Coast. These changes are completely unjust, provide no equity in education for our kids and must be overturned or at the very least amended. Would love to see what you have written. Suzie

    • Kirsty says:

      Hi Suzie, thanks for asking about the letter. I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t written it as yet but I do intend to. I will publish it here once I have done so but, in the meantime, you are more than welcome to use anything else I have already written here to help with your efforts. Good luck and if there is anything else I can do, please let me know.

  8. Support Teacher says:

    If ESES is such a bad thing as you are promoting, why then is family advocacy supporting this initiative?

    http://www.family-advocacy.com/new-education-initiative—every-student-every-school.html

    Is there more to it?

    • Kirsty says:

      On the surface ESES looks like a positive step forward – there are elements of the policy that are very good, such as providing a specialist teacher to every school and increasing teacher training – these are indeed much needed and very welcome initiatives.

      However, taking away assistance to any child who needs it, like my son and others like him with lower level special needs, is not a good thing at all. It is already having an immediate affect on students and their families and will have further repercussions on all students down the track.

      I honestly hope things do not turn out as badly as I fear but I have seen nothing so far to ease my mind. Only time will tell, I guess.

      • JULIE EGAN says:

        Hi Kristy, It’s now November and I’m afraid that all of your worst fears have come true. I’ve demanded an interview and review at my Asperger son’s,main-stream school.I’ve written to the Minister for Education,local members etc.,only to be patted on the head and basically ignored.My son’s school has dropped him like a hot rock,although when he WAS individually funded,he was given very minimal assistance.I’m totally disgusted with the so called ESES.I might as well home school my son as I seem to be the only person interested in teaching him.During the past 12 months,my son has received so little aid at school that his performance has rapidly declined.He also has only 3% processing skills and PDD but his school still considers him to be a LOW LEVEL case.The DEC is despicable but some school Principals are equally shameful and greedy.

        • Kirsty says:

          Julie, I’m so very sorry to hear that. That is exactly what I feared – that taking individual funding away from students in need would leave them vulnerable and less able to cope in mainstream.

          I must say the Dept of Education and the Minister for Education patted me on the head too and did not come close to answering any of my concerns about this policy. And I’ve heard the same from anyone else who has raised their issues too.

          I’ve also approached the media a few times with mixed success. To be honest I’m not sure where to go from here as the politicians aren’t listening and the public are not mobilizing as they still do not understand the enormity of the issue.

          I’m sorry I can’t provide any answers for you – but I will continue to try to make our voices heard and I truly hope you can get the care and support your son needs at school.

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