Thank Goodness for Free Speech

It’s times like these that I’m glad to live in a democracy and have the freedom to speak out against the government without fear of reprisal.

I often forget how lucky we are to have that right.

I have never felt the need to speak out before. I am not a natural advocate.

I’m a good girl. I always do what I’m told. I’m usually afraid to rock the boat or cause trouble for anyone.

But not anymore.

Not when I have to defend the right of my child to access basic assistance to allow him to remain in a mainstream classroom.

I wrote a post a week or so ago discussing the Every Student Every School policy currently being implemented in NSW public schools.

According to the Department of Education and Communities (DEC) site,  this policy is going to give every student better access to assistance as they need it.

However, in reality, they will be taking much needed support away from students with lower level special needs, such as those on the autism spectrum.

My local newspaper finally ran a story on this today and released the figures showing the differences in funding for all Hunter schools under the new policy.

My son’s school will supposedly receive more assistance yet he and others like him with lower level needs, will miss out.

How is that fair?

My son has been a veritable poster child for mainstreaming this year. He had a rocky start and he was suspended mid-way through Term 1, but that was a vital turning point for us.

Since that time we have received more support from the school. They initiated a daily communication book and appointed a more experienced aide to watch over him in the playground.

These measures have made such a difference to him, to his teacher and, most of all, to us.

Our son has made so much progress under these new measures. He even ended up receiving a merit award at the end of last term – how good is that?

After such a promising start it is heartbreaking to know that a lot of this support will not be forthcoming from next term.

Just because he is deemed to have lower level needs. Lower level needs apparently meaning behavioural issues.

So most kids out there with high functioning autism, mental health conditions, ADHD and similar conditions will no longer have access to direct assistance in the classroom.

How does anyone think that is going to contribute to better education outcomes for anyone?

How will teachers be able to effectively impart information to a class of 30, if a handful of them have lower level needs that will no longer be assigned any level of funding?

At least under the current system smaller funding amounts (under $6000) can be pooled to fund an aide for the class. To help those students, like my son, who can be a valued member of a classroom but needs extra hands on assistance from time to time, to get by.

Now, he and the other kids in his class with supposedly lower level needs will not receive any funding at all. Instead of having a chance to share a teachers’ aide, the teacher will be left to deal with them all on his own.

Again, I ask the obvious question – how does anyone truly believe that is going to better educational outcomes for anyone?

I feel so strongly about this that I have drafted a letter to be sent to my local state member of parliament, Sonia Hornery, to the NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli and to the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell.

I’m about to exercise my right to be heard, to object to government policy, to criticise the decision of the government.

To others this may not be a big deal. But for me, who avoids confrontation like the plague and who’s willing to cede on most things to keep the peace, this is big.

I have found my cause and I’m finally willing to take a stand.

To defend my child’s right to reasonable adjustment, to equitable access to public education, to be considered on the merit of his individual needs, not his condition.

This is too important an issue to ignore or to let go.

Frankly, this is not good enough and I cannot let it happen without a fight.

If you believe in equal access to public education, I hope you can do the same.

Today I am thankful for being able to exercise my democratic right to voice my opposition to ill-thought policy – showing my thanks by joining in with Kate Says Stuff for Thankful Thursday.

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11 Responses

  1. Good for you Kirsty. I’m not a natural advocate either, but sometimes our hands are forced. This situation is so blindingly unfair on everyone. The children with additional needs, their teachers, their classmates. No one wins in this scenario 🙁
    katesaysstuff recently posted..Thankful Thursday: NDSL

    • Kirsty says:

      You’re right Kate, no-one will win. So how can the powers that be think this is good policy? It’s just so wrong and unfair on so many levels. It’s frustrating to watch it unfold and not have the power to do much about it. Hopefully as awareness rises and people voice their concerns the government might listen. Hopefully…

  2. LizC says:

    I agree with Katesaysstuff. No one will win. It will also negatively affect the families of these kids as there’ll be increased stress in the household as a result. You have motivated me to put pen to paper also Kirsty. I won’t accept these new measures without fight.

    • Kirsty says:

      Liz, it’s such a terrible situation for our kids and so unfair. I was heartened today to hear my local member opposing this policy on ABC 1233 – maybe she can get some traction and get the government to reconsider their position. We can only hope.

  3. Lyndal says:

    im so glad that you have found your cause and are standing, and fighting. There is nothing like the passion and strength of a mama bear x
    Lyndal recently posted..making me think

    • Kirsty says:

      Lyndal, I do feel like a fierce mama bear at the moment. It’s quite a strange feeling for me but it’s also quite liberating. Let’s hope the fight is not in vain.

  4. Happylan says:

    Wow that is so unfair. I am one of the most non-confrontational people out there, but when it comes to my kids my voice can get rather loud! Well done for taking a stand for your son, may it have a positive outcome for you.
    Happylan recently posted..Soulmates

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Alana – I hope to see a positive outcome out of this too. At least today my local member came out in the local media to oppose these measures so fingers crossed more people will voice their opposition too.

  5. Good on you Kristy for speaking out!! Keep it up I say. It truly does sound so unfair.
    Caz (The Truth About Mummy) recently posted..Thankful Thursday ~ joining the crew.

  6. Nicki Levi says:

    Hi Kirsty,
    Thank you for speaking up about your concerns!
    I’m not convinced that the changes are all bad…but they certainly pose some challenges for all of us, parents and teachers alike. In particular, I would like to see all Learning and Support Teachers (and support staff) properly trained. This has not been the case so far in this important field. (We have had untrained teachers and support staff for many years.)
    Keep up the good work.
    Wonderful to see you coming up at the top of the search for “Every Student Every School.”

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Nicki – another commenter also pointed out that my posts were on the first page of the search for “Every Student Every School” – don’t know how that happened but I’ll run with it!

      I agree with you, I don’t think in theory the changes are all bad – having a specialist special ed teacher in all schools is a great idea and increasing teacher training is also much needed. But I am worried at the changes in staffing that has already resulted in less hands on support in classrooms. These changes may mean that my son and others like him do not have aides in their classroom or in playgrounds next year which will increase pressure on teachers, special needs students and parents as they try to pick up the pieces.

      Despite the positive rhetoric surrounding this policy I am still opposed to any policy that leaves special needs students without the support they need in mainstream schools. Until proved otherwise, I will continue to oppose Every Student Every School on this basis. Thanks for your encouragement and support!

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