Students with disability need additional funding support

Nine out of ten public school principals report having to access funds from other areas of school budgets to make up for significant shortfalls in Commonwealth funding for students with disability, according to the latest “State of our Schools” survey.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) 2020 State of our Schools survey, with more than 12,000 responses from public school principals and teachers, provided further evidence of the unmet need in school funding for students with disability. 

According to the survey results:

  • 93% of public primary school principals and 87% of public secondary school principals use funds from other budget areas to cover funding shortfalls for students with disability
  • 62% of public schools do not have enough resources to meet the needs of students with disability
  • 91% of public school principals said students with disability would benefit from additional classroom support
  • 68% of public school teachers in very remote schools said the needs of students with disability were not being met, as did 52% of teachers in remote schools.

“These survey results are a damning indictment of the Commonwealth’s school funding policy settings which have created significant resource shortages within public schools,” AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said.

“In 2018 the Commonwealth cut $31 million in funding for students with disability in five states and territories. This is on top of a public school funding shortfall of $19 billion over the next four years.”

“The 2020 Federal Budget completely ignored public schools and did not address the deep funding inequality that exists between the public and private sector and in particular, for students with disability,” Ms Haythorpe said.

In the survey, school principals gave many examples of the real-world consequences of inadequate resourcing for students with disability in public schools:

  • “I have students who require full-time one-on-one support from a teacher’s aide. The funding we receive does not come close to covering that cost.”
  • “I have an extremely high needs student who requires one-on-one or one-on-two support throughout the day. 15% of staff for this student is funded from other areas as additional allocations do not cover the support required.”
  • “Many students with disability and behavioural issues need 1:1 Teacher assistant support. Very rarely does funding cover what schools need. We pay an additional $200 000 from our school resource package to support additional teacher assistant hours.”
  • “Our access funding for disability students is only half of what we need.”

Ms Haythorpe said that there was an urgent need for the Commonwealth to reverse funding cuts it made to funding for students with disability in 2018, and to revise how loadings for individual student support are calculated.

“For every child to achieve their full potential, Australia’s entrenched funding inequality must end. The Commonwealth must step up and ensure that all students, no matter what their background or level of ability, have the resources and the opportunity to receive a high-quality education,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Governments must urgently address the issue of increasing numbers of public school students are being categorised as students with disability but are receiving no additional funding to address their educational needs.”

“Schools must be provided with the funding to support students with disability. This funding will provide additional teachers, support staff and learning intervention programs to ensure that students with disability have access to the high quality public education that every child deserves,” Ms Haythorpe said.

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