Along with other groups, including Children With Disability Australia, Down Syndrome Australia (DSA) welcomes the Senate inquiry into the education of students with disability in Australia. We are particularly pleased that the inquiry will consider the social, economic and individual benefits of improving education opportunities for students with disability – along with the impact of funding decisions.
DSA, together with state and territory Down syndrome associations looks forward to participating in the inquiry. Down syndrome associations include education advisers and specialists, along with an informed and passionate network of families and supporters.
DSA is determined that the voice of students with Down syndrome will be heard during this inquiry process.
As with all young people accessing education, the quality of education received by students with Down syndrome is a key determinant in their likelihood of securing employment later in life.
Figures available from the Department of Human Services show that only 52.8% of all people with a disability are employed in the workforce versus 82% of the able bodied population, while only 1 in 3 disability employment placements continue for more than 12 months.
“Accessing and participating in education remains one of the most significant challenges encountered by families with a child with Down syndrome. It is often a continuous battle with the school and education department bureaucracy” said Ruth Webber, Down Syndrome Australia CEO.
DSA shares the concerns of Children with Disability Australia, whose recent survey found that 68% of all parents surveyed believe that their children are not receiving adequate support at school. One in four children with disability has been refused enrolment at some point, and a further 17% are only offered part-time enrolment. The survey also exposed both active and passive exclusion of students with disability on a day-to-day basis – an experience often stated by parents with a child with Down syndrome. 39% of respondents said that children with disability were regularly excluded from school activities, such as excursions, playground at recess and lunch, school discos and after-school clubs and classes, because the school did not have the resources to enable them to attend.
Anecdotal evidence from DSA members and parents of students with Down syndrome also indicates that many students are treated as presenting behavioural issues rather than teachers and support staff having an appreciation for the individual needs of the student and implementing differentiated programs and applying strategies that engage those students.
“Strategies like disability specific training programs and in-class observations can and do lead to a marked improvement in outcomes for the student and the teaching staff, however lack of funding is often presented as the barrier to staff participating in such training.”
CEO, Down Syndrome Australia
Added 23rd June 2015:
The inquiry home page has now been posted here, listing details of how to make a submission:
On 17 June 2015, the Senate referred the inquiry into current levels of access and attainment for students with disability in the school system, and the impact on students and families associated with inadequate levels of support to the Education and Employment References Committee for inquiry and report.
The closing date for submissions is 21st August 2015. The reporting date is 3rd November 2015.