This week’s In the Read considers children and young people with disability and special needs education in schools. Despite Australian and international law that provides the right to education without discrimination, research shows that children with disability suffer poorer educational outcomes than their peers, and as a result, can experience poorer life outcomes such as workforce participation. The 2017 Review of education for students with disability in Queensland state schools found that adequately supporting students with disability resulted in educational outcomes at the same level as non-disabled peers, and that half of the variation in learning outcomes of students with disability could be eliminated by ensuring educational practice consistently meets best standards. The recommendations from this review are still being implemented. A recent case in the UK held that excluding children who display aggressive or challenging behaviour due to a disability from the right to education constituted unlawful discrimination. The judge ruled that conditions such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can result in aggression or other challenging behaviours that are not choices by the child, but are the result of “overwhelming frustration arising from an inability to express their wants and needs”. In a school setting, the needs of children to be protected from antisocial behaviours needs to be balanced with the rights of other children to participate in and access education and support on a level field. Part of the problem is inadequate funding models, with too few students with disabilities in Australia receiving targeted support, and eligibility for funding based on diagnosis rather than functional needs. The Queensland review offered recommendations across three categories, including improving the resourcing model, as well as supporting effective practice and capacity building.
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