A recent National survey makes a powerful statement about the need for all schools to do better for students with disability. When these kids and their families speak up, we all need to listen.
In my early days as a teacher, students with a disability were (at best) sidelined and at worst, ignored. They were hidden from view, and so were their needs, especially when it came to learning. I’m thankful these days are over but Australian families are telling us loud and clear that we need to do more.
All schools should take pride in understanding and accepting the needs of every student. This means asking schools to think again and think more about how we support kids with disability in their learning and wellbeing. When any student misses out, our schools and community miss out.
Schools that meet the needs of all students will tend to have great partnerships with parents. I have such respect and admiration for the parents and carers of children and young people with disability. They’re incredible advocates, not just for the needs of their own kids but for others too!
We also need a great team backing students at a school level. This means classroom teachers are supported in their work by other staff, often including teacher’s aides, school counsellors and relevant allied health professionals. Making sure that all schools have the resources to set up their students for success is not negotiable and neither is appropriate government funding.
There’s a lot to learn from listening to students, especially those who are heard less often, and most when what we hear is tough news. If some students aren’t supported to join in at school, what is that teaching all students about community? As the Disability Royal Commission begins its hearings on education, there’s a lesson in that for all of us.
Greg Whitby is the executive director of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta. Follow him on Twitter @gregwhitbyLearn more about Greg