Children with disabilities in schools – one year on

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It is more than a year since the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) released their report Held Back: the experiences of students with disabilities in Victoria.

The report showed children with disabilities in schools still suffered significant disadvantages, bullying, and often missed out on assistance due to funding criteria.
With the assistance of the Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit of the Commission for Mission, Uniting Church members have written letters to the Victorian government urging the recommendations of the report be implemented.

In response to the report, the Victorian government has made some progress to provide a fairer system and improve the lives of children with a disability. They have provided $2 million to improve the capacity of teachers to manage challenging behaviour, with 300 teachers attending a course on this subject in 2013.

In 2014, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development intends to implement a School Wide Positive Behaviour Support Program through a school mentoring and support approach.

Some parents and students reported to VEOHRC the use of inappropriate physical restraints used on children with disabilities.

In response to this, nearly all government specialist school principals have undertaken a one-day workshop in Preventing and Responding to Extreme and Challenging Behaviours.

The Department has launched a new online professional learning resource for school leaders and all school staff on the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education.

The Department has also engaged an expert from Melbourne University to provide guidance for schools in managing extreme challenging and violent behaviours, including dealing with children who pose physical threats to other children and teachers.

“We welcome the Victorian government’s efforts to address the problems identified by the Commission,” Dr Mark Zirnsak, director of the JIM unit said.

“We would like to see the government put in place their own monitoring to ensure children with disabilities can reach their full potential in Victorian schools as that is something that is still lacking. We are thankful to all the Uniting Church members who were able to take the time to write to the Victorian government on this issue.”

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