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(Australia) Govt out to close special schools; mainstream school to be "inclusive"

Nov 12, 2023, ABC News: If special schools close, students with disability need more inclusive mainstream education, experts say

In its final report handed down in September, the disability royal commission called for the phasing out of segregated education by 2051.

It's a call that has sparked deep debate.

Even the six commissioners disagree. Only three — including the two who live with disability — recommended phasing special schools out. The other three did not think a total phasing out of special schools was necessary.

It's uncertain what will follow the report. The federal government, which is establishing a disability commission task force to respond to all 222 recommendations, has said it won't rush any decisions.

But one thing is clear. If special schools were to be phased out, mainstream education would have to become more inclusive.

David Armstrong is a government advisor on educational inclusion and neurodiversity and a senior lecturer in inclusion and disability at RMIT University.

He tells ABC RN's Life Matters that in all facets of the education system, there are "parents withdrawing their kids from school, kids not attending, kids being excluded".

"That's all gone up. That's all out of control."

But he believes the commission's report — which sets out "what needs to happen to lift up the mainstream schools [for students with disability] and support our teachers and families" — will help.

"We have to change," he says.

"There has to be a bigger investment in our [mainstream] education system. And this is an opportunity to do that, for it to be better for all."

Dr Armstrong says students with disability have a spectrum of needs — including high-level needs, temporary access needs (for example from a broken leg), or bereavement support.

He believes a mainstream school should be able to support students across that spectrum.

"I really welcome the report ... because it sets out mechanisms and teeth to make that happen."…

"It talks about professional knowledge and skills for workforce development for our existing teacher workforce [and how] we can help them, equip them and build them up to be able to [work in inclusive environments]," Dr Armstrong says.

'This can be done'

Disability advocate and president of People with Disability Australia Nicole Lee says for mainstream education to be truly inclusive, it can't adopt a "one-size-fits-all approach".

And she says a model for flexible education settings already exists in smaller rural and remote schools, where classes often include a range of student ages, year levels and ability….

Since 2015, the number of students with disability enrolled in Australian public schools has increased by 29 per cent, according to the Australian Education Union's 2023 For Every Child report….

Dr Armstrong says there are public schools in Australia that already support and include students with disability in the school community.

He points to Footscray High School in Melbourne's west and Tagai State College in the Torres Strait as "models that are out there that we can use that actually help inclusion and help kids with high levels of needs remain in mainstream education and flourish".

"So many schools already do [inclusive education]," he says….

1 Comment

The infamous internet legend, Christine Weston Chandler (or "Chris Chan" for short/the Sonichu artist) was mainstreamed into high school and they regretted attending public school (they were crying and hiding away from fellow classmates, one said that ChrisChan didn't finish HS anyways so the honor roll was a scam or given early without having to graduate). This was back in the "good ol' days" of the early 2000's when I (real name kept secret for safety/privacy) was born in the early 2000's and wasn't even alive in the previous millennium.

I never went to high school and did not finish middleschool - I spent far more time being homeschooled than my short couple of years in the horrid and hellish…

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