A national inquiry has found that children with a disability are routinely bullied, abused and refused enrolment.
The committee which oversaw the Federal senate inquiry into how schools treat children with a disability, said it was “shocked and saddened” by evidence children were being denied their right to an education.
Senator Sue Lines, chairwoman of the Education and Employment References Committee’s (EERC), told the inquiry that the school system is “failing children with disability”.
“They are refused enrolment, they are only going a few days a week or not going at all. If they do attend school, bullying and exclusion are the norm. It is disgraceful,” Lines said.
“This inquiry has lifted the lid on the failure to provide these children with the basic human right to an education.”
The EERC called on the Federal Government commit to the Gonski model of needs-based funding. It also called for the reinstatement of a dedicated Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission to address “restrictive practices” that had been used in some schools.
Chief executive of Children with Disability Australia (CDA), Stephanie Gotlib, told the inquiry that to have any chance of accessing basic education, students with disability had to “rely on fierce advocacy - usually by families - and the stars aligning”.
Nearly 300 submissions were made to the inquiry from families of children with a disability, education experts and disability advocates, outlining a culture of low expectations for children with a disability.
Melissa Smith, an Albion Park mother, told the inquiry she had to “convince, beg and persuade” her local school to accept her daughter Lily, who has a disability.
The inquiry heard evidence that a significant number of public schools have been ignoring a legal requirement to take in children on the premise that they could not provide for a child with a disability.
The inquiry also identified a lack of staff training to help teachers provide better support children with disability.
“We would like to see improved training for staff working in schools so they can provide the supports these children need to learn. The evidence before the inquiry is that when children are given the proper supports, they do well,” Lines said.
The inquiry heard evidence of a funding shortfall, with 4.9% of children receiving disability funding despite ABS figures showing 8.8% of children aged 5-14 having a disability.