January saw the release of the Senate Committee’s Report, Access to real learning: the impact of policy, funding and culture on students with disability. The Report includes ten important recommendations aiming to improve the quality of and access to education for people with disability. Recommendation 8 notes the limitations of evidence around education and disability presented to the Committee and suggests that the Federal Government work with all states and territories to collect and publish data about the levels of access and attainment for students with disability.
Building an evidence base about how students with disability fare in our education system by measuring and reporting on educational attainment, school completion; and the rates of home schooling and distance education is a positive step. It can help to show us whether people with disability are really included and connected with the opportunities that a quality education can bring. Public data on rates of restrictive practices and seclusion; suspension and expulsion rates; availability of specialist support for teachers and principals; and access to allied health and interdisciplinary support can act as a road map showing us where targeted support and resources need to be injected.
Finally, a record of bullying rates and a measure of wellbeing for students with disability will tell us not just how inclusive our educational communities are but also whether there is still work to do about understanding disability and removing attitudinal and physical barriers to inclusion in our communities. Let’s make collecting and reporting this data part of our State Government’s Disability Inclusion Agenda so the recommended Strategy to improve the education of students with disability is poised for success with a solid evidence base as its foundation.