It’s times like these that I’m glad to live in a democracy and have the freedom to speak out against the government without fear of reprisal.
I often forget how lucky we are to have that right.
I have never felt the need to speak out before. I am not a natural advocate.
I’m a good girl. I always do what I’m told. I’m usually afraid to rock the boat or cause trouble for anyone.
But not anymore.
Not when I have to defend the right of my child to access basic assistance to allow him to remain in a mainstream classroom.
I wrote a post a week or so ago discussing the Every Student Every School policy currently being implemented in NSW public schools.
According to the Department of Education and Communities (DEC) site, this policy is going to give every student better access to assistance as they need it.
However, in reality, they will be taking much needed support away from students with lower level special needs, such as those on the autism spectrum.
My son’s school will supposedly receive more assistance yet he and others like him with lower level needs, will miss out.
How is that fair?
My son has been a veritable poster child for mainstreaming this year. He had a rocky start and he was suspended mid-way through Term 1, but that was a vital turning point for us.
Since that time we have received more support from the school. They initiated a daily communication book and appointed a more experienced aide to watch over him in the playground.
These measures have made such a difference to him, to his teacher and, most of all, to us.
Our son has made so much progress under these new measures. He even ended up receiving a merit award at the end of last term – how good is that?
After such a promising start it is heartbreaking to know that a lot of this support will not be forthcoming from next term.
Just because he is deemed to have lower level needs. Lower level needs apparently meaning behavioural issues.
So most kids out there with high functioning autism, mental health conditions, ADHD and similar conditions will no longer have access to direct assistance in the classroom.
How does anyone think that is going to contribute to better education outcomes for anyone?
How will teachers be able to effectively impart information to a class of 30, if a handful of them have lower level needs that will no longer be assigned any level of funding?
At least under the current system smaller funding amounts (under $6000) can be pooled to fund an aide for the class. To help those students, like my son, who can be a valued member of a classroom but needs extra hands on assistance from time to time, to get by.
Now, he and the other kids in his class with supposedly lower level needs will not receive any funding at all. Instead of having a chance to share a teachers’ aide, the teacher will be left to deal with them all on his own.
Again, I ask the obvious question – how does anyone truly believe that is going to better educational outcomes for anyone?
I feel so strongly about this that I have drafted a letter to be sent to my local state member of parliament, Sonia Hornery, to the NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli and to the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell.
I’m about to exercise my right to be heard, to object to government policy, to criticise the decision of the government.
To others this may not be a big deal. But for me, who avoids confrontation like the plague and who’s willing to cede on most things to keep the peace, this is big.
I have found my cause and I’m finally willing to take a stand.
To defend my child’s right to reasonable adjustment, to equitable access to public education, to be considered on the merit of his individual needs, not his condition.
This is too important an issue to ignore or to let go.
Frankly, this is not good enough and I cannot let it happen without a fight.
If you believe in equal access to public education, I hope you can do the same.