SA: Mainstream classes full of students with special needs, union survey finds

Tim Williams

TEACHERS are facing classrooms where the majority of students in front of them have disabilities, learning difficulties or trauma-related conditions, a union survey has found.

More than 100 South Australian teachers, classroom support workers and parents made reports to a one-off Australian Education Union hotline in a single afternoon.

State president Howard Spreadbury said one teacher identified 25 of 28 students in a class needing “significant adjustments” as defined by national disability standards. That did not mean all of them would yet be attracting extra funding, he said.

“Adjustments” range from building modifications for access to modified curriculum and learning programs and specialised support staff and training.

In another report to the hotline, which averaged 18 minutes for teachers to explain their situations, 11 of 28 students in a class had needed documented, personalised learning programs and three needed behaviour support.

The survey comes as the union fights in the SA Employment Tribunal for any teacher with one or more students with a disability to receive an annual allowance of $1219.

But Mr Spreadbury said many school staff were ringing out of concern for the students in their care, rather than their own workload or wellbeing.

“They are being stretched to the limit trying to look after students with complex needs, but feel they don’t have the support to do this effectively, he said. “Currently, more than 90 per cent of students with a disability are enrolled in mainstream preschools, schools and special classes, and the level of acuteness has increased.
“We don’t expect educating young people to be easy. What we do expect, however, is that we receive the resources to enable us to do our job.”

Students with special needs, administration, behaviour management, class size and individual learning plans were the top reasons given for rising classroom “complexity”.

The Education Department said it had hired more speech pathologists and behaviour coaches, increased special options placements, raised funding for children with autism and expanded programs for preschool children with disabilities.

Executive director Ann-Marie Hayes said: “Teachers are trained to work with students of all abilities.”


Note: the final statement from the Education Executive Director is simply delusional. A government should not have anyone with such a bizarre, extreme and just wrong view in charge of a state's education system.