Parents in disabled kids fight

Disabled students at a country high school are being forced to use a cramped, run-down transportable classroom next to a rubbish disposal area — even though the facilities were deemed “inadequate” by the Education Department more than a year ago.

Parents say Narrogin Senior High School’s education support unit for students with disabilities and special learning needs is in such poor condition they are reluctant to send their children there.

Wickepin mother Nicole Hallatt said she was horrified when she went to an orientation event on Tuesday with her autistic son, Emmanuel Burrow, 11, who will be in Year 7 next year.

She said the education support unit was on the edge of the school, next to a rubbish skip and junk pile.

The rubbish site near the classroom.

An old house previously used for teaching was recently deemed unsafe for students so they were crammed into one transportable classroom.

“It’s unsuitable — it’s old, it’s run-down, there’s not enough room,” Ms Hallatt said.

“This is not equality, this is not inclusion.”

The students’ toilet was in another transportable that doubled as a storage shed for gardening tools, chemicals and outdoor equipment.

The education support unit for children with disabilities at Narrogin senior high school.

Ms Hallatt said the facilities for special needs students contrasted starkly with new “five-star” classrooms in the main school.

Leanne Holmes said she would not send her 12-year-old daughter Jewel Martin-Holmes, who also has autism, to the school in its current condition.

“I went there with a positive attitude but I was quite disgusted to see the rubbish basically at the front of the building,” she said. “The classroom is very cramped — it’s not appropriate for special needs children.”

Sue Rowe, who has been battling for better facilities since her severely autistic son Ben, 15, started high school two years ago, said he was now too anxious to attend.

Angry: Leanne Holmes and daughter Jewel, 12, with Nicole Hallatt and son Emmanuel, 11. Picture: Danella Bevis

Emails between the school and the department’s facilities program delivery branch, obtained byThe West Australian, reveal concerns were raised as early as January last year.

In that month, a bureaucrat offered to help relocate Narrogin’s special needs students to the main school buildings “which they are entitled to use and should be using”.

In August last year, a facilities officer wrote that the department’s position was that the students could be housed comfortably in the main school buildings where they would also have access to a new disabled toilet built for their use.

“The school does not need to use the transportable classroom for any group of students and therefore I agree with the parents’ letter in part, that the students with disability currently have inadequate facilities,” the email said.

Narrogin principal Stephen Quartermaine said 13 students with disabilities now used the education support unit.

“While I acknowledge it is not the most modern, up-to-date classroom, it is a safe and productive environment and our students are well-supported,” he said. “Our education support teacher and I weighed up the options last year and decided for a number of reasons that it is in these students’ best interests to stay in the same location rather than move to a different part of the school.”

Mr Quartermaine said he would take steps to improve the general environment, including making sure the skip bin and recyclable storage area was no longer visible.