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Public hearing 24 - The experience of children and young people with disability in different education settings, Canberra - Day 4

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CHAIR: Good morning everyone, both in the hearing room and anyone who is following the proceedings on the live stream. This is the fourth day of the 24th Public hearing of the Royal Commission, looking at issues of education for children with disability   children and young persons with disability. We shall commence with the Acknowledgment of Country, and I invite Commissioner Mason to make the Acknowledgment of Country. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Thank you, Chair. We acknowledge the First Nations people on the land on which this Royal Commission is sitting. We pay respects to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples. Their land is where the city of Canberra is now located. We also pay respects to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, where the city of Melbourne is now located. We pay deep respects to all elders past, present and future, and especially elders, parents, young people and children with disability. Thank you, Chair. 

CHAIR: Thank you, Commissioner Mason. Yes, Ms Bennett. 

MS BENNETT: Chair, this morning the first witness is Mr Stuart Percival. 

CHAIR: Mr Percival, thank you very much for coming from the far flung regions of this country to join us today in Canberra. We are grateful for the detailed statement you have provided and for coming to the Commission to give evidence. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my associate, who today is hidden not only behind the pillar but also behind a large number of folders, she will give you instructions for the purposes of taking the affirmation. 


CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Percival. I will now ask Ms Bennett to ask you some questions.


MS BENNETT: Thank you, Chair. Mr Percival, you've made a statement to assist this Commission. Is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct.

MS BENNETT: It's dated 6 May 2022. 


MS BENNETT: Have you read that statement recently? 


MS BENNETT: And its contents are true and correct? 


MS BENNETT: Thank you, Mr Percival. You are the Director of Disability Inclusion for the Department of Education in Western Australia; is that right? 


MS BENNETT: So, can you tell us who reports to you? 

MR PERCIVAL: So, I have a team under the Disability and Inclusion branch that includes a number of public servants, and I think there is a team of roughly 18 of us. 

MS BENNETT: And what's the core duties of that team? 

MR PERCIVAL: Sure. We have four key functions, if you like. The first is that we influence and inform disability related strategy at national, state and department levels. A relatively new function for us, because we have just undergone a form and function review, is that we take those strategies and build resources that support the implementation of big picture strategies in schools. So, if you like, we interpret the big picture strategies that relate to disability and turn it into practical resources for implementation in schools. 

The third function is obviously our preparation for the Disability Royal   this Commission in terms of looking at what our Department's current provisions are and future   and future intentions, looking at our data provisions, et cetera. And the Royal Commission aligned with a review of those functions, which was really useful to us, actually. And the final function   

CHAIR: I'm delighted to hear that after three years in this job. I'm glad we are doing something useful. 

MR PERCIVAL: We   the Disability and Inclusion unit creation aligned with a form and function review that was occurring within our state wide services branch, and our state wide services division is responsible for support for schools. And so very much from the moment that the first education issues paper was released, we were using that almost as a guide to reflect around our   how we were actually performing. And so although the production of data for the Royal Commission, for the various notices, was intense at times, it actually let us reflect as to where we were going and provided us with really useful information. So, the Royal Commission is the third function, and so that's both in terms of preparation of responses and improvement in focuses. 

The final function of the Disability and Inclusion unit is we have responsibility for resource allocation methodologies. So that's for disability and so that includes allocations that are made to schools to support the teaching and learning adjustments of students with disability in public schools. That comes with   this year, the   at budget delivery in March was just under $400 million that we put out through an individual disability allocation on top of the other resources that we provide to schools. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you. You are based in Perth and your team is based in Perth? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, we are. 

MS BENNETT: And do you have representatives in rural and remote areas?

MR PERCIVAL: No, we don't. However, state wide services in the broader branch, and we work very much in a fluid and flexible approach across the   sorry, I said branch; I meant division   has representatives in the regions. And the Department also obviously has representatives in our regional offices. Disability in Western Australia doesn't rest only with our particular directorate. We have, if you like, a built-in approach to disability support in Western Australia, where, for example, our Infrastructure branch   division has representatives responsible for disability. So not everything sits within the Disability and Inclusion area. 

MS BENNETT: So there are disability and inclusion aspects to a range of different branches. 

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: Is that the way it works in Western Australia? 

MR PERCIVAL: At all levels, correct.

MS BENNETT: Across   

MR PERCIVAL: And we have a coordination kind of a role and subject matter expertise. 

MS BENNETT: I see. And do those disability streams feed into someone at the apex who oversees all? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, so we   

MS BENNETT: Who is that? 

MR PERCIVAL: Our corporate executive function, so our very senior leaders. They would feed up in   through their Executive Directors or their Deputy Director Generals into Corp Ex. 

CHAIR: Can I just clarify something you said a little earlier? I think you said that the budget for your section - division or whatever - it is actually close to $400 million but that's on top of, you said, other resources are available for students   young people with disability. Can you just elaborate on that a bit. What's the $400 million for and what are the additional resources you were talking about? 

MR PERCIVAL: Sure, absolutely. So the schools are funded through the student centred funding model approach. And so the vast majority   so schools will receive an allocation based on their school type and location. We call that a school characteristics allocation. The vast majority of funding to students is allocated through a ‘per student’ funding   funding line. And that, to put it really simply, is an allocation based on what year level in school you are in, and so there's a multiplier for, you know, year 2, year 3, year 4. 

CHAIR: So that's a standard allocation across all public schools? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. And so, students with disabilities would receive that same standard allocation. Our funding model, with a couple of exceptions, doesn't really look at the school that you're in. It   with the exception of the school characteristics funding, which is coming up right now. 

CHAIR: Does this mean that any funding that is specifically for students with disability comes through the $400 million? 

MR PERCIVAL: Not   no. Half way. We are half way there. Student characteristics   so we have the ‘per student’ funding. We have the school characteristics, which is an enrolment link base. If you like, the enrolment link base let's you pay your bills, pay your gardener, turn on the lights.  You know, it functions around   around having a school and that is different for different types of schools. And it also includes a locality allowance. 

So schools that are in remote or very remote areas will receive an allowance on top of that. So that's your per student and your school. When you get to student characteristics funding is where things get different. We have four funding lines for student characteristics funding. One is disability   and I will come back to that. Another is Aboriginality. The third is English as a language of   

CHAIR: English as a second language. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. And the final one is the social disadvantage allocation. So – and again, they are per student allocations. When it comes to disability funding, there are two lines. The first is an educational adjustment funding. Educational adjustment funding, for want of a better measure, is allocated to schools based on the lowest 10 per cent of NAPLAN scores in reading. We originally wanted to align the education adjustment funding to the National Consistent Collection of Data on students with disabilities, but at the time when we were looking at the student centred funding model, the   it wasn't felt that that data was reliable enough because it was relative    

CHAIR: So is there an assumption in that the lowest 10 per cent of NAPLAN scores will tell you something about the students with disability? 

MR PERCIVAL: Indirectly. So when I get to the individual disability allocation, which is the second half   

CHAIR: Right. 

MR PERCIVAL: It might be better to explain that first. The educational adjustment is for students to   to support students who don't otherwise meet an eligibility criteria under the individual disability allocation process. So, it's for kids who either have undiagnosed disabilities or disabilities that don't currently meet the criteria. That allocation is given to schools automatically. They don't need to apply for that funding. And they use it flexibly according to the context that   the potential needs of their students in their school. 

CHAIR: That's a decision made by each principal at the local level. 

MR PERCIVAL: In conjunction with their school finance committees and their boards. 

CHAIR: Yes. 

MR PERCIVAL: The 400 million   now we are actually at the 400 million   is the individual disability allocation. We have eight eligibility groups that a school   so individual disability allocation is a per student allocation based on eligibility application and review. There are eight eligibility areas. I can tell you them, if you are interested. The   ASD   in approximate order of the numbers, there is autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, physical disability, global developmental delay, deaf and hard of hearing, vision impairment, severe medical conditions and severe mental health. 

So a school essentially will lodge documentation that indicates that the student meets eligibility criteria, and then they receive what we call a standard allocation. If they feel that that standard allocation is insufficient to provide the teaching and learning adjustments that are required by the child, then they can lodge an application for funding that goes through a checklist process, essentially. And through that checklist, they articulate the teaching and learning adjustments that students require across 10 dimensions, and then our team looks at that application and determines a level of funding. There's six levels of funding within each eligibility criteria.

CHAIR: I don't want to prevent Ms Bennett asking the questions she wants to ask.

MS BENNETT: That's okay.

CHAIR: But if I may just   I would just like to understand   the applications, I think you said, are made by the school. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

CHAIR: How does the school determine which students are to be the subject of applications?  Because, again, I understand that it's an application that is student specific; is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct, they are. So we will give a   we will give a   once a student meets eligibility criteria, say, for ASD, for intellectual disability, we will give a standard allocation of, say    

CHAIR: Yes, but how does the school know? 

MR PERCIVAL: The school is provided a report, an individualised report. So the school lodges an application at set periods. 

CHAIR: But what I'm asking is, how does the principal or other officer in the local school know which students might have autism, for example? 

MR PERCIVAL: Oh, how   right. So, on enrolment, a parent will usually disclose that a child has an eligible disability. It is part of that enrolment process. And so then it's the principal's responsibility to lodge an application if they require additional resources. 

CHAIR: And if an application is lodged for student A because student A has autism, there's then a standard allocation made to that school in respect of that student? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

CHAIR: And must the funds allocated to the school be used specifically and exclusively for that student? 

MR PERCIVAL: The funds that are allocated under the   so schools enter into a school funding agreement with the Director General and that articulates within the school funding agreement that, yes, the funds that are allocated for specific purposes need to be used to provide for that child. How those provisions are made is not specified. So, for example, we don't say, "You must employ an education assistant."  It is   how you are actually going to provide those teaching and learning adjustments is   rests with the school. 

CHAIR: So if there is an allocation of X thousand dollars for that particular student, it's the principal or the principal's delegate who determines how that allocation of thousands of dollars is to be deployed for the support of that student? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

CHAIR: I think I will now give Ms Bennett a turn. 

MS BENNETT: It's always a pleasure, Chair. So just to finish on the line that the Chair was pursuing with you, Mr Percival, so let's assume for a moment that   or, in fact, let's take the example of Ryan Croft. You were here for Mr Croft's evidence. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, I was. 

MS BENNETT: And you heard that evidence in its entirety. 


MS BENNETT: And you have read his statement. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, I have. 

MS BENNETT: So you will recall his evidence that he was awarded funding of 0.6 full time equivalent for an aide to assist Ryan. Do you recall that? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, I do. 

MS BENNETT: And under the system as it was then, that meant there was a particular amount of funding that was made available for an aide for Ryan. So was it then the decision of the school   well, let me ask now, if there was an amount of funding made for an aide in the same kinds of circumstances today, would the school be required to engage an aide on 0.6 or could they elect to go to 0.9? 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay. There's a couple of things in there. So if I do the historical element first. 


MR PERCIVAL: So, yes, my understanding is that Ryan was initially allocated a 0.6 allocation under the   what was then the Schools Plus process, which was the precursor for the student centred funding model. In addition, the school was actually   under the Schools Plus model, schools were allocated funding through two lines. Sorry, they were allocated supplementary funding through two lines for disability. The first was what we called an EN level, which is an educational needs level. That was a financial allocation and that   my understanding was that the educational needs level for Ryan was level 3. So the school received 0.6 education assistant. 

In terms   at the time, it was common practice that the .6 would have been employed and that 0.6 was a consideration across five days. There is often a misunderstanding that .6 is equal to three full days. You know, so to have an aide from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but not Thursday, Friday. That's not the case. And, yes, you're right, the second part of your question, schools were able to use their existing resources or the EN allocation to top up, is the words that we particularly   we used to use, yes. 

MS BENNETT: And if the school believed   and let's think about this through the lens of Ryan for the moment and then we will come to the present day   if the school believed at the time that Ryan needed full-time aide, they could have topped up, couldn't they? 

MR PERCIVAL: They could have, yes. 

MS BENNETT: And is it your view, as you understand the disability standards and the obligations on a school, that they should do that?  If they form a view that it's needed? 

MR PERCIVAL: Look, I can't comment on Ryan's particular case. I have not reviewed every one of Ryan's documents. And, no, I don't have a view that they should, and nor do I think   if I can say this politely, Ms Bennett, that the   that necessarily the DDA or the DSE has a bearing on that, unless the teaching and learning adjustments warrant a full-time education assistant. So, yes   and this remains true today. The provision of funding doesn't remove the obligation of schools to provide a student with teaching and learning adjustments.

So regardless of how much money we provide to a school to support the teaching and learning adjustments, the expectation is that the teaching and learning adjustments that are required will be provided. 

MS BENNETT: My question is a little bit more subtle. It's if the school believed that that's what Ryan needed. Let's talk about today. Let's leave aside before it. If a school decides that's what a student needs to be able to effectively engage in their education, then is it your view they should be using a top up from their individual allocation. 


MS BENNETT: Yes. And has anything changed in the way that things are structured that would alter your view about that?  If the school forms a view that the child needs that support, they should be providing that support? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And so, in the instance of Mr Croft, he wrote directly to the Minister and received additional funding. What's the pathway today if somebody thinks their allocation is insufficient? 

MR PERCIVAL: It's fair to say we would prefer that schools didn't have to write to the Minister. Schools are able to   

MS BENNETT: Well, it wasn't even the school, though, was it? It was Mr Croft himself, that's right? 

MR PERCIVAL: That was Mr Croft. Yes, exactly. Which is, you know, unusual and, you know, it's not something we want parents to have to do, or schools. 

MS BENNETT: Well, it's a burden upon the parents, isn't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: And it's not a burden they should be bearing. 

MR PERCIVAL: No. No, absolutely. It's not a parent's responsibility to secure resources for a school. 

MS BENNETT: So whose responsibility is it? 

MR PERCIVAL: So now, it's the school.

CHAIR: I think  

MS BENNETT: I'm sorry. I will let you  

CHAIR: I think Mr Percival wants to say something. 

MS BENNETT: Sorry, please.

CHAIR: Let's do that and then we will come to the next question. 

MR PERCIVAL: So now if a school   and in the past as well. Where a school feels that the allocation that is allocated to   for to support an individual child is insufficient, schools are able to lodge a review application, basically, so it will be reconsidered. But I come back to the individual disability allocation and how we assess it across 10 dimensions. It's not an arbitrary process through which we allocate. So we do compare the levels of adjustment across those 10 adjustments and utilise those dimensions to determine. 

MS BENNETT: So the school can ask for a review of the allocation. 


MS BENNETT: Can the parent? 

MR PERCIVAL: The parent can through the school.

MS BENNETT: What if the school   how does that happen? 

MR PERCIVAL: So the parent would obviously work through the principal to do so. We do know that some parents choose to go outside   essentially through our complaints process and   so schools could use that complaints process, if they wish to, about resource allocation, both internal to the department and external. 

MS BENNETT: So, is the pathway for a parent who is unhappy with an allocation   so let's assume the school has decided not to top up. 


MS BENNETT: And so, the   the child is receiving what the parent considers to be insufficient support to maintain their position at school. They need to ask the school that has denied their request to agree to seek a review. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 


CHAIR: I thought there were two separate things in that question. 


CHAIR: I think you've assumed that the school under the present system has the capacity to top up of itself. I'm not sure that's the current position, is it? 

MR PERCIVAL: They are   within their financial ability to do so. 

CHAIR: Where do they get funds?  I haven't quite followed where the school under the current system, as distinct from the one you were describing earlier, has the capacity to top up for a particular student. Where does that money come from? 

MR PERCIVAL: So the school has what we call a one-line budget and at the start of the year   or, really, it's towards the   no, it is the start of the year, the school will determine the funding that they are actually putting into what we call the staffing allocation or the goods and services allocation. So the school has that flexibility to pool from   so if you remember I talked about school characteristics. I spoke about per student. So to pool in the entirety   pool from the entirety of the budget. 

CHAIR: This is not disability specific funding. It's just the general funding in the one line budget that's provided to the principal. 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. 

CHAIR: And the principal then determines where the money goes. 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. 

MS BENNETT: And your evidence is that it is possible for a school to top up from a specific allocation.

MR PERCIVAL: There is nothing to prevent a school, outside of budgetary limitations, obviously   you can't spend money you don't have   from determining that a child needs additional support. As principal   so I was a principal of Durham Road School at the same time as Ryan was at Special Needs School. It's a very similar school.  It's the largest education support school in Western Australia. We were able to pool resources flexibly. 

So within a timetable day, we could determine that a class required additional time at these particular times, particularly around personal care, for example, and they didn't need that much time at other parts of the day or parts of the week. So   and that's what the student centred funding model is actually intended to achieve, that students get what they need when they need it. 

MS BENNETT: And so, to return to the earlier question, the school has decided not to top up. They've decided no further support is required for this student. The parent is dissatisfied, and perhaps the child is dissatisfied with that decision. 


MS BENNETT: They need to then go to the school and ask the school to initiate a process to ask for a review. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: Okay. What's the process for review of that decision? 

MR PERCIVAL: The word that I'm picking up on, though, Ms Bennett is ‘need’. And so that is an option to do so. They don't need to go through that process. So, in the first instance, we encourage the parents to raise their concerns with the school. If the school   if the parent is   so this is our complaints management process. If the school is unable, unwilling, doesn't agree, doesn't resolve the situation, or if the parent chooses, then the parent can actually escalate that complaint, usually to the region, or they can escalate it to what we call Central Services. And currently there's a couple of options around that. 

So we aim for local management. If that's not possible, we can go to the region or we can go through to the centre. For example, now, if I talk now, we recognised over time that a number of complaints were coming through at multiple levels and that parents were having to engage or were determining to engage in a formal complaints management process. We also realised that there were some themes that were occurring around complaints. 

So in 2020   2019, but established in 2020, the Director General established a Parent Liaison office and that Parent Liaison   the function of that Parent Liaison office is to support parents who have   who require support to manage complex situations with their school. We do know that disability was a fair proportion, a reasonable proportion of complaints, and some of them were sitting in the resource area. So the Parent Liaison officer   or office role is to   can   it's sort of a dual purpose. 

It's a preventative sort of approach by providing access and advice to parents, but it's also an intervention to   it's to link parents to existing supports mechanisms, both internally and externally. And, finally, where it's actually required is to actually intervene   I don't want to use the word "mediate" because it sounds quite formal, but if we can use a small M, "mediate" with a parent and either the region or the   the school itself. 

MS BENNETT: Right. So can I just ask: The parent goes to the region. 


MS BENNETT: Under this complaints process. The region is   you mean the geographic space within the Department of Education. 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. We have eight regions, and they are headed by a Director of Schools. You might have also seen in the historic documentation words like district directors and regional executive directors. 

MS BENNETT: That's the person to whom the principal of a school reports ultimately. 

MR PERCIVAL: Not necessarily. The director   if they are a non independent public school, then, yes, they report to that Regional Director. But the Director   sorry, to that Director of Schools. Directors of Education is what they are actually called. Sorry, I think I might have said Director of Schools. That's old language. The Director of Education is the Director General's representative in the region. And so, you know, given we have over 600 schools that are independent public schools, the Director General can't directly line manage all of those schools. 

So her representative is the Director of Schools in the regions, and she can direct those people or ask those people to follow up with individual schools on her behalf. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. So the complaint comes from the school. The school will escalate it. 

MR PERCIVAL: No, no. Sorry. Just to interrupt   

MS BENNETT: No?  Revise to the parent? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. Thank you.

MS BENNETT: Yes, from the parent to the region, where it can be   it's considered and resolved at that level? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. And the vast majority of complaints   one of the things that we established through the Commission was that the vast majority of complaints   actually that data was specifically around physical contact or physical restraint but it's a good example. The vast majority of complaints are resolved at the local level or the regional level. 

MS BENNETT: And when you say "resolved", do you mean   is a decision made at the regional level that then has effect?  What does the parent do if they are dissatisfied at that level? 

MR PERCIVAL: Oh, correct. The parent can escalate and so in terms of Central Services, the parent can   particularly if the parent had issues around the conduct of somebody   


MR PERCIVAL:   can escalate to our Standards and Integrity division, or they could write to   well, they can and do write to anybody within Central Services. 

MS BENNETT: And that's   again, is that Central Services within the Department of Education?  Or have we moved? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, that's correct. That's within the Department of Education. And then final steps are that they can actually write to somebody external to the   they don't have to write, either. I'm saying write but they can contact   somebody like the Ombudsman or the Equal Opportunity Commission, Human Rights Commission, those sorts of avenues. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. So there's   is the Parent Liaison office that you have spoken about, that's not a dispute   that doesn't   that doesn't resolve disputes itself?  It might act as a conduit but it doesn't resolve a dispute? 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct, yes. 

MS BENNETT: Does that sit within the Department of Education as well? 

MR PERCIVAL: It does. And so unlike some other jurisdictions, we don't have an external education advocacy that we fund. The West Australian State Government funds a number of organisations through the State Disability Advocacy program and that, of course, complements the National Disability Advocacy program and the Parent Liaison office will refer parents to those sorts of agencies. 

MS BENNETT: I mean, we've heard some evidence that parents can   and you will have heard this evidence this week, that parents can feel as though there's no point because it's just going to go within the department and then they are going to side with their own staff. That's a perspective you can understand, can't you? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, I certainly can and that's part of the reason that we established the Parent Liaison office. The Parent Liaison office has reviewed the complaints management framework and the documentation resources that support. So, for example, there are things like Easy Read versions of the complaints, and those resources will continue to grow. There's a parent hotline that parents can ring and raise their concerns anonymously or formally. 

MS BENNETT: Where   who receives that call? 

MR PERCIVAL: The Parent Liaison office. 

MS BENNETT: I see. And so in terms of the actual dispute resolution, at this stage, there's no independent mechanism that   sorry, let me go back. The Department of Education doesn't facilitate an independent resolution. It has a dispute resolution process that goes up within the departmental structure; is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: So is the question who decide what happens as a result of the complaint?  Is it a fairly simple   

MS BENNETT: Yes, it's really the Department of Education, isn't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, it is the Department of Education or unless it's sitting within the external sort of field, like Human Rights Commission, Equal Opportunity, Ombudsman, those sorts of things. 

MS BENNETT: And do you refer matters on to those external bodies? 

MR PERCIVAL: Do we refer   not to my knowledge, not to those particular   we would   we would obviously provide those bodies with information on request. But   but we   I   I might need to take that one on notice. I'm not sure that we actually do provide   

MS BENNETT: So you said   you understand that parents might feel that that's a process that is going to have some built in biases in favour of the Department and that's a   that's a perspective you can understand. Is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: I can understand any time somebody makes a complaint that   or has a concern that that is a process that would involve, you know, their own perception, their own experience, their own understanding of how things work. 

CHAIR: Does the Parent Liaison office have a   whatever it's called, a mission statement or a statement of function somewhere?  We may have it, for all I know, in the documents in the bundle, but is there such a document? 

MR PERCIVAL: I'm not sure. I know that the complaints management framework speaks to, you know, our intentions in this area. 

CHAIR: So a parent who wants to know what the Parent Liaison office does can go to a particular document and that document will tell the parent the functions of the office? 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. Or they can go to the public facing website. 

CHAIR: Yes, all right. 

MR PERCIVAL: There is a complaints section there.

CHAIR: No doubt we will be shown in due course what that says. But does the Parent Liaison office state that it has an advocacy function on behalf of parents who may have a disagreement with a school? 

MR PERCIVAL: I'm not sure that that word is used. I'm not sure that they actually state that they are an advocate for the parents. You know, they are a resource that parents can access to assist, but I'm not sure that they use the word "advocate." 

CHAIR: So I'm just trying to understand what kind of assistance the office can give. If it's not an advocacy organisation, if it's located within the department, what does it do from the perspective of the parent? 

MR PERCIVAL: So if I give you an example. 

CHAIR: Sure. 

MR PERCIVAL: I was involved in a   a parent was considering submitting a Equal Opportunity or a Human Rights   I think it was actually   no, it was a Equal Opportunity submission around the teaching and learning adjustments of her child and the placement of her child as they transitioned from primary school to secondary school. The Parent Liaison office provided information to the parent about processes and access to advocates and things like that. 

In this particular situation, I understand that there was an agreement that the Department would actually fund an advocacy group   a West Australian advocacy group that's well known, that sits outside the National Disability Advocacy program. At each step of the   at each step of the stage of, if you like   I'm not going to use the word "investigation", but it was a small ‘I’, investigation about what it was that the parent was seeking and the extent of support that her child required. 

The Parent Liaison office maintained that contact with the parent about what stage we were at and what was happening next. So it was more about access to information and support along the way. I didn't mention that although the Parent Liaison office sits within the Education Department and that person is paid by the Education Department, it's actually chaired by the ex-president of WACSO, which is the overarching West Australian School Councils   I might have to get you the full name. But, essentially, it's the organisation that oversees and provides support to parents and citizens groups. So she was the long time president of WACSO and has a really good understanding of the issues that were affecting parents through that particular function. 

CHAIR: If I'm a parent and I want to go to the Parent Liaison office, where do I go? 

MR PERCIVAL: You can ask for that information from the school or you can go to the   

CHAIR: No, but where is it located? 

MR PERCIVAL: It is actually located within the central office in Perth. 

CHAIR: So the parent comes to the Department of Education to see the Parent Liaison office, which then provides assistance. 

MR PERCIVAL: It's at our main head office. So complaints can be made in person, they can be made in writing, they can be made online, they can be made through the telephone. 

CHAIR: Thank you. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you. So   and the Parent Liaison office   so they have a complaint receipt function? 


MS BENNETT: And they keep a record of the complaints they receive? 

MR PERCIVAL: They do. So they are currently actually   one of the things we learnt through the submissions to the Royal Commission and preparing for our submissions were that our data functions are on par with some of our other jurisdictions, and so the access, production and analysis of data around complaints sits at multiple levels. And so it sits at the school, it sits at the region, it sits within our Standards and Integrity division. 

What we are currently doing is procuring a complaints management data system through which the Parent Liaison office will be able to (A) assure us that we are not replicating data, because as a complaint moves up the complaints mechanisms, you often get duplicates of data that are difficult to work out where it's at. So, if you like, it's a tracking management sort of system, but then when we have that data, we can use that data to inform improvements. 

MS BENNETT: And so at the moment you've got different organisations or parts of the organisation keeping records. So you've got school level complaints, you've got complaints of the PLO, you've got complaints at the department level, and I think your evidence is that, at the moment, a deficiency you've identified is that they are not centralising. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And that means that there are some difficulties in accessing  

MR PERCIVAL: At some levels, it's centralised. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, sorry, there is some difficulty in having centralised and data that's accurate. Is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. That's why we are looking at the   yes    

MS BENNETT: And what's the period for that data project that you're   when will that be completed? 

MR PERCIVAL: Look, I   I might have to take that one on notice in terms of when it's due for completion. When we spoke in readiness for the hearing, it was being procured, but I'm not sure where it's actually at. 

MS BENNETT: Right. We will return as we come through to some of the examples of how this might play out in practice. But you said earlier that, of the four functions of your division, one of them is   is carrying out   or following on from reflections around how you had been performing in this space, and I think some of that was prompted by the Royal Commission. Is that right?  That's part of your role is to reflect on what's being done well. 


MS BENNETT: And what's perhaps being not done so well. Can you tell us what your you are reflections have led to so far in terms of where are the gaps presently? For students with disability, I should say. 

MR PERCIVAL: So there are a number of areas in which we would like to improve. I think   I think if you spoke to a teacher at the end of every year   and I am a teacher, and most of us in education are in this area for a reason   it's a rare teacher that goes home at the end of the year and says, "You know what, there's nothing else I could do. I've done everything I possibly can."  So, as a system, we are the same. We have reflected around students with complex behaviour, and when doing so, we   and we have   I think we have provided to you a   it's got a very long title and I will say it slowly for my friends over my shoulder   it's the Supporting the Teaching and Learning of Students with Disability and Complex Behaviour Framework. 

We developed that framework considering the needs of disability and considering the themes of the Disability Royal Commission, but also considering our commitments under the state Disability Strategy and the Australian Disability Strategy. And, basically, we came up with six key focus areas. 

MS BENNETT: I'm going to pause you there because I'm really interested in   so you have identified that you have perhaps not had the resources in place to assist in the management of complex behaviours in schools. 

MR PERCIVAL: No, I didn't   I didn't say that. 

MS BENNETT: So what's been the impetus to the development of the framework?  So what I'm asking, what are the areas of deficit as you sit here now?  What's your reflection led to identify areas where Western Australia needs to improve around students with disability? 

MR PERCIVAL: Sure. They are linked to the framework, and so if I let you know what those areas are. And I   I don't like the word "deficit" because schools do an amazing job in this area on a daily basis, but there is a need to make sure that schools receive the support that they actually   to continue to grow. So the first area that we would like to see stronger connections is that we build the capacity of teachers across the system to support the teaching and learning adjustments of students with disability. 


MR PERCIVAL: Sitting within that is to strengthen staff understanding of contemporary pedagogy. That's the first area. 

MS BENNETT: Can I pause there to ask you about that strengthening of staff understanding. Does that include the concept that we heard about yesterday in evidence around universal curriculum design?   Is that a concept you're familiar with? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, I am familiar with universal design for learning. 

MS BENNETT: And is that part of that strengthening of staff pedagogy? 

MR PERCIVAL: I have to say it could be, because the actual content has yet to be determined. It's still in draft. Universal design for learning as a concept is something that of course we would support. It's very clear that where possible, if we actually can provide a suite of curriculum supports that automatically accommodate the needs of students, that it should be provided in that way. But that's a challenge for schools. 

When you think about the scope of disability and when you think about the diversity of our student population and even within the size of our state, it's a challenge to do so. It's   it's a great concept; it's really hard to do. 

MS BENNETT: Is it something that Western Australia is aspiring to do? 

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: So that's something that you are actively working on at the moment? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. And you also mentioned capacity of teachers to support adjustment. We will come to adjustments a little bit later, but at the moment would you accept that a lot of the obligation to identify adjustments for students falls upon the teacher who's in the classroom with the student? 

MR PERCIVAL: That's part of the teacher’s responsibility, yes. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. And at the moment is there any compulsory training that teacher undergoes to carry out that function? 

MR PERCIVAL: All teachers go through a graduate teacher program. So you're talking specifically about disability?

MS BENNETT: Specifically about disability adjustment compulsory training. 

MR PERCIVAL: There is no compulsory training specifically about disability adjustment outside of university qualifications that require a third year inclusion unit. There's a lot of support to provide, adjustments but if you are talking about a course, no, there's not. We do refer and as a part of the   there are some obligations through policy, for example, but in terms of obligations in terms of training, no. We do refer teachers to Disability Standards of Education training for example, and we do refer our teachers to training in terms of the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data website which obviously it's very much about teaching and learning adjustments. But if we are thinking about the word "compulsion", no. 

MS BENNETT: I think we heard some evidence that one in five students has an adjustment by reason of their disability. Is that consistent with your understanding? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, it is. So we have roughly 60,000   sorry, roughly   approximately 60,000 students with disability that are identified under the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data. Can I call that the NCCD?

MS BENNETT: So just   yes, you can. 

MR PERCIVAL: Great. Which is roughly one in five. We have 316,000 students in Western Australia. So 60,000 students, approximately. 

MS BENNETT: And so every   every teacher would have students in their class, statistically, who needs adjustments. 

MR PERCIVAL: I think that   it's a reasonable assumption that that would be the case. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. But they are not necessarily trained in how to identify that adjustment? 

MR PERCIVAL: They have access to training to do so. They are not compelled to do so. Unless   unless the principal was to compel them to do so. 

MS BENNETT: So the principal could compel them to do so. And a principal particularly committed to disability might do that? 

MR PERCIVAL: Well, they are actually required to do so under our   so   

MS BENNETT: No, sorry, I think you have misunderstood my question. A principal might compel their staff to undertake that training if they were particularly concerned around the issue in their school? 

MR PERCIVAL: Principals are required to provide teaching and learning adjustment   to see that teaching and learning adjustments and, as part of that requirement, to provide access to professional learning for teachers that require it. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. So at the moment there's   so a principal might decide to compel teachers to carry out that training? 

MR PERCIVAL: If   yes. So under the   the school   the Students and Educational Risk policy, part of the requirements of that policy is (A): the provision of adjustment and (B) the provision   the allocation of resources to support those adjustments and the provision of professional learning where it is required. 

CHAIR: Is there guidance as to what adjustments required for the diversity of disability that would be experienced in schools among the 60,000 who receive supports of one kind or another? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, through the NCCD website. But also through our support arm of state wide services. We have four Schools of Special Educational Need, one of which is disability. So schools can request support through the Schools of Special Educational Needs   disability, behaviour and engagement, medical and mental health or sensory   for support from a consultant teacher. Consulting teachers will support on an individual student basis where required or a whole school or a cohort basis so that schools can either develop systems or processes or individualised plans for students with disability. 

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you. 

MR PERCIVAL: There is also a whole bunch of online resources that we have   staff have access to. 

MS BENNETT: Do you know   are you familiar with the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disability? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, I am. 

MS BENNETT: Can you tell the Commission the role that Convention plays in the development of policy in the Department of Education of Western Australia? 

MR PERCIVAL: So the   the principles of the Convention align, obviously, with disability standards in   for education and our regulatory framework   and when I talk about regulatory framework, I'm talking our legislation and Acts, if you like, our various regulations that support the implementation of the Act, our policy. In Western Australia the reg framework   the regulatory framework includes policy. Policy is very much around our positioning statement or what the Department believes, if you like, about particular areas. 

We then have procedures which is what's actually required in relation to the policy. And then the next level is usually regulations, and the regulations state exactly how you're actually going to abide with the procedures. So the   I don't know that the Convention is specifically mentioned in any of our policies. To my knowledge, it's not. 

MS BENNETT: I wasn't able to find it. 

MR PERCIVAL: No, no. But certainly you can see the themes that sort of run through. 

MS BENNETT: Is it your experience that it is underpinning the policies and procedures?  That it is informing them as they   as you sit here today, as they are in place today? 

MR PERCIVAL: It's   many of our policies would align. When we develop policy as a department, policy is approved by our Corp Ex, which is our senior leadership. Corp Ex has a policy subcommittee and they also have a People and Services Committee. The policy subcommittee, if you like, is the mechanics of policy development. So they are the liaison between the divisions and branches of people that develop policy and our Corp Exec. 

The People and Services Committee refer to what's known as an Equity and Inclusion Charter and certainly the Equity and Inclusion Charter aligns with some of the Conventions. The Equity and Inclusion Charter intends to protect   the intent   the people who are affected by the intent of the policy from either direct or indirect discrimination. And it recognises that sometimes policy for the majority can have an indirect   can have   you know, either an indirect or unintended impact on groups of diversity. 

MS BENNETT: So perhaps   can I put it this way: Is it your understanding that the CRPD is informing those structures?  Or is it your evidence that they align coincidentally? 

MR PERCIVAL: It's that they   I would say that they align. I don't know whether that's incidentally or coincidentally. 

MS BENNETT: So is it the position that you don't know if the CRPD is informing the development of these policies? 

MR PERCIVAL: Sure. My position is I   I don't actually know whether it is. However, as I say, the general themes are   

MS BENNETT: All right. And are you familiar with the concept of inclusive education? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. Can you tell the Commissioners what you understand that to mean? 

MR PERCIVAL: Sure. To me   

MS BENNETT: Sorry, not to you, to the Department. 

MR PERCIVAL: Not to me. Okay. So if we go to   actually, let me just reset. So the Department's gone on a journey for inclusion for many years. The Department started a formal Inclusion of Students with Disabilities program as early as 1999. And   

MS BENNETT: I'm just going to pause you there. Can you tell the Commissioners what you understand inclusive education to mean from the Department's perspective today. 

MR PERCIVAL: From a department perspective. Okay. So in 2006, we implemented what we call a Building Inclusive Schools, Building Inclusive Classrooms program, and when we did that, the stated positions around inclusion were that all students have the right to access and participate in a schooling that meets their individual needs. It included reference to all schools valuing students of diverse backgrounds, including disability. 

It referenced the culture of inclusion in terms of welcoming, safe and   I don't want to use the word celebratory   I can't remember the exact words, but the concept of inclusion being a process. 

MS BENNETT: What is the concept of inclusion?  What does it mean?  What do you   we can't know if you have got it until we know what it means. What does it mean? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. So it   I think it can mean different things to different people. 


MR PERCIVAL: To some people, inclusion is about place. To others, it's about a process of belonging and automatically belonging and that you receive what it is that you require to fully participate in that particular area of society, including education. 

MS BENNETT: Are those examples of what it means to the State of Western Australia? 

MR PERCIVAL: I'm not aware of a state position around inclusion in Western Australia, although I probably would need to take that on notice in terms of what is included in our State Disability Strategy. 

MS BENNETT: Just going back to your job title, you're the Director of Disability and Inclusion. 


MS BENNETT: What do you understand to mean by the "inclusion" part?  What is inclusion? 

SPEAKER: Paragraph    

MS BENNETT: I'm asking the witness and my learned friend doesn't need to assist the witness from the bar table, with respect. 

CHAIR: Sorry, is there an objection to the question? 

SPEAKER: Well, I think if my friend took the witness to his witness statement at paragraph 17, it may assist. 

MS BENNETT: The witness   

CHAIR: Well, I think Mr Percival is probably capable of working out which part of his statement should be referred to. But with that helpful suggestion, the question that is directed to Mr Percival is what do you understand the reference to disability inclusion in your title to mean, and if you want to refer to paragraph 17 or any other part of your statement, please do. 

MR PERCIVAL: I don't have a copy of the statement. 

MS BENNETT: All right. Well, you stay in your statement: 

"The Department's approach to inclusive education provision embodies the position that all students are valued as learners and are integral to the school community. Department policies, services and programs reflect current education directions in the provision of relevant future focused and engaging education. Through a commitment to ongoing improvement, the Department is well placed to implement strong support for teachers and relevant learning environments and programs for students, including students with disability." 

So I'm going to ask you again, with that assistance   I'm not sure that it assists particularly, because it tells us that the Department's approach apparently embodies inclusive education. I'm trying to understand what you understand it to be from the perspective of the Department. 

MR PERCIVAL: Sure. So inclusion to me is that all school   all levels of schooling and our system, they value, they welcome, they protect, they celebrate and they address student diversity. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. So all levels of schooling protect student diversity. 

MR PERCIVAL: Value. Welcome. Protect. I would like to add celebrate. But that's probably a Stuart Percival perspective. I don't think that's actually stated in any of our documents. 

MS BENNETT: So inclusion is   one second. So inclusion   is it   Mr Percival, it seems to me that's somewhat aspirational. How do you know when you have achieved inclusion in Western Australia? 

MR PERCIVAL: I don't know that we actually currently measure the effectiveness of inclusion. 

MS BENNETT: Do you measure any of those   

MR PERCIVAL: And when I say I don't know, I probably could say we don't. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. And do you measure any of those metrics that you have identified as being integral. So, for example, do you measure the extent to which you value students with a disability? 

MR PERCIVAL: At a central level?



MS BENNETT: Do you measure the extent to which you protect students with a disability? 


MS BENNETT: Does inclusive education mean the maintenance of segregated schools? 

MR PERCIVAL: So within the State of Western Australia, we support a continuum of provision for students with disabilities. It is not our position at this point to close segregated settings. However, for some time we have not built any stand-alone segregated facilities. 

MS BENNETT: Is it correct to say that you are building segregated settings that are co-located? 

MR PERCIVAL: Perhaps if I explain the provision first and it might help. 

MS BENNETT: Well, perhaps could I   

CHAIR: Sorry, just   one thing at a time. Did you understand the question? 

MR PERCIVAL: I did. It's the   

CHAIR: Would you like to answer the question? 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay. My challenge with the question is the word "co-located." So "co-located" in Western Australia usually refers to what we call as education support centres. So we have education support schools. We have 12 of them that are stand-alone education support schools. They are not co-located. We have 47 education support centres. Education support centres are schools within the site of another school that have their own principal. They are co-located. So, if you like, we have the primary school setting, and we have a   with a primary school principal, and then we have an education support centre that also has its own principal. That's co-located. 

In addition to that, we   for some time have built what we call endorsed education support programs. Those endorsed education support programs replicate the facilities that are included in education support schools and centres, but students enrol directly in their   in that   the primary school that has those facilities on the ground. So that's   it's not co-located. It's located because there's no co. They are actually a part of that school. 

MS BENNETT: I see. So they are   we have   

MR PERCIVAL: And that's   sorry, I interrupted you. 

MS BENNETT: No, that's okay. So let's see if this is correct: there are   you have local schools and they would have been referred to this week as mainstream schools. 

MR PERCIVAL: Mainstream. 

MS BENNETT: The Commissioners will find a summary of what Mr Percival has just said about paragraph 8 of his statement and there is a reference to local schools at paragraph 18. Now, these are local schools that any student attends if they are in the zone   a local school. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. Yes. 

MS BENNETT: Some have specialist programs; is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. We currently have 17 endorsed education support programs, with another   and we open, roughly speaking, three per year. 

MS BENNETT: And I think you tell us there are students with autism integration in eight primary secondary schools; is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. We have 16   we call them specialist learning programs for students with ASD. 


MR PERCIVAL: And do with that what you like. And the Minister has just announced $18.2 million to fund an additional eight. 

MS BENNETT: And so these are schools   do the teachers in these schools, these local schools, have specific disability training? 

MR PERCIVAL: I think we covered that earlier, but they have access to professional learning. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. They don't have to undertake it? 

MR PERCIVAL: No. No, as we said before, it's not mandated. 

MS BENNETT: No. And this is, I think, at 357 and 359 of your statement, those learning opportunities that I think you're referring to. Is there any monitoring of who is attending that training? 


MS BENNETT: And so do you   do you keep a   does somebody review which schools are carrying out some of that training and which are not? 

MR PERCIVAL: No. We don't actually review which schools. We review access. So which   I mean, we review it from a service delivery sort of a perspective in terms of, you know, which resources are being accessed and   

MS BENNETT: You have referred earlier to the   a degree of autonomy or independent schools within the system, and I think you tell us in your statement   and the Commissioners will find this at 8 and 23 of your statement   that there's a heightened degree of autonomy within those schools; is that right? 


MS BENNETT: Well, what does that mean?  Does it mean that the school can   what does it mean for the level of autonomy that the principal has as that school? 

MR PERCIVAL: So almost all of our   my hesitancy   you would have sensed some hesitancy there   a heightened degree of autonomy of our   I'm having a blank as to how many schools we've got. It's approximately   

MS BENNETT: I think you tell us there's   

MR PERCIVAL: 820?  It changes every year. I'm sorry, Ms Bennett. 

MS BENNETT: No, that's okay. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. The point is that the vast majority, over three quarters of our schools, are independent public schools. So my hesitancy was around enhanced degree of autonomy. It's kind of a base degree of autonomy now. 


MR PERCIVAL: We've kind of reached  

MS BENNETT: It is 605 of 822. 

MR PERCIVAL: Thank you. 

MS BENNETT: As at the date of your statement, paragraph 3. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, so roughly three-quarters of our schools. That's what my hesitancy was about. So our independent public schools work through their school board when they are planning improvements and things like that. We have a concept of connected autonomy. So I don't want the Commission to think that our independent schools   independent public schools are out there doing whatever they   whatever they like. Our independent public schools are obliged to follow our regulatory framework that I sort of spoke about earlier. 

That's the   that's the glue and that's what binds. But our independent public schools initiative is much more around working with your community to address the local context   your contextual needs within your local   local school. So we have autonomy in terms of, you know, the way in which you organise your school might well be different in one location as it could be in another. Or in one context to another. 

MS BENNETT: So you must   the school must comply with the policies and procedures that are included in your statement, for example? 


MS BENNETT: That they have   is it correct to say they have additional autonomy around staffing and budgets? 

MR PERCIVAL: They did during the   the rollout of the   what we have found over time with the independent public schools initiative is that what worked in those schools actually works for all schools. So, for example, staff profiles. Schools have the ability to use their students centred funding model   budget to determine what their staffing profile might look like. That works for an independent public school in the same way as it works for a standard local public school. And so we've seen those flexibilities move through to local public schools as well. 

MS BENNETT: So most local public schools have a significant degree of autonomy around their staffing and budget use. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: So a school could decide to focus on football and they could have additional PE teachers and spend money on the footy ground. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. They could. They are still obliged, as we said, to   

CHAIR: I think the Eagles require all the help they can get. 

MS BENNETT: They could. And it's within the base requirement that they deliver the curriculum. And we will come back to the curriculum in a moment. 

MR PERCIVAL: So schools are required to   to meet their obligations under the Western Australian Curriculum and Assessment Outline. 

MS BENNETT: And they've got to meet the policies and procedures that we've identified? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: To the extent, though, that there's any discretion within those policies, it's within the decision or the discretion of the principal in combination with the board about how they organise that school or the council? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. There are   you know, as we   within policy parameters, yes. So, for example, we couldn't   a principal couldn't decide to have a class of 45 so he could run his football academy. There are obligations under enterprise bargaining agreements around class sizes and things like that. So if they were   were meeting their obligations under the framework and the contextual need was for   to prop up West Coast Eagles for a football academy, then that could be a  
MS BENNETT: To what extent does the teacher need to take into account the impact that those decisions are going to have on students   future students with a disability who might want to access that school? 

MR PERCIVAL: So are we talking about a local public school?

MS BENNETT: Let me give you an example. It's of a local public school. Did you see the evidence of Britt? 

MR PERCIVAL: I saw part of it, yes. 

MS BENNETT: And Britt said in the course of her evidence that she had to apply   and I accept this is not in Western Australia. She had to apply to go out of zone because the local school to which she was zoned wasn't sufficiently accessible. 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay. So do you want me to talk about the enrolment or the accessibility or   

MS BENNETT: No, no, what I'm asking is, the school will have a degree of discretion about how accessible they make themselves, won't they? 



MR PERCIVAL: So if you are talking physical accessibility, all of our new schools are designed   are on the principles of universal design. So, for example, all of our new schools automatically come with accessibility issues met and, you know, for example, our Bob Hawke College in a suburb   central suburb called Subiaco determined to go   it's an up and down school, it's a multi-level school. There are lifts, there are ramps, there are things like that. 

For schools that exist already, schools can apply for retrofitting of those. So accessibility, physical accessibility should not be a barrier to the enrolment of a student with disability. 

MS BENNETT: No, but a school could decide to go above and beyond and that would be within their discretion to do that. 

MR PERCIVAL: Above and beyond what?

MS BENNETT: The base universal design. They could decide to make it more accessible, couldn't they? 


MS BENNETT: I'm asking just about where the   

MR PERCIVAL: I guess my question is what's more accessible. So, yes, they   so, for example   

MS BENNETT: They could have sensory assistance or they could have assistance animals at the school. 

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely. Sorry, I understand. 

MS BENNETT: They could do more than what is the base requirement, could they? 

MR PERCIVAL: Sorry, I thought you were talking about physical   so   but, yes, absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: All of those matters. They could decide to have a disability focus. 

MR PERCIVAL: I think the other issue with the Britt situation is that all   students with disabilities in Western Australia have a right to go to their local public school. It then becomes up to us to make sure that it's physically accessible. If we are talking about accessibility from that lens. And it's also up to us to provide that child with teaching and learning   or young person with teaching and learning adjustments that they require. So, for example, the   Gi's testimony on Tuesday related to   

MS BENNETT: Do you mean Gi? 

MR PERCIVAL: Gi, sorry. Related to use of an intellectual functioning test to determine a child's placement. That's absolutely not the case in Western Australia. 

CHAIR: Well, can we   I will be interested in exploring that through your paragraph 8. You've said   you've told us that there are 12 education support schools which, depending upon the terminology you prefer, are special or segregated schools. How many students are there at the moment in those schools? 

MR PERCIVAL: I can talk to you percentages, Chair. I can't give you that actual physical data, but I could get it to you before the end of the day. If you   inclusion or attending a mainstream site is a typical experience of students with disabilities in Western Australia. 85 per cent of our students of the 60,000 students attend their local public school. 

CHAIR: All right. But perhaps if you could take on notice how many are in the 12 education support schools and how many are in the 47 Education support centres that are co-located but essentially are separate, as I understand it. 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. That's 8 per cent of 60,000, yes. 

CHAIR: Okay. How do students get there? 

MR PERCIVAL: Parent choice. 

CHAIR: And why do they get there? 

MR PERCIVAL: Get specifically to the segregated setting? 

CHAIR: Yes, to either the 12 education support schools or the 47 education support centres, both of which would   would match the description, I think, of either special or segregated schools as those terminologies are used. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, yes. Sure. So it's parent choice. So parents choose   if you let me just qualify that because we are not talking   because there are eligibility criteria. So to attend an education support centre or school, or an education support   endorsed education support program or a specialist learning program, you must meet specific eligibility criteria. Once you have met that   so, essentially, you have to have an eligible disability. 

Once have you met those criteria the type of school that you access is based on parent choice. The most likely route for a parent to   a child to enrol is that the parents are encouraged to actually visit the school. So as a principal of an education support school, the parents would come and they would tour the school. We would discuss the child's needs. We would talk about the types of programs that we accessed. We would provide information about the alternatives and including mainstream schooling, and then there's the parent, if they chose to proceed, would apply to enrol. 

All schools have an application process prior to the acceptance of the enrolment and that   once I determined that the child did have an eligible disability and they met enrolment criteria, then it's direct enrolment. 

CHAIR: All right. The eligibility criteria, I take it, are designed to identify children with high support needs? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct, yes. 

CHAIR: And we are talking here about an initial choice at, what, kindergarten, year 1, in primary school?  Which choice   which years are we talking about the choice being exercised? 

MR PERCIVAL: It's   my school   it's any year. There's no compulsion. But, usually, students who are enrolling in kindergarten would enrol in   from August in the year preceding their enrolment. However, intake   as a general observation as a principal, we would receive applications either in kindergarten, in year 1, in year 4, or preceding into high school. That's the general. But there is no rule as to when   when you're eligible to choose which school. 

CHAIR: You   did you hear yesterday the evidence from Ms Sayers and Ms McAlpine about coercive choice? 

MR PERCIVAL: I did, and I've read similar claims in   in various documentation that's produced through the Australian Coalition of Inclusive Education, and whilst I respect that that's the perception of some parents, it would really disappoint me if that was the case in Western Australian schools. 

CHAIR: Well, I was going to ask you whether there is any objective material that enables us to determine whether it is, in fact, the position? 

MR PERCIVAL: I don't have any data about   about that that can inform you. It's not my observation that that occurs. It's certainly not something that we would support as a department and, for example, if we found out that a parent was being treated in that manner, then we would   we would manage that through our   through appropriate processes. It's   it's not what we want, Chair. It's just   we either have a system that talks about parent choice  

CHAIR: From your experience, then, if you have the relevant experience, what motivates a parent to select either the education support school or Education support centre   a parent, by hypothesis, with a child with high support needs. What prompts the parent to choose one of those two options rather than a mainstream school? 

MR PERCIVAL: I think it's a perceived perception of safety. I used to ask my parents all the time why they were choosing to enrol with me and they would say the physical environment, the safety, the feeling of being included and the adjustments that our young people receive. 

CHAIR: And what sort of advice typically, from your experience, would the parents receive before making that rather critical decision for their child's education? 

MR PERCIVAL: I think parents receive advice around enrolment from lots of areas. They obviously receive it from schools, they receive it from their family members. In the past they would receive advice from the Disability Services Commission local area coordinators. You know, to some extent that might be replaced by local area coordination from the NDIS. They'd receive advice from our regional offices and our school psychology service. 

I often felt for parents when they came, because that advice is   oh, advocacy groups. That advice was often in conflict and it placed parents in a   in a position of pressure, if you like, about making a decision that could otherwise be judged. Sorry, I missed the biggest one. Their early intervention providers also offer advice, you know, the therapy providers and things like that. 

MS BENNETT: I note the time. Perhaps, Chair, we might take a break. 

CHAIR: Yes, I'm sorry to have taken up so much time. 

MS BENNETT: Not at all, Chair. No, these are issues to be explored. 

CHAIR: You will have a go shortly. 

MS BENNETT: Not at all, Chair. 

CHAIR: Okay. We will take a break. It's now 11.25. Shall we resume at 11.40?

MS BENNETT: If it please the Chair. 

CHAIR: Thank you. We will take a short break. 



CHAIR: Ms Bennett, I'm conscious that I've been asking quite a lot of questions, and I think I should give the opportunity to more colleagues to ask some questions. 

MS BENNETT: Of course.

CHAIR: So I will first ask Commissioner Galbally if she has any questions she would like to put to Mr Percival at this stage. We need to have your   unmute. 


CHAIR: Well done. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Thank you. Look, just to pick up where we ended on the independent   or back a couple of topics, the independent public schools program, do they have to sign on for universal design for learning?  Is that part of a basic "have to", that they have to do that? 


COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: The second question about them is, in relation to school councils, I think, or school boards, do they have to have people with disabilities on those boards? 

MR PERCIVAL: No. They do have to community representatives and parents, and parents and community representatives have to be more than staff and school representatives. What we do find, though, is that, in particular, in what the Commission calls segregated schools where we have large cohorts or where we have large cohorts of kids with disabilities, is that most school boards would include somebody from   with a disability lens. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: But not the independent schools? 

MR PERCIVAL: No, the independent public schools have   so the legislation that sits across school councils is the same for school boards. In fact, there isn't separate legislation. School boards operate under the legislation for school councils. So whether you're independent or not, it's the same legislation and so, therefore   and the same requirements about membership. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: When you discussed inclusion before   and I'm sure we will come back to this   does inclusion to you and WA have a connotation of meaning being out in the world in the mainstream, alongside children with no disability? 

MR PERCIVAL: Commissioner Galbally, I think it's both. So, yes, we do have a perception of inclusion as place and where children with disabilities are educated. But it's also, you know, and that's what I was clumsily trying to get to, is about process of inclusion. So certainly when you're talking out in the world, are you talking about community reference programs for students with disabilities. Is that what you're  

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: I was talking about interaction with non-disabled students, to actually be with them for learning and playing and socialising and influencing. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, for sure. For a long time   and I'm talking   you know, this is my 30th year in education, and in that time, we've always adopted a perspective of a least restrictive environment as possible. Access   access to non-disabled peers is   I've just lost   she's no longer there. Should I keep going? 


MR PERCIVAL: Okay, great. I will just keep going. I just can't  

CHAIR: Commissioner Galbally is   we can see her. 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay, she's just reappeared. Sorry about that. I just didn't want to continue if you were locked out.

CHAIR: No, she's definitely there. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: The only thing that would happen is I will fall off my wheelchair and slide under the table. 

MR PERCIVAL: Certainly schools adopt community reference sort of programs and to bring students as close as possible. In my own experience as an education support school principal, we recognised that   we had a large intake area and a very broad selection of students, and so we entered into a local arrangement with a partner   partner primary school and so of our approximately 200 students, we had 400 students that   400   40 students that were co-located on a mainstream site, and that was for the very purposes that you're talking about, to bring students with disabilities in contact with their mainstream peers. 

And unlike Gi's experience with her brother, those students actually attended the local school four days a week and they attended our school one day a week so that they could access specialist programs. So schools enter into those sorts of local arrangements. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: And is there a policy that encourages that transition and engagement?  Is there something we could look at that   because I'm thinking about the 12 education support schools. All the co   no, that's stand alone. The co-located 47. Do they have to do that. Is that part of the requirement? 

MR PERCIVAL: There's no requirements. However, if part of the teaching and learning adjustment requirement was involved with access to   you know, if that was an adjustment that was determined as suitable, then they would. But, no, there is no integration policy, if you like. It's more around   around practice than linking to a policy. A lot of those centres, though, do enter into policies or almost service agreement type approaches with their partner schools. 


MR PERCIVAL: So I would say it's common but not required. 

CHAIR: Yes, Commissioner Mason. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Thank you very much, Chair. I have got two questions, and one follows on from Commissioner Galbally's question around building relationships between disabled and non disabled students in that educational setting. In the disability community and their material and conversations with the Commission, they often talk about the model   social model of disability. And we also within the Commission look at our work through this model of life course. And so I just wanted to know your understanding of the social model of disability and how it's applied within the Department of Education in Western Australia. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, certainly our perspective would be that physical place is not enough. You know, that it's not enough to simply place young   children and young people with disabilities into a local school, for example. We have a range of supports that are available to schools to consider those sorts of   make those sorts of considerations. Not only in terms of obligation under the DSE, the Disability Standards for Education, but actually how to effect that, how to effect social inclusion. 

I refer the Commission to our website, One Classroom. One Classroom is a website, most of which is publicly available, and it talks about some of the social inclusion type supports and ways in which that we can assist kids to be included on a mainstream site. That's backed up by some transitional modules that are run through our Schools for Special Educational Needs   Disability that specifically talk about transition of students. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: And is that term, social model of disability, commonly used by educators? 

MR PERCIVAL: Commissioner Mason, I would say it's probably   it's probably not. And it's a   it's a cognitive shift that we continue to make and   over time. We were discussing at a senior leadership conference last year around the Supporting the Teacher and Learning for Students with Disabilities, and I spoke about that   that shift from medical models of disability that look at deficits and issues to a more pro-social model that sees   that's strength-based and sees the contribution that people with disabilities make on a broader sort of level and how language actually   when you flip to that pro-social model, your language and your approach completely flips. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Yes. And the second question I had was, in your statement, you mentioned internal departmental groups. And there's a number of groups there, Office of Aboriginal Education, Complex Behaviour and Mental Health Team; so forth. Another term that comes from the disability community is this term "intersectionality". 


COMMISSIONER MASON: Is that understood in terms of the way that those particular leaders and those groups work   and, of course, I'm thinking about First Nations students and those with disability and how that intersectionality impacts on their place of progress and life after school. 

MR PERCIVAL: Of course. Yes. So certainly the leaders of those directorates that you're talking about   since we've gone through our form and function review and come together in July last year, what I was working on right before the Royal Commission was moving from an ego sort of approach to eco approach in terms of the way in which we support our schools. That we are an ecological sort of response to the needs of schools and the support of schools. 

We are just in the process of developing for us at the statewide services centre an approach that looks at multi tiered systems of support, because as the Chair mentioned in his opening address on Monday, applying simple solutions to complex situations doesn't always lead to a positive outcome. So we are mapping the ways in which we support schools across a number of areas, that sort of looks at the complexity of situations. 

So it's rare that a behaviour issue comes in for support from a school where it doesn't have teaching and learning implications or student health and wellbeing implications and potentially Aboriginal education teaching and learning cultural responsiveness type things. So we are busy mapping the services that we support and the needs of schools to make sure that we have   you will be familiar with the response to intervention approach to our support, that considers the needs of all schools   all students, some students and a few students. 

But to look at it at the way in which we support not through a transactional approach but an approach that actually builds a solution that addresses all elements of the need. I'm hoping I'm making sense. 


CHAIR: Ms Bennett, you're on. 

MS BENNETT: Mr Percival, what's ableism? 

MR PERCIVAL: You're talking to me as a person?


MR PERCIVAL: Yes. So ableism is a little bit like mansplaining and I will try not to do that now. It's looking at issues from a lens that doesn't necessarily consider what that means to people with disability. It's telling people with disability what they need to do rather than listening to people with disability. It's coming at a presumed solution without necessarily fully engaging people with disability. 

MS BENNETT: Does your department fully engage with people with disability in its development of its policies and procedures?  And can I ask you that about the policies and procedures presently in place, not those that you might be planning in the future? 

MR PERCIVAL: So your word was "sufficiently"?  Is that the word you used? 

MS BENNETT: It might be.


MS BENNETT: I'm sorry.

CHAIR: No, I think the question was does your department fully engage with people with disability in its development of policies and procedures. 

MR PERCIVAL: Fully. No. 

MS BENNETT: And is that something that you intend to correct? 

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely. So  

MS BENNETT: Can you just tell us about which organisations or people you intend to engage with in order to   well, can I suggest to you, first, that that has the real potential to create an ableist   

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT:   slant on the policies and procedures put in place? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct, yes.

MS BENNETT: Can I take you to one example in the policies for enrolment. Your enrolment policy   and I will check the structure is understood   there's a policy around enrolment which, Commissioners, appears at tab 2 of Bundle E. And is it a fair summary, Mr Percival, that children in Western Australia are entitled to enrol in public school. That's what the policy says. 


MS BENNETT: And it says, in addition: 

"The enrolment of students in a school will be managed in a transparent manner without discrimination or prejudice." 


MS BENNETT: And it goes on   I won't read the rest of it. I note the policy itself is a single substantive page and it's the principal who is responsible for managing the enrolments. 

MR PERCIVAL: Can I ask a question. Sorry, Ms Bennett. Are you referring to the existing policy or the policy that's coming in July?

MS BENNETT: Yes. This is the existing policy. 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay, yes. 

CHAIR: What page are we on in that document?

MS BENNETT: It's page 1. It's 0004 in the top right hand corner. 

CHAIR: We have got that, thank you. 

MS BENNETT: The Commissioners will see I've been reading under the heading dot point 2. That's the overarching policy and that is operationalised, as I understand your evidence, through procedures; is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. I've identified two procedures. One is the Enrolment in Public School Procedures, which the Commissioners will find at tab 3, and then, separately, Enrolment for Students with a Disability Procedures, which the Commissioners will find at tab 5. That's right, isn't it? 


MS BENNETT: And so there are the general procedures and then there are specific procedures applicable to students with disability. That's right? 


MS BENNETT: And students with a disability might be identified at the time they are enrolled, because parents are generally asked if their children have additional support needs. 


MS BENNETT: And so can I read to you now from the general policy, which says: 

“The principal will accept all applications for enrolment using the application for enrolment form." 

Does that sound familiar? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And then if I go then to the disability form, it says: 

"Students with a disability can apply to enrol in their local school." 


MS BENNETT: Can you see the difference in tone between the two?  One says the principal will accept all applications for enrolment. The one that is directed to students with a disability says all such students can apply. 

MR PERCIVAL: One   well, it's using the word "apply" instead of “application”. Is that the   

MS BENNETT: No, it says "the principal will accept all applications" in the general policy. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. Okay. So   

MS BENNETT: In the disability policy, "students with a disability can apply."  And I search in vain for anything in the disability policy which tells the principal that they should accept that enrolment. 

MR PERCIVAL: The general   so it might be some confusion. The general policy applies to education support schools. Sorry, education support placements as well. So this is   it's a supplement. So it's   when you are enrolling a child in an education support school, for example, you need to read the general and the education support. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. Well, when you go then to 3.4 of the general, which tells us about students with a disability, it says: 

"The principal will consider enrolment applications for children with disability on the same basis as all other applications." 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And then it goes on to then identify what I understand to be the considerations that the principal will have in place. I will ask the operator to put the document on the screen. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, thank you. 

MS BENNETT: It's at tab E3 at page 0387 with the heading 3.4 Students With a Disability. So at page 0387, for the operator. And then I will see 3.4. If I could ask the operator to zoom in from 3.4: 

"The principal will consider enrolment applications." 

You will see I read that first dot point. Now, the following dot points I understand to be matters that the principal will consider as they are considering that application. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: That's right. So it's not that you automatically accept the enrolment in the manner that you are directed for children without a disability. You will consider the enrolment application by reference to these dot points. 

MR PERCIVAL: Is it possible to see the first section?  Sorry. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, yes. We can go to the first section. So that's 3.1, Managing All Enrolments. That's at 0379, for the operator. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, okay. So the   3.1.1, "The principal accept all applications for enrolment using the application for enrolment form" is applicable to all schools, including those that are covered under the 3.4. So I, as the principal of an education support school, had to accept the application for   to enrol for all students that applied to enrol. I couldn't not accept an application. 

MS BENNETT: So your understanding is that 3.1 applies and then 3.4 is plainly the part of that policy that applies to students with a disability. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And it plainly identifies, doesn't it   if I could ask the operator to go back to 3.4, 0387. That clearly identifies, doesn't it, factors that will be considered in accepting the enrolment? 

MR PERCIVAL: They are factors for consideration, yes. 

MS BENNETT: In accepting   

CHAIR: So just to be clear about it, 3.1.1, when you say the principal must accept all applications for enrolment, that means in context the principal has to consider all applications for enrolment. 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. Because it's a two stage process. There's an application  

CHAIR: So in considering the application, you then go to 3.4, to determine what the principal should be doing in considering an application from or on behalf of a student with disability. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

CHAIR: Right. Okay. 

MS BENNETT: So this policy doesn't direct the acceptance of the   


MS BENNETT: No. And, indeed, in contrast, the principal is directed to consider those factors there listed. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And no other matters. 

MR PERCIVAL: I'm sure as a requirement, probably not. No. That's not there. Yes. 

MS BENNETT: Or not   that's right. 

MR PERCIVAL: But in practice, it's   a discussion occurs. You know, there's a   usually, when a child is enrolling in your school, you're having a discussion with them. So there's probably other   other information that a principal would receive or   

MS BENNETT: There might well be other factors that are taken into account that aren't recorded anywhere, mightn't there? 

MR PERCIVAL: Usually what we are doing, though, at this stage, is actually   it's such a valuable period of time that you have with a parent; that first discussion around knowing what it is that their child requires in terms of teaching and learning adjustment. It's the   this is often   it's not always the first time that you've actually spoken to a parent. Sometimes it's the second or the third. 

MS BENNETT: Mr Percival, I think what your evidence is that there will be more   there will be discussion around things other than what's listed in this piece of paper. 

MR PERCIVAL: Potentially, yeah. 

MS BENNETT: And they will be things that aren't listed anywhere? 

MR PERCIVAL: In terms of a policy requirement. 


MR PERCIVAL: Yes, absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: And your person as a person who values people with disability is you see that as a valuable opportunity to learn more about that child and offer them a better education. 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. Yes. 

MS BENNETT: Other principals might not want to enrol that child, might they? 

MR PERCIVAL: I can't speak for other principals. 

MS BENNETT: Is it possible that other principals might not share your views? 

MR PERCIVAL: It's   look, I've watched evidence of this Commission. I've heard the issues around gatekeeping. So, you know, I've heard the perceptions of parents around that. So, yes, of course it's possible. 

MS BENNETT: Well, you've worked in special education since 1993. Have you observed ableism from other principals? 

MR PERCIVAL: I probably observed it from myself at times. Yes. 

MS BENNETT: It's ubiquitous in a lot of respects, isn't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: It is, yes. 

MS BENNETT: It might well mean that some principals   leave aside their intentions, but some principals don't want to enrol this child. They think it will be too hard. 

MR PERCIVAL: It's possible, yes. 

MS BENNETT: And they might well have conversations that aren't recorded in the policy. 

MR PERCIVAL: Or those conversations might contribute   that are in the policy might contribute to   

MS BENNETT: And it might contribute to conversations which give parents the impression they are not welcome. 

MR PERCIVAL: Possibly. 

CHAIR: Well, you don't have to go beyond the written language in paragraph 3.4, because the principal must gather information about the student's disability and consider the school's capacity to provide an appropriate educational program. That provides ample scope, doesn't it, for a principal who would rather not   for whatever reason, not necessarily malicious reasons   but for a principal who doesn't really want to have that child or more children with particular disabilities in the school. That's the criterion that justifies saying, "Sorry, we prefer that child to go elsewhere." 

MR PERCIVAL: It would depend, as well, whether or not the   it's possible, Chair. It would be more difficult if that child was applying to enrol in their local public school. 

CHAIR: Why would that be more difficult? 

MR PERCIVAL: Because they are entitled to a place in their local public school. If they were applying to enrol in a different local public school outside of their intake area, then they are not necessarily automatically entitled to a place in that school. Regardless of whether they have a disability or not. 

CHAIR: I'm sorry, does this section 3.4 apply only where a student with disability   a child with disability is seeking a place outside that child's local area?  Or does it apply to the local area to which the child is entitled to be admitted to the school? 

MR PERCIVAL: It applies to all. 

CHAIR: Exactly. But that   all I'm pointing out   and it's something that we have seen in other hearings, that if there is decentralised delegated authority, if you like, to a principal, a great deal depends upon the principal's understanding, knowledge, empathy, understanding of some of the concepts that have been discussed today like social models and inclusive education. A great deal will depend upon the individual principal, won't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: In practice, they would need to be able to argue that they couldn't provide an appropriate educational program under that third dot point. That's difficult   

CHAIR: But who would   who would challenge them? 

MR PERCIVAL: A parent could challenge that and so   

CHAIR: A parent could. But assume the parent didn't. How would you know? 

MR PERCIVAL: We wouldn't. 


MR PERCIVAL: If we didn't receive a complaint   

CHAIR: Exactly. 

MR PERCIVAL:   or some other information, we wouldn't know. 

CHAIR: So the control mechanism, if you like, is the ability and willingness of a parent to challenge the decision of the local principal, which, as I think you've accepted previously, is not a very easy thing for a parent to do. 

MR PERCIVAL: For sure. Understood. 

MS BENNETT: And, indeed, if that challenge were successful the child would be sent back to a school where the family know they don't want them. 

MR PERCIVAL: Perhaps, yes. 

MS BENNETT: That would a hard thing for a parent to do, wouldn't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: It would be a reason not to complain and just look elsewhere? 

MR PERCIVAL: Possibly. 

MS BENNETT: When we are looking at that third dot point, to gather information about the student's disability and consider the school's capacity to provide an appropriate educational program, how does that interact with the school's autonomy?  So go for example of the cricket obsessed school   it might have been football in my earlier example. Let's say that a school has made itself less able to provide an appropriate educational program. When that child arrives, that school is arguably able to decline enrolment. Isn't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: On that basis?

MS BENNETT: Yes, on the basis that the way their school operates today, they can't provide an appropriate educational program. 

MR PERCIVAL: That would be a very unlikely   very unlikely scenario. 

MS BENNETT: How do you know, Mr Percival? 

MR PERCIVAL: Because we have   for example, under the disability advisory   there's a couple of other policies that sort of, you know, have interplay with this one. One is the Students at Educational Risk policy for example, which actually require schools to provide those teaching and learning adjustments. 

MS BENNETT: Well, just to pause there, that's a policy that has application for a child who has enrolled, is it not. 

MR PERCIVAL: Enrolled, yes. Granted. 

MS BENNETT: So we are not there yet, are we? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, no, probably not. 

MS BENNETT: So that's not a protective mechanism.

MR PERCIVAL: No, but it's the   it does contribute to the ethos of responsibility that pervades our schools. 

MS BENNETT: Can I pause there to ask you, does the fair and equitable enrolment of students with disability depend upon that ethos of responsibility being present?  Does it depend upon the cultural acceptance of the value of students with a disability enrolling? 

MR PERCIVAL: I'm happy to accept that gatekeeping occurs. 


MR PERCIVAL: Either covertly or overtly. I'm also happy to accept that sometimes that's silent gatekeeping. I'm not happy to accept that there's an overwhelming climate of rejection of people with disabilities based on their capacity to provide appropriate programs. 

MS BENNETT: I will ask the operator to bring down that document. Chair, I'm conscious that you had questions around that and I wanted to pause to see if other Commissioners had questions around that policy. 

CHAIR: Certainly. Commissioner Galbally. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: My only question is to clarify something I thought I heard before. There's no data. You don't keep data on the numbers of complaints, the resolution of the complaints, if there is gatekeeping overt or covert. You can't get a sense   your hunch is it's not so frequent, but is there any way to show that?  Is there any   you know, the numbers who apply, what happens with the application?  If they are let in or not. 

MR PERCIVAL: I would have to take that one on advice   on   yeah. On notice. I know that we provided the Commission with data on complaints, and I understand that that covered off on gatekeeping. But I would have to check because it was   that was some time ago. Yes. 


MR PERCIVAL: But there is no   to my knowledge   collection of applications to enrol at a central level. My understanding is that they are   once enrolment occurs, that that's where the data sort of generates. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: But no data on applications to enrol from parents with a child with a disability. 

MR PERCIVAL: Not to my knowledge. No, not to my knowledge, but we would need to check what the technicalities are about the lodgement of a   you know, the data flow, if you like, to check to see whether that exists. I'm not sure. 


MS BENNETT: Yes, Commissioner, the response to notice provided says that information related to enrolment applications is not stored on a central system or database. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, I thought so. But I think Commissioner Galbally's question was also related to the complaints around gatekeeping. And I think that was in the previous notice. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. Thank you. Mr Percival, before we move on from that policy, there was a reference in it to negotiating with the parents. You rolled your eyes. That's because it's problematic term, isn't it?  It suggests a sort of adversarial positioning, doesn't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And so the policy contemplates that you are going to need to negotiate, you from your position and the parent from theirs. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And it reflects that because it's a common way of seeing the world, isn't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. It was at the time. 

MS BENNETT: It was at the time. Well, it's still in place as we sit here today, isn't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: The policy is being replaced in July this year, and I'm not sure that that word is still in the new policy. I would have to check. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you. And I have searched in vain for the word "consultation" or "consult" in that policy. I haven't found it. 

MR PERCIVAL: In the new policy?

MS BENNETT: No, in the current policy. That doesn't appear at that 3.4, does it? 

MR PERCIVAL: It's a much better word. 

MS BENNETT: Yeah, and it's not there at the moment. So   and consultation is part of the Disability Standards for Education obligations. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And so those obligations simply aren't accounted for as the policy stands today? 

MR PERCIVAL: In the enrolment policy, no, but in numerous other policies, yes. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, thank you. 

MR PERCIVAL: As you rightly point out, once the child is enrolled. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. So I wanted to ask you about communication. And you would accept, I suspect, that communication is a key skill for students and their learning. 

MR PERCIVAL: It's critical. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. We   we know that communication is a foundation for a successful pathway. 

MS BENNETT: And would you accept it has a particular significance in a student's first 2,000 days   a child's first five years, early learning. 


MS BENNETT: Is it your experience that behaviours of concern are often related to communication problems? 

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: Can you tell the Commissioners what your experience is around the connection between communication needs and behaviours of concern? 

MR PERCIVAL: Sure. You know, given that communication is such a core element to what we do as human beings in terms of understanding our   in two ways of communication I'm talking about. I'm talking about both respective and   receptive and expressive language. I can only imagine how frustrating   and I've seen firsthand so many times how it would be not to be able to either understand what's happening to you or not be able to express how you feel about that. 

So you would have noticed in the document that we provide you about Supporting the Teaching and Learning of Students with Disability and Complex Behaviour, that one of the foundations of that document is to accept that behaviour can be a function of communication. 

MS BENNETT: And that indeed   in hearing Mr Croft's evidence earlier this week   

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely, yes. 

MS BENNETT: The   after, I think, 13 years of education, Ryan still doesn't have a functional communication method. 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. 

MS BENNETT: That's a   that's a   can I suggest it's a shocking outcome? 

MR PERCIVAL: I think when you look at some of the research, including the research that Ms Eastman referred to in her opening comments when she talked about Professor Trollor's research, I'm not sure we can call it a shocking outcome when the research suggests that it occurs quite often. Otherwise we are going to be shocked routinely. I think it's a disheartening   I can tell you as a school principal, some of the young people that I enrolled at kindergarten left school when they were in year 13 without a functioning communication system in the   to the extent that we would have liked them to have a communication system. 

We might have understood or presumed to understand what it was that a child was communicating, but did they have a communication system that was universally applicable when they are in their outside world?  No, they didn't. And it's incredibly disheartening. 

MS BENNETT: So in relation to complex communication, I think, going to your statement now at paragraph 120, you tell us that the department does not have specific policies, procedures, guidelines or requirements currently in place to assist educators to plan for and implement appropriate interventions, supports, adjustments in the classroom for students with complex communication needs. Is that the position as we sit here today? 

MR PERCIVAL: We still do not have a specific complex communication policy in   like you might see in, say, the Tasmanian example. The Tasmanian education system has a policy. What we do have, though, is the curriculum   and we don't actually have policies that are around specific issues outside of complex communication, for example. So   so we don't necessarily have a specific policy on English or history or something like that. 

So what we do have is we have the Curriculum Assessment Reporting Policy that requires schools to address the specific learning needs of their students, and we have the SAER policy   the, sorry, Students at Educational   I said CAR policy, Curriculum Assessment Reporting policy, and   that requires specific learning needs. And then we have the Students at Educational Risk policy that requires principals to provide teaching and learning adjustments, provide appropriate resources, provide access to professional learning and, most importantly, consult with parents and provide access to student support services. 

MS BENNETT: I see. And at the anterior point, the point of communication, it's assumed that communication is identified as something around which curriculum and education adjustment is required. 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. Teaching and learning adjustment, yes. 

MS BENNETT: The department does not have any policies, procedures or guidelines to help the educators plan for the proper supports or adjustments in the classroom for those students. 


MS BENNETT: I'm paraphrasing your words. They don't exist at the moment? 

MR PERCIVAL: No, the   but we are also reading part of the statement. And the   also included in the statement are the types of supports that are actually offered to teachers who are planning adjustments. You know, there's a plethora of supports available online to   and in face to face professional learning around this. 

MS BENNETT: And so you consider those to be sufficient? 

MR PERCIVAL: I consider the support mechanisms through which we can support students   teachers to provide teaching and learning adjustments around communication as good. They are good. We   we have a whole raft   a whole team of consulting teachers from the School of Special Educational Needs   Disability, who actually work directly with teachers to provide teaching and to plan teaching and learning adjustments. And a core part of that work, of course, is complex communication for children    

MS BENNETT: So these are people who are centrally located who can be called out to a school? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, that's correct. 

MS BENNETT: So the school   so it's where the teachers or staff at a particular school consider that they are not meeting the complex communication needs of this child, they can call for that support. Is that the position? 

MR PERCIVAL: If they require any form of support; that's correct. 

MS BENNETT: Which, given that they themselves don't have any guidance from the department about how to respond to complex communication needs, that they will   the solution to that, as I'm suggesting, is that they can call in external people. 

MR PERCIVAL: They can call   if the supports that are available online to schools are insufficient or   then they can call in some human support. The other thing is that, you know, it's rare that complex communication happens   support   you know, the identification of complex communication support needs occurs in isolation. In accordance with the Disability Standards of Education, in accordance with our policy positions, access to student supports services is a requirement of our policies. 

Usually what happens is a student with complex communication needs will have a support, the support of an allied services provider. And I certainly heard Mr Croft's concerns on Tuesday around access to services in regional areas. But, usually, there is sort of an interagency sort of approach to the support. Because what we want to do is work in partnerships with families and in partnerships with therapy providers. 

This is something that is absolutely   communication is absolutely central to an individual and so it's so important that we work together on processes that are aligned. The last thing we actually want to do is to implement a process that's not going to be working in the home or is not aligned with a therapy provider. 

MS BENNETT: I think there are a few different concepts there. 


MS BENNETT: So first is the school is seeking to educate a child with complex communication needs, and they can call in supports   external supports to assist them. 


MS BENNETT: And you accept that they will need to do that. They are not themselves upskilled to   

MR PERCIVAL: No, I don't accept that. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. Is there a risk that there needs to be a deterioration in the child's communication or behaviours in   in order to access that support?  Let me put that another way. The teachers will call in support when they are finding it difficult in the classroom. Is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: More than likely. My rejection of the word "need" was that not all teachers actually require that support. Some teachers require the support; some teachers don't. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. And there might be   well, I withdraw that. So the process   the question I'm really asking you is does the communication difficulty need to become acute to call in those supports? 


MS BENNETT: So it can be at the identification stage, the child comes in with complex needs, and they will be offered those supports immediately? 

MR PERCIVAL: It often happens, particularly with the enrolment. You know, that's part of considering what the teaching and learning adjustments are and access to human resources. So you would then be calling in, say, the therapy service providers or the family to have a deeper understanding about what needs to happen. 

MS BENNETT: And then we heard some evidence earlier about the people who are on the bus around the child, helping the child. The team who are supporting the child. Let's assume in this case   did you hear the evidence of   

MR PERCIVAL: You are talking about a   

MS BENNETT: A metaphorical bus. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. Thank you. I was thinking   yes. I haven't heard about the metaphorical bus. That particular   

MS BENNETT: You haven't heard about the metaphorical   that   

CHAIR: Yes, we learn new things all the time. 

MR PERCIVAL: I think I get what you are talking about. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, there's a team of people who are supporting the child. And I think   as I understand   and your evidence is that those supports are going to have a role in the child's education. Is that fair? 


MS BENNETT: Particularly around issues like communication. 


MS BENNETT: So a child has a speech pathologist they have been working with for years. Can that speech pathologist come and work with them in the school environment? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, with the   with the principal's approval. Over the last couple of years, we have done quite extensive work around supporting families and schools to manage the provision of allied health services on school sites during school time. We   

MS BENNETT: I'm sorry, I just want to break that down a little bit. So would a school that has a blanket refusal, would that school be   sorry, would a school that has a blanket refusal to allow allied health providers to assist a student, would that be inappropriate? 


MS BENNETT: You would expect all schools in Western Australia to say, "We will consider on a case by case basis." 

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely. That's their obligation under the Act and it's our expectation of them. 

MS BENNETT: And do you   do you check? 

MR PERCIVAL: There is a   actually isn't a way of checking other than consulting with every school in the state. So   

MS BENNETT: And the principal will consider the application based on what kind of factors? 

MR PERCIVAL: There's a whole range of factors. So as I said, we've worked with therapy providers, with school leaders, with unions, associations, and with advocates and parent groups to really improve that process and to clarify that process. We ran a number of sessions through which we heard the experiences and the understandings of various participants, and so service providers, for example, articulated to us some of the challenges that they had in terms of accessing students during times other than school times. 

And   but, I guess   and we heard from principals about some of the logistical challenges that sometimes occur, particularly in contexts such as COVID. And so principals have a range of obligations that they have when any visitor comes on site. So what we've done is we've published school facing and public facing documents that support parents to lodge a request for support, for principals to consider that support, for principals and parents to develop a service schedule and then to review that schedule. And those are all supported by various fact sheets, help sheets, checklists for principals, templates if you like. 

MS BENNETT: So we have been talking a lot about transition points for students. So at the time a student is transitioning into, for example, a local school, supports that they are presently accessing are identified. Is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. That's a requirement under the policy, yes. 

MS BENNETT: And then if those supports include, for example, speech pathology, they can   is it part of the transition to the school that the principal automatically considers bringing the allied health along or do they need a separate application after a while? 

MR PERCIVAL: So   just clarifying the question when you meant about bringing them along. Are you talking about at the meeting or approving them?

MS BENNETT: No, approving them to attend. I'm wondering if it can be or is wrapped up in the transition in, if it's part of a smooth transition in. 

MR PERCIVAL: So actually it's an interesting point you make, Ms Bennett, because that's exactly what we have sort of suggested to our principals when we have been socialising the materials that we have developed, that it's a great opportunity to actually put it in their enrolment pack and actually have that discussion there and then in terms of the transition in and out. They still need to consider it   consider that. So I wouldn't say that it would be automatic. 

The reason for my earlier confusion is I wondered whether you were talked about them being on the metaphorical bus in the actual enrolment and the transition, and sometimes that occurs. But within the context of the NDIS, possibly less so because it's financial impost on families. 

MS BENNETT: Well   so you say you were socialising these ideas to try to get principals to put it into their enrolment pack. So is this returning to the degree of principal autonomy? 

MR PERCIVAL: No, not really. When I talked about socialisation, it's we consulted with a core group of peak therapy providers and advocate groups and principals. We didn't consult with every principal in the state. So we have developed the resources based on that collective feedback and we are now at the point of   well, they are in schools. They are available. They have been online for quite a few months now. 

And   but we have   when I say socialise, we ran a whole bunch of consultation groups with parents   with principals where we told them about the resources and encouraged them. 

MS BENNETT: I see. So the principals won't ultimately have a choice what's in their enrolment pack. It will be something that comes from the Department? 

MR PERCIVAL: No. They can choose whether that piece of   they must use the application to enrol form. 


MR PERCIVAL: And they must use the enrolment form. And the rest would depend on the context of that particular school. 

MS BENNETT: So the principal's discretion again. We are dependent upon their enthusiasm for being on the bus, if I can put it that way. 

MR PERCIVAL: That would depend on what sort of information they were trying to get. I can't attribute a motivation factor. Yes.

MS BENNETT: Well, we are dependent on the   no, we are dependent on the individual principal, aren't we? 

MR PERCIVAL: As to what goes in the pack, yes, absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, and to how smooth the transition is. 

MR PERCIVAL: It would depend on what resources were allocated to it, yes. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, and it could be highly resourced and straightforward. And no doubt in the case of an enrolment that you were managing, it would be all of those things. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, sure was. 

MS BENNETT: It might equally be made difficult in the   by the operation of that individual principal's not necessarily deliberate but   

MR PERCIVAL: Ms Bennett, I'm just not comfortable with the   the suggestion of motivation and intent that sits about excluding children. It's just   it's not something that I   I personally have observed. I have heard stories about it and, you know, witness testimonies attest to either covert or overt discrimination or gatekeeping. I'm just not comfortable sitting here and characterising the profession in that way. 

MS BENNETT: No, no, leave aside motivation or intention. But the way in which   how easy it is for the family can vary, depending on the practices of a particular principal. 

MR PERCIVAL: The intent of those sorts of supplementary information that goes into the enrolment pack   that goes back to your question   is around understanding what teaching and learning adjustments and what other modifications need to be made. 


CHAIR: Can I just ask a   perhaps a systemic issue arising out of this   and perhaps use an example to start off with. Let us assume that there is a student who is judged to require speech pathology assistance. Assume one student requiring this may be on the NDIS; another one may not. What actually happens and what is the allocation as between the NDIS and the State of Western Australia to provide that student with the support they need? 

MR PERCIVAL: So I guess the source of   it's   when you actually log on to our website, it doesn't actually refer to NDIS providers. It actually refers to allied health providers because, you know, speech pathology could be provided by a private clinician that the parents have decided   

CHAIR: I understand that, but that's why I'm asking how it works in practice. 

MR PERCIVAL: There is no difference. 

CHAIR: Sorry? 

MR PERCIVAL: There is no difference. There are a little bit of   there   in terms of the application process, for example, or the consideration of who's providing it. Really, the only differences are some of the clearances that the NDIS automatically go through because, for example, they all have Working with Children, they all have police, security. So there's some technical things. 

CHAIR: Sorry, yes, but who pays? 

MR PERCIVAL: Who pays? 

CHAIR: Yes, who pays. 

MR PERCIVAL: So if a parent was to   and that's our agreement   sorry, our partnership always runs through a parent. We don't run partnerships direct with the service providers, unless we are paying them, in which it's a different   so the parent would pay   would consult with their NDIS provider and determine whether or not they are attending   whether they are on the bus, if you like. We can't compel a speech pathologist to come in and provide services on site without the    

CHAIR: Because Western Australia doesn't regard that as an adjustment that the student may require for which Western Australia would be responsible? 

MR PERCIVAL: For some students   no, no. So under the   it would   it would depend on the nature of the support and whether or not it was covered under the bilateral agreement between Western Australia and the NDIA. 

CHAIR: That's what I'm trying to get at. I'm trying to work out how this works and whether parents get caught in a struggle between Commonwealth and State funding arrangements. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, yes. Again, I guess it's   we do have students in our schools that are not funded through the NDIA or not recipients of NDIS services. And in those instances, those services are provided, where they are provided, through the State of Western Australia, predominantly through the Departments of Health or the Departments of Communities. Less so in Communities since the NDIS has come into full implementation. So certainly we still do have Western Australian agency providers. 

CHAIR: All right. So in the case of a student who is a participant in the NDIS, as I understand your evidence, if it is determined by a principal that that student requires a support that could be provided through the NDIS then it's the parents' responsibility to make sure that the NDIS funding is available and is applied for that purpose. Have I got that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. Correct. That goes to the choice and control. Choice and control remains with the parent about how their NDIS funding is utilised. 

CHAIR: Okay. 

MS BENNETT: So if a person has not applied   a family has not applied for NDIS funding, will   for speech pathology assistance for a child with communication needs, is that something that will be provided by the Department of Education as a reasonable adjustment? 

MR PERCIVAL: We don't currently employ speech pathologists at a central level, and I think it talks in the statement around the Language Development Centre. But I think for the purpose of this discussion, that might confuse it a little bit. What schools can choose to do within their student centred funding model budget is where they believe that services are required, they can use their budget to do so. 

MS BENNETT: So what's the reasonable adjustment, so far as you understand it? 

MR PERCIVAL: A reasonable adjustment is what it requires for the student to access the curriculum. Whether that's the   you know, because we talked about the scope of disability, whether that's the West Australian curriculum or a modified curriculum or a differentiated curriculum. 

MS BENNETT: So can I ask you a few hypotheticals. Tell me, if somebody needs personal care assistance while they are in school, is that something that would be a reasonable adjustment for the child? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, it is and we provide those. The Western Australian government provides that. 

MS BENNETT: And so is that factored into, for example, funding for aides or is that separately dealt with? 

MR PERCIVAL: So when we talked about the student funding model earlier this morning and we talked about the checklist, the checklist, as one of the dimensions, includes toileting support, additional support. You know, those personal care in schools elements. 


CHAIR: That's true for an NDIS participant? 

MR PERCIVAL: It's true for   we don't distinguish between   under the   do you want me to just to clarify the arrangement?  So Western Australia, under our bilateral agreement with the NDIA, provides personal care in school supports directly. The practicality   and I think most jurisdictions do as well, because the practicalities of having the NDIS   or NDIA come in and provide those supports during school   it's the NDIA responsibility, but it's a responsibility that we've retained.

CHAIR: So this is, in effect, support in kind. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, it is, yes. 

CHAIR: For Western Australia. 

MR PERCIVAL: And so we calculate how many kids we provide for that and hours and all of the rest of it and we get a rebate, basically. 

MS BENNETT: So are there some supports that the department declines on the basis that it's appropriate that the NDIS provide it? 

MR PERCIVAL: There is a bilateral agreement, as we said, and those supports as to what should be provided by the NDIS are described in a table called the APTOS, Applied Principles   I will have to get the rest of it to you, I'm sorry. But it's basically a list of things that state agencies are responsible for and what the NDIA are responsible for. Where there's a dispute that is not   we have escalation   dispute escalation sort of strategies in place with the NDIA. So where the NDIA was not providing a particular support, we could use that avenue. But most of that is negotiated through families. 

MS BENNETT: I see. And so if there is an issue that arises for a family, the department takes it on escalates it with the NDIS? 

MR PERCIVAL: We   yes, we would. And we would   whether we   just to   whether we would escalate that direct to the NDIS or whether we would go through the lead agency that's responsible for the interface with the NDIA, which is, in our case, is the Department of Communities, but, yes, that could be raised. 

MS BENNETT: And what about equipment at school?  Might   for example a communication equipment, is that a school-based adjustment or is that an NDIS matter? 

MR PERCIVAL: As a basic principle, the most simple way of looking at it is, is that adjustment required for whole of life or is that adjustment required so that the student can engage. So it would depend on the nature of the equipment. A lot of the time, it falls in to the NDIA responsibility in terms of communication device. But let's remember that we have a bunch   a number of students who are not NDIA participants. They are not eligible for the NDIS or they have chosen not to be so. Our obligation is to   is to provide the teaching and learning adjustment, and in those situations, we would provide   we have contingencies in play to provide assistive technology to schools that are in that position. 

Through our Schools of Special Educational Need   Disability and Sensory, we have assistive technology   an assistive technology library, essentially, and the school works with   usually with their therapist, if it's technical, to actually access equipment. They can borrow, loan, trial assistive technology to support those. In   when we spoke about the student centred funding model, schools can choose to use their student centred funding model allocations to purchase their own equipment, and in the case of education support schools, where the enrolment link base is higher, then those schools are expected to purchase that sort of assistive technology where they    

MS BENNETT: And so who's making that evaluation. Is it the teacher or the principal? 

MR PERCIVAL: About the teaching and learning adjustments?


MR PERCIVAL: Predominantly, it's the teacher, in consultation with various support services. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. And will they take into account   

MR PERCIVAL: However, a teacher doesn't have control of the budget. The budget would   they would have to go through an application sort of a process. 

MS BENNETT: So if the teacher identifies a support that has a cost   so let's go back. The teacher   and we've talked about the training around the identification adjustments. 


MS BENNETT: The teacher is in the process of identifying adjustments, and do they have any discretion to expend funds to obtain adjustments? 

MR PERCIVAL: It depends on the school. And, so, you know, in most cases in   but you know, given that 85 per cent of our kids are in mainstream school, it's likely that they would go through an application process through the school finance committee, for example. Or they would at least seek the authority of the principal to expend school funds. Teachers aren't allowed to expend school funds without authorisation. 

MS BENNETT: We have been talking a lot about this in a general sense. I want to   is there a difference in the process of identification of adjustments between the local school, the mainstream school and a segregated school or a special school? 

MR PERCIVAL: Speaking generally   and I know you want to hone in, but I kind of can't. Speaking generally, the type of adjustments can be different in   by setting because of the type of students that generally enrol in particular settings. So, you know, in our education support schools, most students that   whose families choose to enrol in that setting have significant disability and require significant adjustments. So the type of adjustments would be different. Perhaps the intensity of the adjustments might be different. Am I answering  

MS BENNETT: But there's no difference in the process, is there? 

MR PERCIVAL: So the identification of adjustments in term   the processes will vary according to school because it depends on the supports that are available within that school. Some schools have   well, most schools have a student services team that will support. So, you know, the   most schools will have their own curriculum and assessment and reporting policy that speaks to their local context, and they will have processes and   sorry, they have varying supports available within the school. So I can't tell you that it's exactly the same in every school. 

All schools have access to things like the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data website that supports schools. All schools have access to our online suite of online professional learning. But the actual process that sits in can be quite different. We have recently developed online modules around case management that includes, obviously, teaching and learning adjustments for schools that they can access in terms of managing the support needs of their students. 

MS BENNETT: Right. So the actual process can be quite different. Is that between special schools and mainstream schools, to use the terminology we've been using this week? 

MR PERCIVAL: I think it's within and across schools. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. I understand. So that's  

MR PERCIVAL: Because it's a teacher job and teachers work in a different   you know, don't necessarily all work in the same way, you know, in terms of the way they are   

MS BENNETT: But I'm   can that lead to different outcomes for students with a disability who need the adjustment? 

MR PERCIVAL: I mean, that's why we actually develop local policies around curriculum assessment reporting. I was concerned about that too, Ms Bennett, in my own school and I was concerned about that from a communication perspective, that pretty much what we heard from Mr Croft on Tuesday, that variability in approaches. So schools in those sorts of situations develop their own policy. Durham Road, my school, has a very extensive communication policy, for example. It speaks to the types of assessments and baseline data. It talks about the types of multi modal intervention. It talks about the roles of communication partners. So that's the responsibility of schools. 

MS BENNETT: Is   and how is the department monitoring whether that responsibility is being executed properly? 

MR PERCIVAL: So, again, we set the parameters around those core policies, about the requirement and, in particular, in this example, the Curriculum Assessment Reporting policy and the Students at Educational Risk policy. 

MS BENNETT: That's at the start. What's at the   

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. At the other end? 

MS BENNETT: Let me give you the example of Mr Croft again. His evidence   and, again, you won't know the detail of whether this is true or not, but his evidence was that there was years upon years of IEPs, independent   Individual Education Plans that he said were not worth the paper they were written on. 


MS BENNETT: And he said, to paraphrase, year after year, there was a goal that he would be able to write letters and that they would use these adjustments to get there, and, year after year, there was no process. So is anyone checking to see, first of all, the adjustments are of the kind that you would expect to see? 

MR PERCIVAL: So any external outside of the school assessment?

MS BENNETT: Yes, yes. 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay. So I can talk about accountability measures, but at the individual level, that is the responsibility of the school principal. 

MS BENNETT: And that's the school   so the teacher is required to identify the adjustments. They may or may not be trained to do that. Then the question of whether or not the adjustments are being effective depends upon oversight by the principal. 

MR PERCIVAL: Generally speaking, yes. 

MS BENNETT: Is there any   

MR PERCIVAL: So the monitoring of student achievement and progress is the responsibility of the principal. Now, we do have external accountability mechanisms as well through the public school review process and through the school compliance review and elements like that. Think about that as predominantly an audit around school processes. But you're  

MS BENNETT: That's a general audit, isn't it? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. But what you're  

MS BENNETT: It's not a disability   

MR PERCIVAL: No, but you're talking about is accountability for individual students; am I correct?

MS BENNETT: Absolutely, yes. 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay, great. So, yes, that does sit with the principal, whereas accountability at a whole of school level has those external accountability measures. 

MS BENNETT: So are principals required to review the reports, review the progress of each student by reference to their IEP? 

MR PERCIVAL: I'm not sure it's a   I have to check on that. I just know that it's done. 

MS BENNETT: How do you know that it's done, Mr Percival? 

MR PERCIVAL: Because   I mean, I hear from my colleagues all the time about report time. It's   you know. 

MS BENNETT: Parents hear other things. 

CHAIR: Sorry. Just   

MR PERCIVAL: November and December is a hell of a time for principals in school. Principals or their delegates in terms of the review. I can talk about my processes. I'm just not sure that the actual review of an IEP is documented in policy. I know that the   the student educational risk policy includes a requirement for review, I'm just not sure that in answer to your question about IEPs it's a requirement. 

MS BENNETT: And I guess where this began was really around adjustments and whether or not anyone's actually reviewing the implementation of adjustments to see that they are working. It's a tied question, but, again, where is the pathway of accountability around adjustments in a school? 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay. So the pathway leads to the principle about individual adjustments. We have a range of supports that are available and accessed by schools in terms of   and one of the big ones of those is the special education   reporting to parents special educational needs which supports teachers and schools to plan, monitor and review student progress and report to parents. So most schools are   or many schools are actually using that system to plan, monitor and review. And what that let's them do is to create and design curriculum around the individual needs of students. We do recognise that at a systems level, and to some degree at a schools level, student   I'm using the word "academic", but just embrace that in terms of performance; I'm not necessarily talking about league tables or things like that. We do recognise that student performance measures for some cohorts of disability are   that our existing mechanisms like NAPLAN and things like that don't necessarily meet the needs of teachers and even us as a system to monitor the health, if you like, of student progress. And so that's why this year we are in   in our Focus 22 document you might have seen reference to an intent to actually explore student performance measurements as they pertain to students with disability. And that's work that is also occurring at an inter-jurisdictional level as a part of the 2020 review of the Disability Standards For Education. Queensland is leading that work on our behalf at a national kind of level. 

MS BENNETT: So that's   is that connected with   can we put in the same category adjustments, curriculum planning, and behaviour management planning? 

MR PERCIVAL: They are very different things but   

MS BENNETT: In terms of accountability pathways are they all leading to the principal around those three   

MR PERCIVAL: At a school level, yes, yes, they are. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. And to get past that principal the parent would need to make   well, they would need to make a complaint to the regional office. What would a parent do? If they thought this individual education plan isn't taking into account what I believe is in the best interests of my child, I think they need different challenges. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, they could choose to use that stepped escalation profile  if they chose to. 

MS BENNETT: And that would go up to the region or the central? 

MR PERCIVAL: In the first instance   well, so local school in the first instance. 

MS BENNETT: Local school. 

MR PERCIVAL: Region if they   although this is not a one, two, three, four, five. It can be a one, four. It can just be a straight forward sort of process. So it's up to a parent how they choose to   where choose to lodge a complaint. But generally we prefer that we solve it at a local level wherever we possibly can and then at the region in the next instance. But it's not a requirement of a parent. We can't require a parent to complain in a particular stepped out process. 

MS BENNETT: Where else is there for them to complain? 


MS BENNETT: About, for example an individual education plan, where else do they complain? 

MR PERCIVAL: School, region, if they   if it was something that, you know, they thought was affecting the safety of our child, for example, or if they felt that it was a conduct issue on behalf of the principal they could go to our Standards Integrity Directorate. And as we spoke about this morning they could go to the complaints hotline, parent and liaison office. They could go externally if it was something   you know, they've got the option of the police if it warranted. The human rights   

MS BENNETT: I'm still just at the curriculum so we can probably leave the police out at this point. 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay, let's keep it that way. Alright, good. 

MS BENNETT: But   so a parent considers that the curriculum isn't addressing the needs of their child, they have addressed it with the school, the school declines to take further action. The next step is for the parent to escalate it. Is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: If they chose to do so they could do. We would hope that the complaint would be resolved at that local level and that's our experience of most complaints. 

MS BENNETT: We heard some evidence this week that parents in effect chose their battles around things that   


MS BENNETT:   what they could live with and what they couldn't live with. 


MS BENNETT: Is that feedback you've heard in the past, that parents might be reluctant to raise   

MR PERCIVAL: I've heard   you know, I've read reports, I've heard reports, you know, and around a reluctance to   to make those complaints. That aligns with some work that we   we   a report that we received from Developmental Disability WA who is one of our bigger advocate groups. 

MS BENNETT: It's now well accepted, isn't it, that these are areas that can give rise to dispute between school and   

MR PERCIVAL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Certainly the report that DDWA, Developmental Disability WA   wrote was called Beyond Complaints, and that was certainly a fantastic piece of information for us when we determined to developed the parent liaison office and the functions of that liaison office. 

MS BENNETT: And that's   is that an attempt   sorry, and what steps does the Department of Education take to try to pre empt and avoid the complaint arising in the first place, the dispute arising in the first place? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yeah. So, within schools I think is the first place, we often particularly in larger schools see what we call   what we refer to as learning support coordinators. And so   and their role is to support teachers to actually provide those teaching and learning adjustments. Sometimes they are called student services coordinators. And they are a bit of a conduit and they are an avenue before you actually need to actually raise a complaint. So that's what I'm talking about at the local level. I guess they are somebody that is highly skilled in their area of teaching and learning adjustments and so we would   you know, so schools do things to minimise complaints. We actually want to do the right thing, you know, by kids with disabilities. It's a rare school that would go, "actually, I don't want to provide adjustments to kids." 

CHAIR: Ms Bennett, I see the time. I'm going to make a rare timetable intervention and suggest that we have 45 minutes for lunch. I think that since you will have some more questions to ask of Mr Percival, and I'm sure my colleagues have some questions they would like to put, I would suggest we have an extra half hour with Mr Percival, the schedule calls us then to have two hours for the witness from South Australia, Dr Croser Barlow, I think it is, and we could have two hours by going, if necessary, to 4.15. So I suggest we adjourn until 1.45. If you don't mind, Mr Percival, if you can come back we will have an extra half hour. That will give my colleagues a chance to ask questions that they may have, and then you can conclude your examination. All right. We will adjourn until 1.45. 



CHAIR: Ms Bennett, I think if you continue with your examination and when you're concluded I will ask my colleagues if they have any questions and, in that way, we should have enough time to deal with the issues that arise. 

MS BENNETT: If it please the Commission. 

Now, Mr Percival, I would like to ask you about transitioning from school. So a person with a disability has come to the end of their schooling. What sort of proactive steps does the Department of Education take to plan their transition from school to their post school life, whatever that may be? 

MR PERCIVAL: Sure. And we're specifically talking about kids with disabilities?


MR PERCIVAL: Yes, all right. Given   given the scope of disability and how it manifests itself, I kind of need to talk a little bit about mainstream transition   


MR PERCIVAL:   as well. So in Western Australian public schools, we provide flexible pathways to employment, to further education and/or community. Pathway planning is an ongoing process for schools, and that's managed predominantly at the school level. Many schools choose to utilise their student centred funding model one line budget to employ   for targeted employment of people to support transition. I'm just going to stop for a minute, Ms Bennett, and just check, did you say employment? Is that what you   

MS BENNETT: Post school life. 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay, the whole lot. 

MS BENNETT: Let's just pause there for a moment. Let me break down what we've got so far. It might be a bit easier. So across all school settings, does the Department of Education itself   and we will come to what principals might choose to do in a moment. Does the Department of Education itself have structures in place to plan the transition of students with a disability from school to their post school lives? 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay. So in terms of preparation for transition, obviously, we have the suite of senior secondary and K to 10 curriculum offerings, if you like. So, you know, there's   schools plan a range of courses to actually prepare students for post school life. Whether that's at ATAR, Australian Tertiary Admission Rank type courses, whether they are general courses, foundation courses, preliminary courses   these are all senior secondary courses   or whether they are more immediate work focus through vocational employment and training. 

Basically, schools have to comply with the WA Certificate of Education manual, which pretty much describes all of those courses. For a targeted group of students with disabilities for whom attainment of a full WA Certificate of Education is not likely due   because they have significant disabilities, we also have what we call endorsed programs, and endorsed programs are programs that are endorsed through   not the same endorsed programs as I spoke about this morning; these are curriculum programs   through the School Curriculum and Standards Authority. So there's a plethora of courses that we can access. 

We have individual pathway planning processes. We have access to things like the Myfuture website that supports targeted awareness around different employment sort of options and action plans. We have access to what we   it's ASDAN. I'm going to have to read   I can never remember what ASDAN is called but ASDAN is an example of an endorsed education support program that prepares young people with disabilities for post school life. There  

MS BENNETT: Can I pause there just to ask you about that. Is that a program by the Department of Education? 

MR PERCIVAL: So the ASDAN program actually comes from England. It's called at Awards Scheme Development Accreditation Network programs. It's a serious of programs that students can engage with and it's   we   Western Australia holds a licence agreement with ASDAN. And the beauty of the ASDAN program is that, regardless of what school you are going to, schools can actually have access to that program. And there were some TAFEs as well   technical college, TAFEs if   are you familiar with the east coast   west coast TAFES? 


MR PERCIVAL: Okay, good. There were some TAFEs that were also. So it gave a bit of a further education for a unique group of kids. 

MS BENNETT: So that's the Department of Education Western Australia or Western Australian Government? 

MR PERCIVAL: That's the Department of Education   government. On top of that we have things like taster programs, in the   for students who have more significant disability, we   there is also a yearly expo where students can actually go and usually around about year 9, 10 and 11 and 12 students will actually go to the expo, they will meet service providers of employment, service providers of community based programs, service providers, you know, a range of service providers. And they often attend with their families and get much more of an understanding as to what's out there. So there's a number of things that we do. 

MS BENNETT: So when does planning begin for students with a disability on their transition out of the education system? 

MR PERCIVAL: Did are you   are you talking about readiness for post school   it depends on what you mean by transition. If you are talking about readiness for post school life then we are talking around the year 10 level. 


MR PERCIVAL: In some respects we also have year 9 taster programs. 


MR PERCIVAL: If you're talking about the actual nuts and bolts of "I'm here today and I'm going to be there in 12 months time or in six months time", then that's more closer to the end of the school year. So we do a preparation phase and then you work into the transition sort of phase. There's a number of things that we do. 

MS BENNETT: Is there a documented process for this?   Is this something that happens   

MR PERCIVAL: There's   there's a couple of policies. 

MS BENNETT: I'm sorry. I've been unclear. I don't mean   


MS BENNETT: Is the transition plan written down anywhere? 

MR PERCIVAL: Okay. Yes. So we have the umbrella term of documented plan and transition plans like we saw in   that Mr Croft spoke to on Tuesday. We   it's really up to schools as to how they plan; however, we do provide transition modules through our Schools of Special Education that include templates for plans, one of which is the Compass which   Compass with two Ps. It is Comprehensive Planning for People on the ASD Spectrum. So we provide supports and examples of how to do that. 

MS BENNETT: So is it fair that the department provides supports, templates, and educational opportunities for staff, but the decision about how it is executed again rests with the principal?

MR PERCIVAL: Rests with the school and in line   in alignment with there's a couple of key policies around VET and workplace learning. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, but those are specific to   

MR PERCIVAL: Yeah, those options.

MS BENNETT: Those options. 


MS BENNETT: But as a broad proposition   

MR PERCIVAL: And, again in   I mean, in the newer   I mean, we've   in Western Australia, we transitioned to full implementation of the NDIS scheme as recently as last year. 


MR PERCIVAL: And so there are   we acknowledge we've got some work to do around roles and relationships between education and the NDIA in that there are   there's some need for a little bit more clarity within schools about what sits where. Because it's kind of like a duplication of service. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. So, at the moment, there's a duplication of service between the department and NDIS; is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: Ideally, that they're integrated. 


MR PERCIVAL: But in terms of responsibility, you know, it's kind of the NDIA in some respects and kind of us. 

MS BENNETT: And do you have a   is there a communication conduit presently happening around that? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, yes. So we have actually done a number of joint presentations with the NDIA around transition. 

MS BENNETT: I see. Okay. I want to turn to   

MR PERCIVAL: And just   sorry, Ms Bennett. We also have the NDIS interface steering committee at a state level we can raise those types of concerns. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. And we've been speaking a lot about the way in which schools can adjust their processes to assist and accommodate students with a disability. I wanted to   well, can I test with you the way in which the school responds to behaviours of concern that might call for what is termed in your policies withdrawal or protective isolation. Do you know what I mean when I talk about withdrawal first? 


MS BENNETT: And that   that's   there's a policy that relates to this or it's a requirements related to the student behaviour policy. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: That's right. The Commissioners will find that at tab E14. I won't put it up on the screen for now unless it's necessary, but, broadly speaking, this is a document that outlines, just reading from the beginning, the requirements of schools in providing every student with the educational support the student needs to learn and maintain positive behaviour and good standing at school. And then it goes   it goes on to say: 

"Further mandated requirements specific to the areas below are provided for schools to meet their obligations under the student behaviour policy and procedures."

And then it goes through and identifies procedures in relation to withdrawal, suspension, detention, exclusion, protective isolation and physical restraint. Is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. Correct. Essentially what it does is it pulls various elements of the Act   Acts into one document. 

MS BENNETT: So looking first at   I just want to understand withdrawal. I will read to you from the policy. It says, "A school administrator"   just to pause, who is a school administrator? 

MR PERCIVAL: Generally speaking, it will be the principal or an associate principal, as in that we have two words for a deputy   so it's a deputy or an associate. 


"... may withdraw a student from class, breaks, or other school activities as part of a school's planned behaviour support response, applied as close as possible to the time of the breach of school discipline. Withdrawal is used for the purpose of providing opportunity to calm in circumstance where the student has become unable to self regulate and/or reflect and/or evaluate..."

And then to the final dot point: 

"... to continue learning in a less stimulating environment." 

So that's   that withdrawal can be to a place outside the classroom? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, it can. 

MS BENNETT: Or inside the classroom? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, it can. 

MS BENNETT: So would that involve, for example, when we heard about Ryan being surrounded by blackboards. Would that be withdrawal within that meaning? 

MR PERCIVAL: Possibly. Look, it's hard for me   I have read that section, and it's hard for me to actually read from the documents exactly what that intent was. As a principal that was practising at the time, I also know that at that time there was a teaching methodology called TEACCH that was specifically around students with autism. It's TEACCH with two Cs, and we will be able to get you the full title of it. 

But, basically, what it was, was a way in which   and is still is   a way in which we organise learning. So   and Mr Croft kind of talked a little bit about this. He used the word PECS, but I think he possibly meant TEACCH. And so in   at the time, corrals were quite popular in terms of, if you think about a corral as like a big old computer desk with sides here and sides here, and it meant that the kids had areas in which they could post in their various visual schedules, etcetera, and a way of actually organising the work could easily present it. That's what I read was the intention of a corral. 

However, it sounds, after Mr Croft's testimony, that there were   I think there was mention of blackboards and things like that. Which is a bit unusual for a corral. It might have been that they were trying to make sure that Ryan had an area that was a little bit more devoid of   you know, external stimuli or distracting stimuli. So I can't really say whether or not that's an example of withdrawal or whether it's actually a teaching and learning adjustment. 

MS BENNETT: Is it sometimes difficult to tell the difference between what's withdrawal and what's a teaching and education tool? 

MR PERCIVAL: It could be. But what you would normally expect would   when you think about more traditional ways of withdrawal, as in, you know, outside of the classroom, going to a buddy class to work in a different location, some of those sorts of withdrawal methods, you would usually assume that they would be documented in an individual behaviour plan. 

MS BENNETT: Is the breach of school discipline a requirement for withdrawal to happen?  I notice it says here that "applied as close as possible to the time of the breach of school discipline". Is that   is that part of the process of a student withdrawal? 

MR PERCIVAL: Usually, withdrawal would involve a breach of school discipline. And that's another reason that's sort of hitting in my head as to whether the corral is actually a withdrawal. 


MR PERCIVAL: And, of course, the student behaviour policy requires principals to consider whether or not the behaviour is a manifestation of their disability before applying consequences. 

MS BENNETT: So where it is a manifestation of their disability, what's the consequences of that? 

MR PERCIVAL: Well, I   well, it depends on what the nature   so of the breach was. But I was   we are really referring to you would expect that if withdrawal was a part of the program or the   you know, programmed response, the hierarchy of response, well, then that would be included in the student behaviour plan. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. Is there any incongruity in talking about a breach of school discipline for a manifestation of a disability? 

MR PERCIVAL: I don't think so. Because it would be   there is, in some circumstances, but I would be thinking that the   in relation to withdrawal, that the withdrawal could well be   you know, it might result in a behaviour that could be considered a breach of discipline. But if it was a part of a behaviour plan, then it's also an adjustment. Does that   

MS BENNETT: Well, is it a breach of discipline to just be yourself, if you're   if manifesting your disability involves, for example   

MR PERCIVAL: No, no. However, if you require a sensory break, some time outside, some    to return, well, then that's actually an adjustment. 

MS BENNETT: I see. So it is fair to say it might be difficult to distinguish between the two at different times? 

MR PERCIVAL: If withdrawal is used in an unplanned manner, you know, as a consequence of a breach of discipline, then you would suggest that that would fit within the Royal Commission's definition of a restrictive practice. If it's used as a planned part of response and was about giving the student what it is that they needed, well, then you would suggest that is probably a teaching and learning adjustment. 

MS BENNETT: So protective isolation is a little bit different. 

CHAIR: Ms Bennett, how long are you likely to be?  Bearing in mind our little discussion about timing earlier on?

MS BENNETT: I will be very, very brief, Chair. 

CHAIR: Very good. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you. Protective isolation is something that is also referred to in this policy, and it tells us that it is implemented when the child's state poses an imminent risk of harm to self or others and is used only when other less restrictive strategies have proven unsuccessful. So how common is the use of protective isolation in Western Australia? 

MR PERCIVAL: Very unusual. Yeah. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. Where are records kept around it? 

MR PERCIVAL: They are kept centrally. Since 2016, schools have been required to report the use of protective isolation through the online incident notification system. The actual authorisation of the   it's   it's   I've gone to the end. If we go to the beginning, the authorise   at the start of 2016, all existing protective isolation rooms and approvals were decommissioned and schools had to reapply. So the authorisation of the construction of a room and the standards with which they are constructed is managed in our Program and Works area, following the approval of the director of schools. 

The authorisation of the use of that room is managed at the director of education level within the regions, and since 2016, it's required the sign off of the lead school psychologist and also the appropriate School of Special Educational Needs principal. So I can tell you that in term one of this year, we have three protective isolation rooms that are authorised for use, and they are authorised for use with up to seven students. Not at a time, seven students in total. So seven students out of the 60,000   approximately 60,000 students we have with disabilities. And they are all approved for use with students with a disability. We don't currently have any that are approved for students without a disability. 

MS BENNETT: So, as you understand it, any prior use of protective isolation rooms before 2016 was deauthorised. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And came to an end. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

MS BENNETT: And then since that time, there's been a new application process. Is that right? 

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. 

MS BENNETT: With additional sign offs. 

MR PERCIVAL: For both the construction of the rooms and the actual use of the rooms. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. And that has led to now you centrally keep a record of when protective isolation rooms   

MR PERCIVAL: That's correct. That's correct. There are a number of other requirements that have introduced in that time and probably the chief one is that a functional behaviour analysis occur. 


MR PERCIVAL: And that self regulation and co regulation strategies are identified. 

MS BENNETT: And do you proactively monitor the use of such rooms? 

MR PERCIVAL: Absolutely. So the protective isolation rooms are only authorised for use for up to one term and then they are reviewed by those particular officers. And the school is required to report, as I indicated, through the online incident notification system. 

MS BENNETT: Are the doors able to be locked? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, they are. 

MS BENNETT: From the outside? 

MR PERCIVAL: From the outside. 

MS BENNETT: And what are the protections in place in relation to that matter? 

MR PERCIVAL: There are   they must have a viewing window through which the child can be supervised at all times. We have to put into perspective that this is extreme stuff. This is extreme behaviour and very, very infrequent use. 

MS BENNETT: If you just excuse me for a moment. 


MS BENNETT: Thank you, Chair. Those are the matters I seek to raise. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much. Mr Percival, I will just ask my colleagues if they have any questions. First, Commissioner Mason. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Thank you very much for your evidence this afternoon. I actually wanted to touch on what Ms Bennett was closing with, and that's for some children who attend schools in WA with a disability and they may be First Nations children in the out of home care system, they may be children that find themselves in Banksia Hill, Telethon Institute, I think previously looked at that institution, nine out of the 10 kid there's having a disability, and we know of the work in the Fitzroy Valley with FASD. 

And so   and we also had a public hearing, hearing 16, looking at our First Nations children with disability in the out of home care system, and we spoke to long term foster carers. We heard about kinship carers and the challenges of diagnosis and so forth. So just thinking about all of those factors, the high rates of First Nations children in out of home care as well as in detention, how does that factor into the   and that's   that's a   unfortunately, for many, a realism for kids. How does the education system think about approaches and interventions in relation to putting in supports that ameliorate that possibility?  That was really my question. 

MR PERCIVAL: It's a big one. 


MR PERCIVAL: So in terms of out of care living arrangements, as a part of our CEO instruction, all children who are living in out of care are required to have a documented plan, whether they are First Nations students or not and whether they have a disability or not. So there's a recognition of the need for targeted sort of adjustments. In relation to Banksia Hill, the department has a memorandum of understanding with Banksia Hill and support   financial support sort of arrangements that we can get to you, if you would be interested in them. 

But in addition as young   predominantly young people transition from remand to community based settings we have a team that actually support   and whether they have a disability or not   we have a team that supports those young people to re engage in education as they re enter the education system. 

I think you mentioned FASD and the Kimberley. We have actually worked with organisations within the Kimberley on developing an upskilling program for teachers in the Kimberley that was due for implementation within schools just prior to COVID, and we are just in the process of actually bringing that back on, on board. So we are actually really excited about that to see   and that's specifically around disability and   sorry, it's specific around FASD and, of course, if it's   has implications for disability as well. 

And just, finally, we recognise that, in some areas, diagnosis of disability is a real challenge and we recognise the knock on effect that that has to disability resourcing. We are in the process of actually looking at   doing some number crunching, some data analysis around that and looking at ways in which we can ensure that children in those remote and very remote areas can have access to at least interim funding whilst they go through and attempt to seek a diagnosis. 

So we are just in the processes of actually establishing how that might look, whether that's through an individual disability allocation that we spoke about this morning or whether that's through some sort of block funding. So, Commissioner Mason, we know that's a problem and we are   it's on the radar. Yes.

COMMISSIONER MASON: Thank you very much. 

MR PERCIVAL: Thank you. 

CHAIR: Commissioner Galbally. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Thank you for your evidence. I'm just very   the only question I want to ask is really about accountability and specifically of mainstream schools on the pathway   you call it a process, I think, towards inclusion. And how you would know, you know, do   are you planning, for instance, to introduce an inclusive schools score card? 

MR PERCIVAL: That's not on the agenda yet, but what I can tell you is that through the public school review process that all schools go through, whether they are a mainstream school or a segregated school, as a part of the public school review process, schools are actually   the public school review process links to our School Improvement and Accountability Framework and that framework includes domains such as the quality of the learning environment, student achievement and progress, quality of teaching. A variety of areas. Within each one of those areas there are standards and then schools have to submit evidence as to how they are meeting those standards. One of those standards actually relates to inclusivity. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Well, I'm just thinking of issues such as gatekeeping, such as UDLs and such as withdrawal. Like, I don't want to brainstorm what would be in the score card, but do you   are you intending to hold schools accountable with audits, with spot audits and spot checks to make sure that students with disabilities are let in the gate in the first place and then taught well so that they succeed? 

MR PERCIVAL: At this point, Commissioner Galbally, we don't actually have an intention to introduce an inclusion score card. However, through the Supporting the Teaching and Learning of Students with Disabilities and Complex Behaviour, that includes a domain that we are looking at in terms of providing clear guidelines and leadership, including obligations under the Disability Standards in Education. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Right. Do you have any way of gathering intelligence about red light warnings where there's clusters of students excluded or clusters of complaints. Is there any red light opportunity for you to think, yes, no, that school is not   

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, certainly there's data points like suspension, like exclusion and our complaints data. All of   data is probably the biggest lesson that we've actually learnt from our engagement with the Commission thus far in terms of our ability to produce data that is of interest to the Commission and, therefore, interest to us in terms of improvement intents. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: And then are you planning a flying squad to go out to that school and to fix it so that it doesn't continue?  And so that the principals aren't allowed to exclude children and not treat them properly? 

MR PERCIVAL: One of the key accountability measures, we have the public school review process, but in the agreement that the Director General has with schools, through the funding agreement, the Director General can commission a review at any time, and does. So  

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: How many have been done about inclusive education and children with disabilities? 

MR PERCIVAL: I would have to find that information for you, Commissioner. However, I know they are done because I personally did one in 2019. And the data source for that was complaints related data. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: And just finally, there's still   there's no independent complaints mechanism for parents?  It's not independent. I just want to make sure I understood that. 

MR PERCIVAL: So there's   there are independent mechanisms like, for example, through   

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Yes, yes, I'm talking about through   

MR PERCIVAL: But there's no independent, yeah, agency or   


CHAIR: Mr Percival, you indicated, I think, that Western Australia has not been building any more special or segregated schools. Are you able to say why not?  Is that because of a particular policy decision that has been made or is it just because there's been no need for it or what? 

MR PERCIVAL: No, there's certainly always a need. It's a   you know, disability is a growing population in Western Australia as it is like other jurisdictions. In 2006, we launched the Building Inclusive School, Building Inclusive Classrooms program and as a part of that particular   the Building Inclusive Schools Strategy and the Building Inclusive Class program. 

As a part of that overall strategy, our corporates   corporate executive at the time determined that we would no longer build segregated schools, that we would adopt the more inclusive endorsed education support program and other support programs that are located within existing schools. 

CHAIR: And where do we find that policy or program written down? 

MR PERCIVAL: We would have to find that and inform  

CHAIR: Would you be good enough to do that? 


CHAIR: You have also indicated that   

MR PERCIVAL: Sorry, Chair, it was also a part of our Building and Infrastructure 10 Year Forward plan. 

CHAIR: Right. All right. Well, we will   I'm about to ask about some more data and what I think we will do is ask the Office of Solicitor Assisting to prepare a further notice to get this and other information so it's quite clear what we are seeking. You indicated earlier that you would be prepared to obtain numbers of students in the various categories of schools that you identify in paragraph 8 of your statement. 

We would also, I think, be interested in trends over a period of time as far as enrolments of those school   in those schools are concerned. And that is something that I would like to ask our Office of Solicitor Assisting to arrange through more notices or a notice to give information. And there's no need for you to say anything about that at the moment. 

You've correctly made the point, I think, that there is considerable diversity among students with disability. Fairly obviously, it may be much easier to satisfy the accessibility requirements of a student with limited mobility than it may be to satisfy all accessibility requirements for a student with complex needs and who has intellectual disability. It would be helpful to know what proportion of students who satisfy the eligibility criteria for special or segregated schools in Western Australia are actually in special segregated schools and what proportion are in mainstream schools. 

We often find comparisons made between students with disability without necessarily the cohorts being as precisely defined and as precisely comparable as possible. Is it possible to get that information? 

MR PERCIVAL: I think so, Chair. I   I'm just working through machinations of some of those, yes. 

CHAIR: If you are not sure, that's fine. That too can be subject of a notice and whether the material can be obtained or not, as the case may be. 

MR PERCIVAL: Your first request, I know that they were provided under    Notice to Produce 0007. So   but we can provide that to you    

CHAIR: Well, it may be that the material has already been provided. If so, it does not need to be compiled again. 

My next question is what is the composition   you referred   of the special supports team   the central supports team that is available to give assistance, as it were, on request to schools in local areas?  Who is in there? 

MR PERCIVAL: So there's a variety of supports available. Bear in mind that we have four   it's the Schools of Special Educational Needs are a federation of four schools. We have Sensory, we have Behaviour and Engagement, we have Disability, and we have Medical and Mental Health. The majority of the workforce are teachers with   we call them either visiting teachers or consulting teachers with subject matter expertise in those areas. 

They are also supplemented by other people that would naturally work in those areas. So behaviour coordination is an example. We would have interpreters available within the School of Special Educational Needs   Sensory. We have psychologists available. And they supplement existing resources, including the school psychology service that sit within  

CHAIR: I understand that. I'm referring to the central organisation. You're describing that central organisation, are you? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct, yes. 

CHAIR: Again, I'm not sure whether you provided the information, but it may be helpful for us to know just what the composition of this special supports team. I'm not sure if I'm using the correct description. 

The associated question with that is how does that team provide support, for example, to a school that predominantly consists of First Nations children and perhaps has a high proportion of First Nations children with disability?  How does an agency that's based in Perth, presumably, assist a school that may be in Wyndham or Broome or wherever? 

MR PERCIVAL: Sure. Yes. So if we are referring to the Schools of Special Educational Needs, they all have schools   have consulting   

CHAIR: I'm not necessarily referring to assistance provides to school   to special schools. I'm talking about any school. 

MR PERCIVAL: No, no, no. So the Schools for Special Educational Needs within our state wide services branch provide services to any school that requests. And what we do is  we do a needs analysis and we work out what it is that the schools are actually seeking and make sure that we send the most appropriate consulting teacher or mix of consulting teachers to actually support that request. 

CHAIR: So they will go to the local area. 

MR PERCIVAL: They will go or they are located already in major regional areas. So we have people from Kununurra through to Esperance, which is pretty much the length of the country, that are based locally. However, where they require specialist support or they are not the best person to support the need, we will send the most appropriate. 

CHAIR: From that central agency. 

MR PERCIVAL: From that central, yeah. 

CHAIR: I see. The next question follows on from what Commissioner Galbally asked. Do you agree that there should be an independent system for resolving concerns about matters like the content of an independent learning plan, the content of a behaviour management plan or refusal to enrol a student?   Is that something that you would accept is desirable? 

MR PERCIVAL: Do I believe that there should be a central organisation that oversees what   

CHAIR: No, my question is do you   do you accept that there should be an independent body that can deal with the complaints or concerns about those matters?  Independent of the department. 

MR PERCIVAL: I believe that there are already existing advocacy processes through which   

CHAIR: Like the Ombudsman. 

MR PERCIVAL: Like the State Disability Advocacy Program, like the National Disability Advocacy Program, and that they are complemented by the   

CHAIR: Sorry, how does the National Advocacy Program provide an independent decision maker in relation to concerns as distinct from providing advice, assistance and advocacy on behalf of a   

MR PERCIVAL: Sure, I understand what you're saying. I didn't understand that you were talking about a decision making body. 

CHAIR: I'm talking about decision making. 

MR PERCIVAL: I think that's a matter probably   for me personally, I actually think that the Parent Liaison office and the existing processes we have are satisfactory. However, that's probably a decision for somebody   

CHAIR: Yes, well, my next subquestion is shouldn't the Liaison office be independent as well of the department?  I just have in mind that you've got parents, let us say, who want to get assistance and where do they go?  They go to the Department of Education and to some office within the Department of Education to get advice about challenging the Department of Education. It does seem a little conflicted. 

MR PERCIVAL: I understand the complexity and the challenge around that. But that's not currently our position. 

CHAIR: Right. All right. So that may be something we need to address in any report that we make. I noticed from the detailed statement that you provided   and I think this is around about paragraph 146 onwards   that there are 10   there were 10 separate questions, in effect, asking who prepared the content of policies, procedures and guidelines dealing with certain matters. And of those 10, my assessment is that four   Students at Educational Risk policy and procedures, which is number 6A, dealt with at page 24 of your statement; 6D, which is Student Behaviour and Public Schools policy and procedures, dealt with at page 26, paragraph 155; 6F, which is Let's Take a Stand Together Statement on Violence in School; and 6I, which is at page 30, Curriculum Assessment and Reporting policy reviews   each of those four seems to me, at least, to be particularly relevant to students with disability. 

The others may be as well, but they seem, on the face of it, to be particularly connected. As far as I can tell, none of the processes for those four, or indeed any of the 10, involved consultations with people with disability, disability representative organisations or other agencies that may have specific membership of people with disability. Am I right about that? 

MR PERCIVAL: I can't confirm for the historical, but yes. 

CHAIR: No, I'm just reading what's said from pages 24 through to page 31 inclusive. I see no reference to anything   

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. That's correct. What I can't confirm is whether or not   who the people that were consulted actually consulted with, if that makes sense. 

CHAIR: Yes, so there might have been a principal, for example, who happens to it be a person with disability and so on. 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

CHAIR: But that's a very different thing from consulting with   

MR PERCIVAL: But it's   I understand    

CHAIR: So the question that follows from that is, should all this be changed to ensure that there is consultation for issues that affect students with disability to ensure that there is consultation with organisations that represent people with disability and with people with disability themselves? 

MR PERCIVAL: I personally agree with you, Chair. And what we are seeing with the policies that are currently space, including the Student Behaviour policy, Student Healthcare policy, is a more sophisticated and contemporary approach towards policy development that   I want to use the word "co-design" but I'm not sure that they're quite there yet. But a much more collaborative process through which we develop   a Student Attendance policy, for an example, as an example, is one where it was a much more outward looking perspective of policy development. 

CHAIR: So we might expect to see in the near future policies that embed the processes of consultation of the kind to which I referred? 

MR PERCIVAL: Correct. 

CHAIR: Right. What about your ideas on compulsory continuing education, if I can put it that way, on issues that particularly affect students with disability, such as education in the content of the CRPD, the Disability Discrimination Act, the Disability Education Standards. From your description, it seems that there is material available, if somebody wants to   a teacher wants to seek it out, but that's one thing. It's quite another to require people as part of their continuing professional obligations to be exposed to at least some instruction in these rather fundamental human rights issues? 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes. One of the focus areas of the Supporting Teaching and Learning of Students with Disability and Behaviour, one of the focus areas is clear guidelines and leadership, and that includes an intention to   

CHAIR: So are we talking about university courses or something else? 

MR PERCIVAL: No, we are talking about a framework that's been developed for implementation in our schools. 

CHAIR: I see. 

MR PERCIVAL: The Minister just announced $4.2 million to fund it over the next two years. But one of the items that sits within that plan is to explore the incorporation of Disability Standards for Education modules in both graduate teacher modules, which is a graduate teacher program that we run in Western Australia, and also the principal eligibility models. So that's some work we are currently doing at the moment. So if you want to become a principal, for example, those modules are the core elements of the things you need to know about before you're   I don't want to use the word licensed to be a principal but that's an easy way of sort of thinking about it. 

CHAIR: But, in effect, it will be a requirement to undertake those modules. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, so that's what we're currently exploring. We are exploring how we can go about actually doing some of those things. 

CHAIR: All right. Thank you. A criticism that's often advanced of special segregated schools or classes is that students in those schools continue on a segregated path in life and therefore are denied opportunities. I'm just wondering if you have thoughts about that and whether you accept that criticism?  If it's not something that you've directed attention to, then I don't want you to answer it on the spot. 

MR PERCIVAL: We have certainly thought about it because it's of interest to the Commission. And when you enrol in a school in Western Australia, you don't make a lifetime decision to stay in that school for your entirety. And what we often see is that parents and children with disability   young people with disabilities make different choices at different times. And so there's certainly no   we usually see those decisions made at key transition points. 

So I find that   I found that language strong. But I can also understand where that comes from. And the other thing about that is we struggle to have methodologies through which we can compare the achievement of students with disabilities. As I mentioned earlier today, as part of Focus 22, which is our improvement document, we're doing some work in that area about student performance measures, but currently I can't confirm or deny whether that's the case in Western Australia. 

CHAIR: All right. Thank you. And just one final question, my understanding is within the last budget for Western Australia, there was a surplus of something like $4 billion. I may be wrong about that, but that's the figure I seem to recall. Let us assume, Mr Percival, that a benevolent government decided to give to you a large amount of money. Another $400 million. What would you do with it? 

MR PERCIVAL: We would most likely launch Building Inclusive Schools, Building Inclusive Classrooms round two. We do have a benevolent State Government at the moment, you know, $4.2 million and $18.2 million for    

CHAIR: I would expect any Western Australian to describe that. 

MR PERCIVAL: So we really want to see in our schools students accessing the best curriculum, best pedagogy, the most effectively trained staff. We want to make sure that those staff have access to the support that they need when they need it in a really prompt kind of a way. We want our leaders to operate with very clear guidelines, with   and to really lead their communities in this space rather than react to   you know, reaction to communities is important. We want to see what's next for people with disabilities in terms of where they go to school. 

So we can build buildings, but what do those buildings need to actually look like on the inside to remove barriers for young people with disabilities?  And we want to make sure   

CHAIR: You mean physical barriers. 

MR PERCIVAL: Yes, absolutely, but also instructional barriers. So we talked earlier today about universal design for learning. What can we do to make those sorts of things a reality. And what partnerships do we actually need to develop to make things more seamless across agencies. 

CHAIR: All right. Thank you. 

MR PERCIVAL: Have I spent the 400? 

CHAIR: I don't know. You've got a lot of aspirations. I'm just wondering how you're going to get there. It may be there's a way with 400 million. All right. I will just ask Mr Howard if he has any questions he wants to ask you. 

MR HOWARD: There were a number of matters that Mr Percival, your Honour, would prefer to come back to the Commission on, and   

CHAIR: What I envisage is that for those   I think the most convenient course would be for the Office of Solicitor Assisting to formulate a notice so that there's no   or as little ambiguity as possible about the information that we seek and then there will be, obviously, a response to that. 

MR HOWARD: Yes. And Mr Percival referred to a plan   

CHAIR: Do you want to come up closer so that   

MR HOWARD: I'm going to be very short. 

CHAIR: You've got a microphone there. That's all right. Okay. 

MR HOWARD: I will be very short, sir. Mr Percival has referred on a number of occasions to a plan that has now been funded towards communication. We have provided that to the Commission, albeit only in the last day or so. And it might be that the Commission will be assisted on the notice to give or produce that Mr Percival speaks a little more to that rather than me seeking to take him through it today. 

CHAIR: Yes, well, that sounds sensible and I would suggest that there can be consultations between you and perhaps Ms Bennett on that or OSA. 

MR HOWARD: Yes, thank you. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much. In that case, if there's nothing more from you for Mr Percival, in that case, thank you very much, Mr Percival, for giving evidence. And you are now free to return to the benign state in which you reside. Some of us are not so fortunate. 

MS BENNETT: Chair, the next witness is Dr Croser Barlow from the State of South Australia. Because of COVID related issues, she will be appearing remotely. Perhaps we might have five minutes to make the necessary technical – 


CHAIR: Let's take 10 minutes just to make sure that everything is okay. It's now 2.40. If we resume at 2.50.

MS BENNETT: If it please the Chair.



CHAIR: Yes, Ms Bennett. 

MS BENNETT: Chair, the next witness is Dr Croser Barlow, who appears remotely. 

CHAIR: Well, I   there you are, Dr Croser Barlow. I was looking in the wrong direction. Thank you very much for notionally or virtually coming to the Royal Commission. I hope that our IT problems are resolved. If you would be good enough   perhaps I should indicate   and I hope you can see us on the screen   Commissioner Galbally is joining the hearing from Melbourne, Commissioner Mason is with me in the Canberra hearing room, and I will be asking Ms Bennett in a moment to ask you some questions. She also is in the Canberra hearing room. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my associate, she will administer the oath or affirmation, as the case may be. Do you prefer to take the oath or affirmation? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: The affirmation. 

CHAIR: Thank you. If you would follow my associate's instructions, please. 


CHAIR: Thank you very much, Ms Croser Barlow, and now I will ask Ms Bennett to ask you some questions. 


MS BENNETT: Thank you, Chair. Dr Croser Barlow, can you see me and hear me well enough? 


MS BENNETT: Thank you. You are the Executive Director, Support and Inclusion of the Department for Education in South Australia. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And you've made a statement to assist the Commission in response to a notice? 


MS BENNETT: Have you read that statement recently? 


MS BENNETT: And are the contents of that statement true and correct? 


MS BENNETT: In your role as the Executive Director of Support and Inclusion, you have 650 full time equivalent staff. So I take it slightly fewer than 650 people carrying out the role of full time equivalent 650 people. Is that right? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Probably more than 650 people. I think it's about 800. But they are engaged in about 650 FTE work. 

MS BENNETT: And those 800 people are broadly responsible for ensuring the inclusion of students in government schools in South Australia. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And so who do you report to, Dr Croser Barlow? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I report to the Chief Executive of the Department for Education. 

MS BENNETT: Now, can you tell the Commissioners about your previous experience in a disability setting, if any? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I have no previous experience in a disability setting. I am a public servant. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. So what kind of steps   can you tell the Commissioners about the steps that you've taken to inform yourself, when you started this role?  Was it about 2020 that you started? 


MS BENNETT: And what sort of steps have you taken to inform yourself about the role that you've stepped into? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So I guess a couple of different things. One, I should probably reference that I have direct experience as a carer of a child with level 2 autism. And so I have lived experience of many of the issues that have been raised by witnesses along in the Royal Commission. In relation to building my understanding of the system that is in operation, I have previously had a role as the project director of Year 7 to High School in the Department for Education, and in that role I was responsible for arranging the project that   that moved year 7 from primary school, where it was until last year, into high school. 

And that involved working across the entirety of the department, as you can imagine, so thinking about what were the infrastructure requirements, what were the workforce requirements, what were the budgeting requirements, what were the support need requirements, with particular reference to students with a disability, what were the learning and teaching requirements. And so that two years of work that I did there, I think, left me with a very good general understanding of how the department operates, including with reference to students with a disability. 

Since starting in this role, I have obviously made it a point to visit disability settings. I have made it a point to visit my student support services teams in regional offices and hear their experiences about what they are doing in support of students with disability and other. We have undertaken a very comprehensive process of engaging with sites in relation to a range of the reform programs that have rolled out sort of just as I started in the role, in particular something called the Inclusive Education Support Program, which was a very significant reform in disability funding in the department. 

And as a result of some of the issues that were raised by schools in response to that funding we   that funding reform   we had undertaken a range of different consultations with schools, including some journey mapping of what   of how a teacher might go about making adjustments for individual students in mainstream setting, in relation to supporting their functional needs. Workshops with teachers and leaders to hear their concerns. 

So I guess a range of different mechanisms that I've used to gather the information that I need in the leadership of this division. And I'm very ably supported by an experienced leadership team who have requisite expertise in both inclusive education and in allied health professional supports. 

MS BENNETT: So you've   you visited various education settings. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And you have met with teachers and principals. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And have you met with the SSS or allied health support workers who work with students with disability in the Department for Education in South Australia? 


MS BENNETT: And have you met with disability groups? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes, I have had meetings with disability groups along the way. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. Go on. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Sorry. I have also   unfortunately, because of COVID, we haven't been able to have face to face inclusive expo, which is kind of a really big part of our engagement with the disability community. So I've presented remotely at a number of things, including where families would be present, but I haven't had the opportunity to be face to face in those contexts. COVID has been somewhat of a challenge. 

MS BENNETT: So would you say you've had the chance to hear the voice of students and families in the course of commencing your current role? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I actually think I had a better chance to hear the voice of students and families in the Year 7 to High School role because, as I say, COVID has made it hard to arrange dedicated sessions to go and hear things. As part of the Year 7 to High School role, I undertook a country consultation, which involved 20 to 25 sit downs with local communities, including a number of families with students with a disability because the move of year 7 to high school was a particular concern to families with students with a disability. And so I met with a number of families there talking through their particular concerns about that. 

MS BENNETT: Now   so do you have a standing group or an advisory group of people with disability that assist you in your current role? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: We are looking to establish one in relation to some of our initiatives that we might talk about later. But at the moment we do not. We have a standing parent forum, but that's less about advice to me and more about opportunities for parents to engage with the department. 

MS BENNETT: You say in your statement that your division is responsible for providing support to ensure the inclusion of students in government schools. And that word "inclusion" is something that we've been hearing a lot. Can you tell us from the perspective of South Australia what does inclusion mean in an education context? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Is it okay if I refer to my statement and the attachments to my statement?  I have the Hearing Bundle in front of me?


DR CROSER BARLOW: Brilliant. Thank you. I believe it's item number 4, the Children and Students with Disability policy. 


DR CROSER BARLOW: Let me know if I'm referring to the wrong numbers. 

MS BENNETT: The Commissioners will find that at Hearing Bundle D, tab 4. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Brilliant. So I think what you will find on page 2 of that policy is a comprehensive description of what the department views as inclusive education. Would you like me to read that out?

MS BENNETT: No, so it says there that   do you mean paragraph 1 on page 2? 



"To the department, inclusive education means that all students will benefit academically and socially when provided with high quality teaching. Students experience inclusive education when they can access and fully participate in learning alongside their similar aged peers supported by reasonable adjustments and strategies tailored to meet their individual needs. Inclusion is embedded in all aspects of preschool, children centre or school life and is supported by culture, policies and everyday practice." 


MS BENNETT: So what would it look like when South Australia   well, let me go back. Has South Australia achieved inclusive education? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: No, not consistently across every setting, no. 

MS BENNETT: How will it know when it has achieved inclusive education? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: One of   we are developing an indicator framework that will allow us to make an assessment around both the individual outcomes of students with disability. One of the indicators within that indicator framework is an indicator in relation to inclusion. At the moment, we have identified two potential measures under that, but we recognise that there is further development required. One of those measures is a measure that we already capture in our Wellbeing and Engagement Census, and it's a measure relating to how   I'm going to get the worlds wrong, but it's how connected students feel to their school community and I'm happy to talk about how we capture that data. 

There's a second measure which we do not capture at the moment, which we are working through what the appropriate measure would be. But it's about the ability of leaders and teachers to provide adjustments to support students to engage in their learning with respect to their functional needs. 

MS BENNETT: So will you be able to tell when you've reached a status where you are providing inclusive education? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: The challenge is always at what point do you consider the benchmark to be. We will be able to tell, when we implement the indicator framework, whether we are making progress towards more people, more students feeling included and more students receiving the adjustments that they require. I think one of the challenges about an end point like inclusion is the same as an end point like an excellent education. We would always want to consider and continue to improve. So we will be able to tell whether we are progressing towards that, yes. I'm not sure we will put a ceiling on that. 

MS BENNETT: Is that framework you're talking about, is that one of the attachments to your statement? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: It's referenced in the Support and Inclusion Reform Statement that I think you can find at attachment 3, perhaps. 


DR CROSER BARLOW: So if you look on the back side of attachment 3, it refers in Our Strengthening Foundations, "to develop and implement an indicator framework for children and students with functional needs." In addition though to that indicator framework, which is really about looking at things through the lens of students identified with functional need, we also have a broader school improvement review process   an external school review process which provides   which is being   a refreshed version of that is being launched in term 3 of this year and would have been launched earlier but COVID, and that includes indicators of quality against conditions for learning which include the ability of teachers and leaders to provide the adjustments required for students with disability. 

MS BENNETT: So am I to understand it   it says in the document "to develop and implement an indicator framework for students with functional needs."  That's the framework that you're talking about as providing indicators of whether or not you're providing inclusive education. 


MS BENNETT: So is it yet developed? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: As I say, we have a   we have a first version of it developed and we are in the process of implementing it. The way that it has been developed is that we have some indicators and some measures that we already collect that we will use in relation to the first rollout of that, and then we have identified that there are gaps in our measurement and that we will seek to collect supplementary information or develop supplementary measures and then collect that information as we roll that out. 

MS BENNETT: So the first version   by the first version, you mean the first tranche of information that you see as being relevant and that you are identifying further relevant information to the question of inclusion? 


MS BENNETT: So are you able to provide a copy of the indicator framework? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: It's currently   so it's final insofar as it is presently in operation, but you anticipate adding to it in the future? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: It is final insofar as we are moving to implementation of it in the first   in the second half of this year. 

MS BENNETT: And so when you are moving to implementation of that indicator framework, you mean that you will start to take measurements against that indicator framework in the second half of this year. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And you hope that that will assist you in understanding whether or not you are making schools more inclusive for students, it says here, with functional needs. Does that map directly on to students with a disability? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I believe that there is some contestation about that. We use the framing of functional needs because we want to use the most inclusive language. So, for us, functional needs might also include students who have, for example, a trauma background that might impair their ability to access education and who would benefit from the same kinds of adjustments. So we have moved away in a range of our programs from a   from a purely diagnostic model to a model where we seek to look at what are the functional needs of students and what adjustments do we provide. 

So, sorry, that's a long answer to your question, but, yes, broadly we would expect almost all students with disability to have some kind of functional needs that requires an adjustment for their learning, but perhaps not. 

MS BENNETT: Now, the Convention of the Rights of People with Disability is mentioned in your materials, and you say in   I won't take to you it now, but for the Commissioners' benefit, it's at tab 4 of Bundle D. At page 1 you say: 

"The international instruments are at the core of inclusive education." 

So you can tell us from the perspective of South Australia   and I don't want misquote you, so I want to make sure   you say: 

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is at the core of inclusive education." 

Is the CRPD what is at the core for inclusive education for South Australia? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I can't speak to what the framers of this policy had in their heads when they drafted this policy. I believe that they have probably accurately reflected the legislative framework that they were considering when they drafted the policy. I am aware that we are continuously guided by   sorry, I am aware that South Australia has introduced the disability   I'm going to get the name of it wrong   the Disability Inclusion Act which has in the objects of the Act reference to the CRPD specifically, not just the UN Declaration on Human Rights. 

And I sign off on reporting as required under that Act about the ways in which the Department for Education is meeting our obligations to students with a disability in the department. 

MS BENNETT: So is that a core   a key performance indicator for you and your department?  Is it measured against the Convention of the Rights of People with Disability? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: No. The   well, the key performance indicators   I'm   what   can you expand what you would identify as a key performance indicator?

MS BENNETT: Is it something that you measure your performance against?  So do you measure what you're doing against the Convention of the Rights of People with Disability? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So my division measures our performance against the six   the six indicators identified at document 3. So I think if you look on the first page of that, you will see that we talk about our aims in terms of improving learning outcomes for the    students with functional needs and then there's a series of things underneath that. For schools, the framework against which they are measured is outlined in the external school review process which I've just outlined includes reference to consideration of the ability to provide adjustments for a student with disability. 

CHAIR: Dr Croser Barlow, the document behind tab 4, that is, the document headed Children and Students with Disability, Policy, what is the status of that document? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: That is a policy within the department which every school is   and preschool and service is expected to comply. 

CHAIR: And what is the date of that policy?  It doesn't appear on the document, as far as I can tell. Sorry, I'm wrong. Last updated 3 March 2022. 


CHAIR: Does your section or department or however I should describe it have any role in formulating or amending this document? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Absolutely. The review process for the document, I think you can see, it tracks through   it talks about minor or major updates. And  

MS BENNETT: The final   

DR CROSER BARLOW: And the review process   sorry, can you see   this would be hard to understand from an outsider. The fact it moved from version 1.3 to version 1.4 suggests that it was a minor update which is   has a particular meaning within our operational policy framework where we review to ensure the   to ensure the currency of the document. But it isn't a major review where we do a review to ensure   where we review from ground up. So it's a minor review process. 

CHAIR: All right. I'm looking at page 11, that sets out what is not entirely accurately described as "related legislation". I don't see in this document any reference to the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities at all. Am I correct in that? 


CHAIR: How is it possible to develop in the state of Australia in 2022 a Children and Students with Disability policy that makes no reference to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yeah. I think   I don't want to presuppose what was in the heads of the team that undertook the review. My understanding is that the reference to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was probably considered to be   at the beginning of the document was probably considered to cover that, but I agree, that it's an oversight and   or it's an omission and I think that's something that we can go and look at. 

CHAIR: Well, perhaps oversight is one way of describing it, but if we have a document that says, "At the core of inclusive education is the human right to education from all   in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" that's fine, as far as it goes. But the Convention does have something more to say about it than that. 


CHAIR: So perhaps that's something your section might like to think about for the next iteration of this document. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes. Definitely. 

MS BENNETT: Dr Croser Barlow, is this document operating across all educational settings in South Australia? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Can I just refer to the document to confirm the applicability?  Yes. My understanding is that it operates across all of the department operated services. 

MS BENNETT: So that includes what we've been referring to as mainstream schools. Do you understand what I mean by that? 


MS BENNETT: And South Australia operates a significant number of mainstream schools? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes, around 500. 

MS BENNETT: And I think you tell us that some of those schools have disability units located within them. Is that right? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So there's about 150 mainstream schools that either have a disability unit or a special class co located or integrated into that site, yes. 

MS BENNETT: So can you tell the Commissioners what a disability unit is? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: It might be better if I refer to the relevant element of the procedure. So if we look at tab 11, which refers to the Specialised Education Options for Children and Students with Disability placement Procedure. You will find at pages 3 and 4 a definition of "special classes", a definition of "disability units" and a definition of "special schools." 

For the purposes of a quick summary, disability units and special schools have the same eligibility requirements and are for students with more severe intellectual disability or global developmental delay who require what is called extensive adjustments to curriculum and support   and support in building capabilities. Special classes are for students with an intellectual disability that is somewhat less severe and who require what is termed as substantial adjustments to the curriculum and support in providing their support. And support in their learning. 

MS BENNETT: So is it fair that each of special classes, disability units and special schools all have entry criteria? 


MS BENNETT: And we will come to those in a moment. When we talk about special classes, are the students in special classes, do they   to what extent do they interact with the other students of the school? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: It will depend on the individual school. Optimally, students in special classes would be able to undertake some areas of the curriculum with the mainstream students, so there are some activities where special class students might operate alongside their age appropriate mainstream peers. But that is not mandated or required.  Similarly, special class students are very likely to be operating in the same play space at recess and lunch and have access to the same extracurricular activities available in a school. 

That will be   that may be different for a disability unit that is in a   in a mainstream school, where there may be an additional level of separation around, for example, those play space areas and there may be less   less integration on the extracurricular activities, but that is   again, it's a matter for the school to resolve. 

MS BENNETT: And so special classes and disability units have all got one principal at the apex of that school. Is that right? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes. They all have the principal at the apex. We have a slightly unusual   and I would need to get further information from this   for some reason, in our education data system, we report disability units as a separate site from the   from the mainstream school site, but that disability unit director or leader still reports to the principal of the mainstream site. For special classes, that is not the case, they don't have a separate   they don't have a separate site number in our system. I think this is a historical   a historical data collection process. I'm not aware of why we do it that way. 

MS BENNETT: All right. So special classes   sorry, special classes are effectively individual classes that are located within a mainstream school. Are they physically separated from the mainstream classrooms in any way? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I mean, it will depend on the site in the same way that at some schools, you know, the reception class might be all the way over there. Like, it's just around what is the configuration of the site. But there is certainly no requirement that they be separated from the mainstream setting. 

CHAIR: You've said that the disability unit has someone who is at the head of it who reports to the principal of the school. What is the status of that person who heads the disability unit?   Is there a designation? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I would need to take that on notice. They are referred to as the director or the   

CHAIR: And, in practice, is the director largely autonomous in terms of the teaching program and in determining supports that are provided to students within the disability unit? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: There's a variation in the way that different schools manage it. So, for example, at a number of sites, the head of the disability unit will be a core member of the senior leadership team in that site, so will be a deputy principal alongside other deputy principals or an assistant principal alongside other assistant principals with specific responsibilities. But I couldn't attest to whether that is the practice in every site and, so, yes, I'm unable to speak for what the experience is at every disability unit. 

CHAIR: Does this reflect the fact that, in South Australia the schools to which you are referring are largely autonomous themselves but subject to operating within general guidelines?  Is that how it works? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I think, with reference to maybe the testimony of the previous witness, South Australian schools are much less autonomous, perhaps, than they are in Western Australia. But there is still quite a degree of local autonomy around how schools structure their leadership arrangements and how they organise their learning programs. It's one of the   it's one of the key challenges in any education system, is how tightly to prescribe things and what to prescribe and how effective that is in shifting practice. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. So disability   I'm sorry, Chair, did you   

CHAIR: Yes, no, no, go ahead. 

MS BENNETT: Did any of the other Commissioners want to   

CHAIR: No, no, go ahead. 

MS BENNETT: So disability units will be on the same site as a mainstream school but physically separated in some way. Are there barriers between the disability unit and what I will call the mainstream site?  Or are they more or less co located? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Again, it will depend on the individual site, but, in my experience at the disability units that I have visited, there is often fencing involved around particular play areas. So while the disability unit will be integrated into the broader campus, there might be a dedicated area for outdoor activity in relation to   for students for that particular disability unit to access. 

MS BENNETT: So the children from the disability unit might have a different recreational area to the other children. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And their learning space is also separated. Is that right? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I think it would depend on the different site in the sense that all learning spaces are separated in some   you know, the year 5 class is different from the year 6 class. 

MS BENNETT: Well, I'm trying to   I would like to distinguish, if I can, between a special class and what a disability unit is. So a special class, they are classes in the school. A disability unit appears to have some different character. So it is   well, is it a site at the main   near the mainstream school where classes are carried out that is separated from the mainstream classes? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Sometimes. The distinction between a special class and a disability unit is not one with relation to the environment or the governance. The distinction is with relation to the needs of the student which then may lead to different arrangements with respect to the environment. So I'm not trying to be unhelpful. I just   it's   the    distinction is what do the students need. 

MS BENNETT: And, in some instances, that will be an entirely separate education space, and, in some, it will be in close proximity to the other students; is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And that depends upon the view of the principal or the person running that school. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes, or it depends upon the available space at the time. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. And then special schools are another category of environment, and what are the   you tell us in your statement   it's about paragraph 10 to 12   you tell us about the requirements to access a special school environment. How   how do students in that environment access their mainstream peers   have access to their mainstream peers? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So it will depend. Some of our special schools   in fact, quite a lot of our special schools are co located with mainstream schools as well and so that there are opportunities in that space. Otherwise, special schools will make provisions, often, to arrange for peer appropriate engagement. So it depends. 

MS BENNETT: Is that in the discretion of the individual schools? 


MS BENNETT: And is that something you track or monitor? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: The external school review process would consider the level of engagement with community as part of its review of a school's operations. So, in that context, there would be   there's a three yearly cycle of external school reviews. So, in that context, the special school would provide commentary about how   about how they are supporting their students and how their school engages in the community more broadly. 

MS BENNETT: Commissioner Mason might have a question around that. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: I just had a question around the document on pages 3, 4 and 5. It mentions the metropolitan schools. There's no mention of country or remote schools. Can you clarify what the arrangements are in those other locations outside of metro? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Sorry, can I ask you, are you referring to my statement?  Or the   

COMMISSIONER MASON: No, the document we're   

MS BENNETT: The document at tab 11. 


DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes. Yes. So   sorry, and the question was again? 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Yes, pages 3, 4 and 5 explains the approach and also locations of where these facilities are. And they are all metropolitan. I just wanted to know about country and remote South Australia. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes. So there are special schools, disability units and special classes in country and remote areas in South Australia, but they are not listed in this. Those particular two programs   the Conductive Education Program and the Link Program are the two where there is a reference to the metro area. They are only located in the metropolitan area. And I note that the Autism Intervention Program has ceased operation as of 2019, I think. The date is in my statement. And so that is no longer an option. Am I responding to the right question? 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Just, again, sorry, I just missed   where are the   where is the information around country and remote schools around these particular services for kids with disabilities in schools. Because 3, 4 and 5 just mention metro schools. And whereabouts in the   

DR CROSER BARLOW: Okay. So we   so some of these options are available in country and remote areas, and they are not listed there. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Okay. And whereabouts are they listed? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: We can provide a list, if you would like, of where   


DR CROSER BARLOW:   all of the locations are. Absolutely. 


MS BENNETT: So what are the current intentions of South Australia moving forward?  Does South Australia intend to move to build more special or segregated schools?  I will just pause there I'm generally using the language that's been used throughout the week by the witnesses. So I take it you understand what I mean when I use that language. 


MS BENNETT: Is it South Australia's intention to build more segregated schools? 


MS BENNETT: What's the intention about the future of segregated schools in South Australia? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: We are continuing to establish new special classes and disability units as demand for special classes and disability units requires. And as part of our new schools program, we are making sure that we are making provision for inclusive spaces in that that could be special options as required or could   or could just be lovely inclusive spaces, and that has been the infrastructure direction that we've taken over the last four years since I've been in the department. 

MS BENNETT: So is it intended that the segregated schools be maintained? 


MS BENNETT: So they will continue to operate and there's no plan currently to close or to discontinue that setting? 


MS BENNETT: And then you intend into the future to build additional disability units and disability classrooms or special classes, I think they are called   


MS BENNETT:   to deal with additional needs that might be unmet by the system as it presently stands. Is that a fair summary? 


MS BENNETT: Right. And is that the same process in rural and remote communities? 


MS BENNETT: Now, I want   I would like to turn to the Inclusive Education Support Program or, more broadly, funding. So can you tell the Commissioners broadly how adjustments and supports for students with a disability are funded? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes. Absolutely. So we have   we   as of 2019, we have introduced the Inclusive Education Support Program, IESP. It provides   2021, it provided $218 million worth of funding directly to schools, including   sorry, that excludes the money that we spend in special options. That's up from $146 million under the previous program in 2018. So we have seen a really significant increase in the amount of funding that is going to mainstream schools as a result of the introduction of the Inclusive Education Support Program. 

The way that that program operates is in two distinct chunks, one little and one big. The little is the IESP grant. The IESP grant is allocated to all schools on the basis of a formula   in fact, on the basis of two formulas, because you never do something simply when you can do it more complicatedly. The two formulas are that the first sort of $6 million of that allocation is allocated according to an enrolment numbers formula where we take the enrolment numbers of students without a disability and we allocate the $6 million to schools according to their proportion of the funding part. 

That's in recognition that then the broader number, the $20 million of the IESP grant, is allocated according to the number of students with a disability and a weighted school card index. So school card is a proxy for the department in relation to poverty. So that 25 odd million dollars is allocated out to schools as a grant at the beginning of the year, and they are advised of that in advance so they can plan and budget accordingly. 

And that's provided to support adjustments that might not be individually funded and to   so to provide support for what's termed in the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data, the NCCD, you know, quality differentiated teaching practice. It's provided to support some kind of low, low level adjustments in the schools, as well as to provide transition funding when a student presents and requires additional funding and is going through the process of seeking additional funding. So that's the first chunk of IESP funding. 

The second chunk of IESP funding goes out through individualised allocations. Those individualised allocations, as I referred to before, we have moved away from a system which funds according to diagnosis, and we now fund each individual student according to an assessment of their functional needs and recognising that those functional needs can change over time. The funding is divided into nine categories. So category 1 provides about $6,500 worth of funding per year and category 9 provides about $70,000 per year, and then there's something called the RAAP process, the Resource Additional Allocation Panel process, which can provide top up to that as well. 

So   but for simplicity's sake a school will identify that a student requires an adjustment. They will document the adjustments as the adjustments they are already providing. They will document their assessment of the student's functional needs. And they will make that application for funding. That funding goes to a state wide centralised panel which comprises educators from the field, as well as special educators   specialised educators in my division, as well as allied health professionals in my division who make an assessment about whether they consider that the funding application is appropriate. 

They will allocate the funding but they will also quite often provide feedback around adjustments that might not have been documented as having been tried. And they will say, well, have you tried this or have you tried that or we can see that you haven't, for example, done a literacy assessment to check whether this behaviour is a function of literacy. You know, have you looked at doing X, Y and Z. So that's the process that's in place. And the result of that process, as I say, is that we have had a 50 per cent increase in the amount of funding that we've put out to students with a disability in mainstream settings in the last three years. 

MS BENNETT: So there's a   an amount that arises that is given in bulk to a school that comprises an amount based on a school card index, which has some socioeconomic indicators in it. 


MS BENNETT: And, therefore, some weighting around those issues. 


MS BENNETT: Then there's an amount for each non   student without a disability. 


MS BENNETT: There's an amount for each student with a disability. 


MS BENNETT: That amount is then allocated to each school. So a school with a higher population of students with a disability will attract higher funding in that bulk sense. 


MS BENNETT: And it is entirely within the discretion of the principal about how that funding is allocated to best serve the needs of the whole school. Is that right? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. Then we get to the individual allocation. That, as I   that is where you require an application to be made. Now, who initiates the application? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: The school. 

MS BENNETT: And who is it within the school? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So it depends on the individual school. Often, a teacher will initiate the application, or many schools have what you call student review teams where the student review team will look over the data of what's happening in the school and say, "Hey, what's going on for these kids who are having these particular issues. Has anyone thought what the adjustments are and do we need to make an application for funding." So it varies, but, usually, you would imagine it comes from the individual teacher, but it may come from other parts of the school. 

MS BENNETT: So the teacher will identify adjustments that they see as necessary for the assistance of that student to participate in their education. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And they will do that in a One Plan document? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes, preferably. 

MS BENNETT: Not necessarily? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Not necessarily, but preferably. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. So the teacher will identify adjustments   and to pause there, how will the teacher know what adjustments are going to be helpful for this child?  Let me put it the other way. Do you provide training to the teachers to identify the adjustments? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So, yes, we do. There are a couple of different pathways. One is in relation to   so they can access our intranet which has a range of resources around identifying   identifying adjustments. We also have special educators in Student Support Services who can be   whose services can be sought to support a school to identify what adjustments might be required. In addition, schools often have internal expertise in relation to their leadership teams about what   what might be a useful adjustment to provide and what would   what a teacher might want to consider. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. There's no compulsory   well, is there compulsory education for your teachers to undertake training about how to identify adjustments? 


MS BENNETT: No. And I think you cover this in paragraph 93 to 98 or so of your statement, so I think as I   well, as you've   your evidence is, is it not, that there are resources available for those teachers who want to undertake training or want to understand the process better. But there's no requirement for teachers to undertake those steps. 


MS BENNETT: And do you monitor who is undertaking that training? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: The division that I lead monitors the training that we deliver. So we deliver this training in what   what the team would refer to as personalised learning through   it has been through a number of different items, through training in One Plan development, through training in NCCD and through training in IESP. We are trying to move to a place where we only have one set of training, because actually those three things are all aspects of the same skill set, which is providing personalised learning adjustments. 

So the team that provides that training does monitor which partnerships   so partnerships are a kind of a administrative way of grouping schools. So which partnerships have requested training. Because often that's a place for training. And which schools have identified training. And I am advised that they review that and look to see where there are gaps and proactively offer training to areas where they haven't had requests, in particular where schools might be raising concerns about not getting the funding that they have been looking for, is often a really common pathway for us to provide proactive training and identifying and providing adjustments in that context. So that's   on that side of the house. 

On the other side of the house I have Student Support Services. They also monitor who they deliver services to, but the data collection in that area is made very challenging by a very poor case management system. You will see that on our reform directions, one of the things that we've got is a priority around both improving our disability data but also improving our case management data in relation to Student Support Services. 

And it is the intention of the work that we are undertaking to be able to get a very quick picture of being able to say, right, so what's happening in this school?  How many hits are we getting to Student Support Services requests?  How many times have they requested support from an inclusive teaching and learning directorate?  Are we seeing hotspots of activity?  Are we seeing no areas of activity?  Do we need to have a conversation with the school or with the education director about that?  So we are moving towards that. But we are definitely not there yet. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. So the teacher will   who may or may not have had training, will do their best to identify adjustments. Will they consult with the family around those adjustments? 


MS BENNETT: And is that   that's recorded, is it, in a One Plan or in the application that's required that the parents' input be included? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: It's required that the parents' application be   information be included in the One Plan. I'm not sure that we would bounce an application for resourcing if a parent hadn't been involved in the request for resourcing. So I wouldn't say it's mandatory for the application for resourcing, but it is required as part of the One Plan processing process. 

MS BENNETT: So there is consultation with parents, and what if there is a dispute between the parent and the teacher about the kind of adjustment that should be recorded in the One Plan or in the application for individual allocation?  What happens? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So, in that context, we would imagine   we would encourage   well, in fact, our complaints process suggests that families should look to deal with things at a local level, if possible. So escalating through from the teacher to the principal. We then have a clearly articulated framework for escalating processes which involves first going to the Customer Information Unit in the department and then, if you're unsatisfactory with the resolution of the matter from that, go to the Ombudsman where we fund an education specific role in the Ombudsman to address matters arising from the Department for Education. 

MS BENNETT: So where doesn't customer   where does the Customer Information Unit sit? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: It sits in the corporate part of the Department for Education 

MS BENNETT: Okay. So a parent will go from the teacher to the principal. Does it need to go from the principal to the Customer Information Unit or does it   the parent go straight? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: The parent goes straight. 

MS BENNETT: And so   and what is the   the name rather suggests that that unit provides information to a customer. Is that the   that's not a dispute resolution service. That provides information, does it? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: No, it addresses complaints. So it will receive complaints and seek to resolve them internally through   yeah, so it addresses complaints. 

MS BENNETT: Can it impose a decision? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: No. I think it would make recommendations but it would be a matter for the Executive Director, Partnership Schools and Preschools, who is the essential line manager of all principals, she would be able to make that decision to impose a decision. I don't think the Customer Information Unit is in the power to do that but I could check. 

MS BENNETT: So the Customer Information Unit, does that provide information and   small M mediation was the way the last witness put it. Are they trying to engage in that kind of a process between the teacher, principal and the family? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Sometimes it's small M mediation. Sometimes it is around rectifying problems. You know, so sometimes the complaint will identify someone is not operating consistent with the department's policy, so the Customer Information Unit has a responsibility to go to the relevant area and say, "That's not consistent. Can you rectify it." 

MS BENNETT: I see. And they have power to impose   but they have no power to impose a decision. So if they say to a principal, "You are doing the wrong thing" and the principal says, "Well, I disagree. I think this is the right thing", what will happen? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So I don't think they would say it directly to the principal. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. Who would they say it to? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: As I say, the Executive Director of Partnership Schools and Preschools, who is the    line manager. I think. But I can confirm all this but, in my experience, that is how it has come to me. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. And then the executive director would be able to impose a decision one way or the other. 


MS BENNETT: So they are at the top of the customer, to adopt that language, complaint tree. Is that right? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: In relation to schools. 


DR CROSER Barlow: They are the eventual line manager of school principals and so they would be able to   within reason    noting, of course, that there are legislative provisions around elements of the independence of schools. So, for example, the department can't direct a school to use its budget in a particular way if that   because the governing council has a say over the exercise of the budget. So, you know, there are limits as to what the executive director will be able to direct a principal to be able to do. But in principle, yes. 

MS BENNETT: But some of those limitations will directly relate to funding allocations as they relate to students with disability, won't they? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: No, I think if the question is about funding allocation, then usually those complaints would come to me. Because my area of responsibility is for the allocation of funding 

MS BENNETT: So are you a decision maker about disputes between teachers aren't principals on the one hand and families on the other about what additional resources are sought? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I have not been asked to decide that in the time that I have been in   

MS BENNETT: But are you that decision maker? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I would need to check the policy as to whether I am empowered to alter allocations of the IESP. I would need to check that. I know that my Director of Inclusive Teaching and Learning is. 

MS BENNETT: I see. And that person reports to you. 


MS BENNETT: And so the question in your mind is whether you could review their decision. Is that right? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes, I'm not sure. I have not been asked to. 

MS BENNETT: Okay. Is that process made available to parents?  Do they know what the process is? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: That internal process, no. What's made available to parents is the access point of the Customer Information Unit. 

MS BENNETT: I see. And the Ombudsman   the education section of the Ombudsman, do they have the power to make directions to you? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I presume so, but I would need to check. I would presume the Ombudsman usually have the power, but I would need to check. 

CHAIR: They don't, actually. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: There you go. 

MS BENNETT: So is that   so that's   let's return, then, to the point at which someone is entering a school. And I would like to   so at what point does a special school pathway come on to the radar?  Can you tell the Commissioners about what point start the transition planning for students into primary school for special school settings? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: You're including disability unit and special class as well as   

MS BENNETT: Yes, yes. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes. So in South Australia, unlike in many states, we provide   we have a government run preschool system. So 83 per cent of 4 year olds will attend a State Government run preschool. So the pathway would usually begin with a preschool director identifying with the family the need   the challenges being experienced by a child and the need to consider all or the opportunity to consider whether you would like to progress with an assessment that might support consideration of what adjustments would need to be required and then that might lead to a pathway of being offered a special option. 

MS BENNETT: I think the process is at tab 24 of your statement, at Hearing Bundle D for the Commissioners, is this what we look to understand accessing a special school? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes. No, this is the more detailed procedure. 


DR CROSER BARLOW: It is probably better to look at the   this is definitely what happens in a kind of internal 

MS BENNETT: This is the operationalisation, isn't it? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes. This is the operationalisation, yes. 

MS BENNETT: So one pathway is to follow the procedure in here that we will come to in a moment, and that is one pathway through which students can be enrolled in a special education setting. Is that right?

DR CROSER BARLOW: This describes what the Support and Inclusion Division does as part of the placement process. So this is not a document that would be provided to site leaders, for example. This is an internal document that describes how we manage the process for the placement of students in special options, and the previous document that I referred to, the one that we looked at earlier, that is the one that site leaders have and that's the one that supports them in understanding their obligations in relation to special options. 

MS BENNETT: And when the Commissioners come to want to understand how the process operates, this is a helpful document for them, at 24? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: A very helpful document. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, thank you. And there's another pathway, it seems into a special education school setting, and that's the Education and Children Services Act of 2019. Section 62 of that provides a Chief Executive can direct a student to be enrolled in a particular school, and that can include a special school. Are you familiar with that provision? 


MS BENNETT: So you're not aware of a power for the Chief Executive to direct the enrolment of a student in a particular educational setting? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I'm aware that the Chief Executive has the power. I'm not familiar with it because, in my understanding, it's never been exercised. 

MS BENNETT: Do you keep records about whether it's been exercised? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I am very sure we would. I can find that out for you. 

MS BENNETT: Are they kept centrally? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes, because the Chief Executive would be making the determination. So, yes. 

MS BENNETT: Sorry, are they kept on your system, is what I'm asking you. You have access to that information? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I would have access to that information, yes. 

MS BENNETT: And so I think your evidence was that you're aware that that power is there but it is your understanding it's never been exercised. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: That is my understanding, yes. 

MS BENNETT: Have you made any inquires about that? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I think that's why I'm aware it hasn't been exercised. Because I think I did ask someone about it once in the context of   I can't recall, but I was asking about it in the context of a significant behaviour incident, but I can't recall exactly. 

CHAIR: Ms Bennett, I see the time. I think it would be useful to give Commissioners an opportunity to ask questions up to the point we have now reached. 

MS BENNETT: If it pleases the Commission. 

CHAIR: I understand that we will resume tomorrow. So what I will do, if it's all right with you, Dr Croser Barlow, I'm sorry, I will ask my colleagues if they have any questions at this point. Starting with Commissioner Galbally from Melbourne. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Thank you. And I'm not sure whether this will be covered tomorrow   but I'm interested in how you hold schools accountable for an incremental improvement towards being more inclusive. You know, what are the indicators?  What's the   you know, how   you talked about indicators before, but they seem to be more individually targeted and not school culture   indicators of school   whole school inclusion, indicators of that wall between the special units coming down and there being more interaction. Like, I don't want to name what the indicators could be because they   but is that there and are they held to account and do they have to provide you with an ongoing supply of data and information about these matters? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So the indicator framework that I have spoken about will be an ongoing way of looking at that. We have a variety of data sources that are used to shape conversations with site leaders about progress at their schools. So there's something called the School Improvement Dashboard which provides a live feed of a range of measures within the school. 

Notably, for our purposes, in addition to educational achievement measures, which are filterable by students with disability, there is also a focus on attendance which, again, is filterable by students with disability, and there's a reflection in   there are two sections on the dashboard that refer to student wellbeing. So, as I say, South Australia has the largest collection of student wellbeing data in the world, to my understanding. 

Every student is provided an opportunity every year to fill in something called the Wellbeing and Engagement Census where students will tell us things like, you know, "I feel connected to an adult at this school."  "I think this school cares about me."  So those are the sorts of measures that we look at and highlight on that School Improvement Dashboard. In addition, we have something called the Parent Engagement survey, which is, again, a very large data collection. I don't know if we can claim world beating status on this one. 

But we text message all parents   all parents with children at public schools a survey, and in that survey we seek feedback about, you know, "How satisfied am I with my communication with the school?"  "I feel that the school is giving me the information I need or the   to help me child with their learning"; all those sorts of things. Those markers are kept on the School Improvement Dashboard and that School Improvement Dashboard is expected to be a frame of reference for conversations between site leaders and their education director, who is the line manager of site leaders, and the local education team who work for the education director who work in support of improvement of schools. So is that sort of the sort of thing you are wondering? 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Look, I won't hold everybody up but I do have a number of other questions. Maybe I will be able to ask them at the end of your evidence tomorrow. You know, a question about when you know things are going wrong from the indicators and what do you do when you know there's a lot of red alerts. And then I would like to also find out more about your inquiry into suspension, exclusion, expulsion, and also your new approach, where you have an autism lead teacher in every primary school and whether you're intending to do more of that. So, you know, they are   but I won't   but that will take you a while to answer all of those. So I can hold some of those or they may come up tomorrow. But   

CHAIR: You never know, Ms Bennett might ask questions about those issues. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Yeah, well, I'm sure she's going to. 

MS BENNETT: Without wanting to interrupt the Commissioners, I might indicate that I was going to ask, Commissioners, to request Dr Croser Barlow to provide a copy of the indicator framework overnight so that we could have the benefit of that discussion with the document in front of us. 

CHAIR: Fine. That would be helpful and I note Commissioner Galbally reserves her right to ask a series of questions at the end. Commissioner Mason. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: No questions, thank you. 

CHAIR: Can I just make one comment first. I did comment on the fact that the document behind tab D4, that is, the Children and Students with Disability Policy, does not refer to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I can tell you that the document behind tab 6, which is Behaviour Support Policy, also doesn't refer to it, but refers to other legislation and instruments. And the same thing can be said about the document behind tab 10, which   sorry, yes, tab 10 which   no, I'm wrong again. 

Tab 11, Specialised Education Options for Children and Students with Disability Placement Procedure. There is no reference to the Convention there. So it does look as though South Australia might well benefit from having a close look at the Convention and incorporating relevant provisions one way or another in the documentation and guidelines that are produced. 

My question is really based upon your paragraph 10, where you talk about placement of students in special options being managed by departmental psychologists and special educators. 


CHAIR: You point out that there are three decision points. I rather get the impression that the department psychologist and/or department special educator have a rather crucial role in determining where a child goes because it is the department psychologist's role to make recommendations about a student's most appropriate educational setting. Is that a fair assessment of what happens in practice? 


CHAIR: So the psychologist is effectively the gatekeeper? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes, they determine the eligibility for   for whether you are eligible for a special option, yes, absolutely. 

CHAIR: Well, reading the documents, it sounds as though the department psychologist actually does more than that. That's the first step. But then there's a recommendation as to where the student should go, and that's the psychologist's role, as I understand it. Is that right? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes. The placement procedure which Ms Bennett pointed out before, the placement procedure talks about the process by which department psychologists will rank students as part of the placement process. So this has been   this is particularly a function of when there is a scarcity of places. So the departmental psychologists have a role in determining which students will be offered places first   so to ensure that the students with the highest needs get offered the places first, but then there are some complicating factors around location of units, and so it becomes a bit of a   a process by which to make sure that all the students who have the highest need get a place that's close enough to their house. 

CHAIR: What if a parent disagrees with the psychologist as far as the recommendation is concerned or a recommendation the psychologist proposes to make? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So if a parent disagrees with a psychologist saying that they should   that the child is eligible for a special option, then the parent can simply not take a special option place. That's their decision, of course. If a parent disagrees with the place that is offered   and it's worth saying that quite often parents do disagree with the school that they are allocated to. Parents often have a preference, for example, that their child might attend the same school as their siblings, but the special class or disability unit at that particular school might be full. 

So we often   I would say in, you know, 5 to 10 per cent of cases, there are disagreements, and there is a   that's, again, managed via a complaints process. And it's   it's a really challenging time for families and often attracts quite a lot of public commentary as well. 

CHAIR: Yes. So the role of the department psychologist is rather critical in this process, isn't it? 


CHAIR: And I note that the document behind tab D18, the Educational Pathways for Students with a Disability, this provides information for parents, carers, guardians. It says under Specialised Education Options: 

"Recommendation of placement at a specialised education option is the role of the Department for Education psychologist. Psychologists consider both eligibility and suitability when recommending a student be placed in an alternative learning environment or mainstream classroom." 


CHAIR: It would take a fairly determined parent, I imagine, to override a recommendation from a department psychologist? 

DR CROSER BARLOW: So the eligibility recommendation is a recommendation based on standardised diagnostic tests and so   and I know the Commissioners heard a range of views around the standardised diagnostic intellectual disability test, but it's certainly the case that families do provide external evidence from different psychologists where they might say, "We disagree with your assessment that our child doesn't have sufficient intellectual disability to be eligible for a special option."  And so the eligibility question is easier for a family to   sorry, the eligibility question is challengeable through a request for internal review but also through the provision of external information. 

The suitability criteria, I'm not aware of any families that have sought to challenge a decision based on the suitability criteria. I think if I can point you to where the suitability criteria are   I'm really   yes, it's at tab 16. The suitability criteria are really around thinking through the department's commitment to inclusion. 

CHAIR: Yes, well, we won't explore that now. Ms Bennett may wish to follow that through. I was really just interested in understanding the role of the department psychologist. In due course, we would want to know, I think, the same sort of information that we are seeking to obtain from Western Australia, about the numbers of students that are in these various educational facilities. There may or may not be information you can obtain overnight, but, in due course, we may well want to get some more detailed information as to numbers and in the various categories. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: Yes, Chair. It's about 1,000 kids in special schools and about 2,300 kids between disability units and special classes. But we can get you more precise figures. 

CHAIR: Yes. And Commissioner Mason may be interested in the number of First Nations children. I saw a reference to 16,000 First Nations children in South Australian schools. Roughly half urban and half not. But if there is information on First Nations children with disability in school, that would also, I think, be helpful. 

Ms Bennett, should we now adjourn and resume at 10 tomorrow?

MS BENNETT: Yes. If it pleases the Chair. If it's convenient   I'm not sure if Dr Croser Barlow agreed to provide the document overnight or if I would need to make that arrangement. 

DR CROSER BARLOW: I agree to provide the document overnight. 

MS BENNETT: I appreciate   subject to that matter, then I will   

CHAIR: Now, if we start at 10, are we going to have time tomorrow to be finished? 

MS BENNETT: Yes, Chair. 

CHAIR: In time for me to go home?

MS BENNETT: Yes, Chair. 

CHAIR: Good. All right. Thank you. We will adjourn until 10 o'clock tomorrow.