Report - Public hearing 2 - Inclusive education in Queensland - preliminary inquiry
Report of Public Hearing 2: Inclusive education in Queensland – preliminary inquiry
The Disability Royal Commission has written a report on a public hearing investigating inclusive education in Queensland.
Queensland was selected as the location of the hearing because it had adopted an inclusive education policy in 2018 which could provide a potential model for other states and territories.
The hearing examined the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including the obligation to ensure an inclusive education system.
The report highlighted some key concerns including:
- the discouragement of families looking to enrol students with disability in mainstream schools of their choice
- a lack of supports and adjustments for students with disability
- low expectations of students with disability leading to poor educational outcomes.
The Royal Commission heard evidence about:
- bullying of students with disability
- complicated processes for getting adjustments
- inappropriate exclusions including suspensions
- use of restrictive practices, including physicals restraints and confinement.
Witnesses said poor educational experiences can have negative impacts on a student’s enjoyment and participation in school, and also on their future, including employment and mental health.
One witness talked about her daughter, a person with Down’s syndrome, being removed from her mainstream class, ‘babysat’ in the school’s special education unit and dragged down stairs at ‘pace she could not maintain’.
Another person, a special education teacher and mother of 5 children with disability, told of 2 mainstream Queensland private schools failing to provide adjustments to support her children’s learning. This left them feeling belittled or punished.
She said there was:
- poor understanding by school staff of the needs of students with disability
- poor communication
- inaction when issues were raised
- inconsistent approaches to making adjustments.
This witness said introducing the Inclusive Education Policy in Queensland was a step in the right direction, but there was a long way to go.
Advocacy groups told the Royal Commission that some decisions about students with disability were made without consultation, with students being allowed to attend school on a part time basis only.
They said there was inadequate training of staff and lack of funding for, or gaps in, supports and adjustments. They spoke about devaluation of students by school staff, bullying, communication breakdown and use of restrictive practices.
One academic witness said inclusive education – having students in the same classroom wherever possible – had a positive impact on life opportunities of students with disability.
Heads of inclusive education at government mainstream high schools spoke of working to create a more inclusive learning environment and embracing cultural and structural reforms in different ways. They said every student is supported to participate, and that they had not encountered any instance where students with disabilities could not be accommodated.
The President of the Queensland Teachers’ Union, Kevin Bates said there was a lack of resources to support students with disability. He said this must be addressed to provide inclusive opportunities. He saw special schools as a critical part of the offering in education in the state system. He would only support a move to phase out special schools if every child’s needs were resourced adequately.
The report identified many reasons for violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability in schools. These included:
- excluding students
- mistreatment of students by school staff and other students
- funding complexities
- use of restrictive practices
- lack of adjustment
- not enough training
The Royal Commission values the importance of education. It will continue to investigate such practices.
To read the report, go to ‘Public Hearings’ section on our website.