New research shows funding for students with disability is totally inadequate

New research shows governments are failing to deliver the funding public schools need to educate the rapidly increasing numbers of students with disabilities with nine out of ten principals saying their school is under-resourced in this area.

The AEU’s 2024 State of our Schools survey of over 15,000 principals, teachers and support staff reveals:

  • The number of principals who say they have the funding they need for students with disability fell from 17% last year to just 11% this year.
  • 89% of principals are shifting funding from other areas of their over-stretched budget to try and pay for the assistance students with disabilities need because they don’t get enough dedicated funding from governments.
  • The total amount taken from other areas averages $158,820 per school or $948.7 million a year across the nation, with principals reporting running annual deficits or slashing budgets in other areas such as school maintenance.
  • Principals say the main resources they are lacking are teachers’ aides to assist teachers in the classroom and specialist support such as speech and occupational therapists.
  • Eight out of ten principals and teachers say they have students with disability who are not eligible for Federal Government funded support, despite needing it.
  • Only 36% of teachers say the professional development they have done gives them the knowledge and the skills they need to teach students with disability.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the number of students with disability in public schools has increased by 40% since 2015 and they now make up one in four students.

“The diversity and complexity of student needs in our classrooms has never been higher,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Students with disability deserve every opportunity to succeed but public schools across the country are not fully resourced to be able to meet all their needs.

“Just 1.3% of public schools are funded to the Schooling Resource Standard, which is the minimum level of funding governments agreed over a decade ago was required to meet the needs of students.

“Principals and teachers are doing everything they can, but too often it means spending money on staffing they simply don’t have.

“Teachers need the time, training, and support, inside and outside the classroom, to be able to fully meet the needs of students with disability. They also need access to inclusive learning spaces and specialised technology and equipment.

“The ramifications of public school underfunding are enormous for principals, teachers and students with disability.

“Governments talk a lot about a fully inclusionary education environment, but they haven’t been prepared to fund public schools to provide it.

“Families with children with disability need to be able to know they can walk through the door of any public school and there will be the teachers and staff with the time, expertise and resources to meet their needs. That is why we are campaigning for full funding for every public school.

“We need new agreements between the Albanese Government and every state and territory government this year that resource public schools at 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard.

“The Albanese Government needs to lift its game and deliver a minimum of 25% of the funding in every state.

“The current funding arrangements for students with disability also need to be overhauled. Under the current model there is no funding from the Federal Government for 30 per cent of the students with disability in public schools.

“It has also been revealed that private schools, including some of the richest in the nation, are receiving up to six times as much funding per student from the Federal Government as public schools.”