Cuts to special ed

FUNDING: There will be a restructure of school funding for special education next year.
FUNDING: There will be a restructure of school funding for special education next year.

Special education jobs and services will be cut in Port Lincoln next year due to a staff restructure across the state.

Australian Education Union (AEU) SA president Howard Spreadbury said the Department of Education and Child Development’s (DECD) regional office in Port Lincoln was “earmarked for cuts”. 

The department said they were reallocating funding, staff and resources to areas with greater needs.

The department’s executive director of early years and child development Ann-Marie Hayes said the restructure was based on an analysis “to see where special education staff were placed in comparison to students with disabilities”.

“Results of the analysis found some areas had extra resources that could be relocated to areas recognised as requiring additional support,” Ms Hayes said.

“In the analysis regional areas are allocated a higher ratio of staffing compared to metropolitan areas due to distance travelled.”

The department said Port Lincoln’s allocation was “significantly above the ratio” compared to other regions, and had the highest number of special education staff per student.

Mr Spreadbury said the decision could leave vulnerable children with disabilities without support.

He said the union had raised concerns with senior department officers and state Education Minister Susan Close throughout the year regarding support services.

He said families living in regional areas did not have the range of support options for their children with disabilities that were available in Adelaide. 

“We recognise that additional support services must be allocated...but not to the detriment to other areas where there is also a real need,” Mr Spreadbury said.

“In some country locations there is limited, if any, access to special schools or special classes so young people with complex learning needs are forced to learn in mainstream classes.

“This extra support is therefore crucial for them, as well as teaching staff, within their schools and preschools.”

Ms Hayes said 20 additional special educators were employed across the state in 2015 to meet the demands of special education.

Mr Spreadbury said 10 additional behaviour coaches announced this year fell short of the 30 the union sought to meet existing needs.