A Dialogue reader has asked how the level of support for individual students with learning difficulties will be measured under the new funding arrangements.
Students with learning difficulties and those with disability are treated differently.
The new funding model, as with the previous approach, does not measure the level of support required for individual students with differing learning difficulties. The model has identified several areas of educational need to provide average funding in the following categories:
- students from low socioeconomic backgrounds
- students with limited English language proficiency
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
- students with disability
- students attending small schools
- students attending regional and remote schools.
To apply student-centred, that is individual, funding for children with varying levels of learning difficulties requires specific data for each student. It is suggested that this is either not available or is not accessible to governments because of, for example, privacy concerns.
Students with a disability will attract an individual loading. It is intended that funding will be linked to differing levels of severity, which would more accurately reflect individual students’ levels of need.
At present, students with disability attract a flat rate of funding, regardless of the severity of their condition. This is because there is no nationally consistent definition of disability, let alone a measure of severity.
Schools across Australia are taking part in a trial of a nationally consistent definition of disability and severity. It’s expected that this data will be collected in 2015 and if it is consistent it could be used to determine future funding outcomes. With the new definition of disability being broader than that used previously, it is likely that more students will be recognised as needing support. But work is only just starting and any funding changes are unlikely before 2016.
We want to see this work completed as soon as possible, but we are concerned that the government’s response will be constrained by a tight fiscal environment.