In an ideal world it wouldn’t matter what ability a person had everyone would be accepted for who they are. Everyone would get support without the need for formality. Unfortunately for Queensland parents the reality is; that without diagnosis there is no financial assistance available to provide help in schools.
Funding comes from the top.
The Australian Government had proposed changes to funding education under Better Schools, a needs based funding plan. The Queensland government had other ideas; Great Teachers =Great Schools and since funding of schools is primarily up to state government this was the result:
Queensland state schools experienced a shortfall of $394 million in 2011/12
That was assessed need to actual funding.
What that means in real terms:
- There are approximately 1230 government schools across Queensland.
- 394 million divided by 1230 =$320,325.20c per school.
- Supply teacher $76 per hour. $320325.20c divided by $76 = around 4214 hours or 702 days per school.
That’s a lot of support that students missed out on.
Now I know these figures are about six years old but that’s the way funding works. Its all in retrospect. Funding figures are always hush hush, well that is until election time.
Why didn’t we get this funding? one possible reason is that there weren’t enough official diagnosis’ recorded.
We have this wonderful thing, cough cough, called My School in Australia. It gives a snapshot of any Australian school and you can compare it on paper to other schools locally or nationally. What it doesn’t tell you is that ‘Teaching Staff ‘ is not just classroom teachers. It is also the aides, the principal, the deputy principal, the guidance officer, learning support coordinator, the inclusive education coordinator, department heads, curriculum officer actually anyone who is associated with teaching. So don’t be fooled by the paper snapshot. A realistic figure is; one teacher per class and a percentage of teacher aide hours.
What does a class look like?
Prep year: Queensland Teachers Union, QTU, ideal number is 25 students; usually one teacher and one teacher aide full-time.
- According to statistics quoted by the QTU in 2011 around 11% of classrooms were above this number.
- The OECD, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, has the average classroom in this age group at 21.5%. This means that compared to other countries of our economic peers our classes have more students.
Hmm so class size is not at the optimum and school funding is not there across the board so how do we get assistance? – get a diagnosis.
Still not convinced? Lets look at a classroom for 5 year olds. This is from the QTU 2013 report, kids starting school.
22.0 per cent of Australian children are developmentally vulnerable on one or more of the AEDI domains and 10.8 per cent of Australian children are developmentally vulnerable on two or more of the AEDI domains.
Boys are more likely to be developmentally vulnerable than girls on all of the AEDI domains and boys are more likely to be developmentally vulnerable on two or more of the AEDI domains (14.8 per cent) than girls (6.8 per cent).
The majority of Indigenous children are developmentally on track on all the AEDI developmental domains. However, Indigenous children are more than twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable than non-indigenous children. 43.2 per cent of the 15,490 Indigenous children are developmentally vulnerable on one or more of the AEDI domains and 26.0 per cent of Indigenous children are developmentally vulnerable on two or more of the AEDI domains.
93.7 per cent of children who have LBOTE status and are not proficient in English are developmentally vulnerable on one or more of the AEDI domain/s. 58.0 per cent of children who have LBOTE status and are not proficient in English are developmentally vulnerable on two or more of the AEDI domains.
AEDI: Australian Early Development Index
LBOTE: Language Background Other Than English
Another Classroom statistic is diagnosis rates in 2009 ABS, Australian Bureau of Statistics, of Children at school with a disability 9.1% of primary school children had a disability. Please be aware that most of these children are probably still being identified in Prep. The identification to verification can take up to a year.
I’ll break this down. When I looked over the figures about 5.5 kids out of the 25 are identified as needing extra help and support and not getting it.
This means that in a Prep class of 25, where one teacher and one teacher aide are deemed sufficient for 25 “capable” students, there is possibly 5.5 students that are not sufficiently supported.
What is the effect of this?
Well as an adult I remember taking a time management course and recall something along the lines of every big interruption can displace your work flow for about 20 minutes. I found something similar to this on a blog The Science Behind Task Interruptions. Now imagine you are a child trying to concentrate on learning and another child is having a meltdown, fidgeting, disrupting the class or you have a question to ask but the person who can answer you is tied up naturally you forget the question. Your parents are not happy about your grades even though you are trying your best. You don’t like school because another child is nasty to you or you can’t concentrate.
From a teachers point of view. You care about each of these children. You have pressure from the department to make sure a standard is reached. You have documentation obligations that are continually interrupted. Student V hits student W they retaliate, student X is running from the class, student Y is crying because they miss their parents and student Z is going into meltdown because of sensory overload.(5.5 students) The aide is working with the LBOTE students. This happens most days. Would you really be able to work like that all day everyday and be happy about it?
Not enough support in the classroom affects everyone.
Not a pretty statistical picture. I can say from experience that this is accurate portrayal in a Government School and it’s not just the prep classes.
Why get an official diagnosis?
If not for your own need of support then so schools can get funding to support your child.
Early intervention has been shown to be successful. This may be assistance with social skills, academic support, physical support , room modification, behaviour support these things cannot be provided with the current statistics for funding. Teachers are good but they are not super human.
I don’t want to ‘label’ my child
I get it, I had my own struggles when I had to medicate my child. But even without a diagnosis a child is at risk of getting labelled; lazy, naughty, trouble, perfect, angelic, smart; our society loves labels. The real danger is when a victim mentality is adopted I can’t do that because…(label)
A diagnosis doesn’t have to be a label, that only happens if you let it. Early intervention has been proven to have a positive effect by helping children develop confidence and acceptance of themselves and those around them. Starting early helps to give children independence and lessens the need for help as they get older.
Who can get help at school?
- Learning disabilities ( these often become more noticeable as the children age)
- Attention disorders
- Communication problems (incl. English as a second language)
- Physical disabilities
- Motor skills issues
- Mental Health (including social and emotional)
- Behavioural issues
- Functioning disorders
The current classroom funding system is set up for an imaginary classroom of students. Teachers speak up about the deficits all the time but that has been proven to change very little, it feels like their cries are dismissed as hearsay. So lets change that. It’s time as parents that we bite the bullet, get an official diagnosis for our children that need it and present it officially to the school, then things have to change. Legally our children have to get support at school when a diagnosis is official. If they don’t then words like negligence and discrimination will be used.
So get a diagnosis Queensland parents and help all our kids.