Last year I submitted a written submission to the Education Select Committee.
Too many of my clients are falling through the cracks and the Education Update is a timely opportunity for the policymakers to get things right. We have a long way to go, but we also have some great things to build on.
Today I had the chance to do an oral submission. I am much more accustomed helping others speak, so I was rather nervous doing the speaking myself.
Hopefully they heard my 3 main points:
We need to ensure that all students, regardless of ability and presence of impairments, have access to a publicly funded, meaningful, and appropriate education
This needs to be properly resourced and it must have "teeth". This means any expectation of inclusion must be enforceable and both families and frontline staff (specialists, teachers, teaching assistants, etc) must be able to safely speak up when they have concerns. Frontline staff often worry about employment and families don't want to get sidewise with schools who are education the child and possibly their siblings.
Degree of impairment is not always a good predictor of degree of impact
Many children with mild to moderate language difficulty and/or subtle neurological differences experience significant challenges, particularly if the proper supports are not in place.
Early intervention is best -- but only at the individual level While it is 100% true that a student needs support as quickly as possible when challenges arise, this does not mean we should shift all resources to younger ages.
I attempted to use the analogy, as flawed as that may be, to illustrate this point. If an individual has a tumor, we all understand that it should be identified, correctly diagnosed, and appropriately treated as soon as possible. We also likely agree it would be preposterous to allocate all of our oncology resources towards those diagnosised with cancer before the age of 30.
Now this hints at the medical model (and I am a big proponent of moving towards a social participation model and other models of disability), but hopefully this helps clarifying the thinking of why we need to reserve resources for older students who may only need additional and/or specialist input in the later years.
It was hard to speak up, but I am glad I did. If we keep telling our stories and speaking our truth, I believe we can help policy makers avoid mistakes and have a better chance of getting things right.