Liberal Senator calls for special schools to be abolished

I was interested to read that Queensland Liberal Senator Sue Boyce has called for special schools to be abolished and children with disabilities integrated into mainstream schools.

“In terms of education, it’s my personal view that we won’t fix education until we abolish special schools,” Senator Boyce said.  “If mainstream schools had no option but to accept children with disabilities, they would concentrate on how to make it work, not how to avoid getting involved.

Sue Boyce has a history of involvement with disability issues, especially Down Syndrome, prior to entering the Senate last year. I can see the arguments on both sides of this issue, but these days I lean very much to her view, unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise in a specific instance.  Separating out children with disabilities runs a major of reinforcing and compounding the disability, and the social isolation and lack of understanding and awareness from the wider society which goes with it.

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  1. This debate is getting more and more exciting, never mind Sue Boyce who is more emotional (understandable) than professional. And every single person on this post is right; we have a problem.
    It is not our problem, though. The consecutive governments have failed us and our kids. It is like with water shortage, environment, health, The sacred Murray, etc.
    Perhaps we look at the wrong ‘models’.
    Australia is a small economy country with a vast area, most od which is inhabitable. But we produce a lot. We are rich in natural resources. Our population is relatively small, as compared to Japan, Brazil, Mexico, England, etc.
    How is it then, that most European countries (and many Asian plus Cuba) can afford government school system as the main stream education?. The UN Charter says that every child has a right to free education in the school of their choice up to the age of 16.
    It simply means that that private school should be accessible to all the students.
    My question is: Why so many parents do prefer private school system for their children? (myself included). What is wrong with the government schools? If there is something wrong, can we do anything about it so ALL Australian children have equal access to reasonable school system.? ‘Reasonable’ – means resources.
    There are countries much poorer than Australia and yet, their kids have FREE access to sport, music lessons, winter holidays, skiing ,etc, free text books, after school activities, and most importantly … very qualified teachers. I was teaching in a UNESCO school where the teachers held a Ph degree in a subject. Can you imagine this in Australia?? Teachers Union would not allow this transgression. Only recently, an Australian born lady from Sydney did her Ph Degree in physics in the USA and came back to Australia to teach in high school but according to our idiotic system was ‘not qualified’.

  2. My argument is: no teacher would be qualified enough to teach my child.
    When I was doing my Master’s in Education- SA – (total waste of time) I was surprised that the emphasis on education system was (Lorikeet, please don’t collapse) on making our children REBELLOUS (sic!) and ‘assertive’ and the child should never tell the parents what is going on at school. Interestingly, children in Australia have a total amnesia on ‘what did you do at school, today?’.
    Parents are weak in Australia. In Europe, China, Japan, the sky would fall if the school could not prepare the child for further education.
    A French Lycee is more respected than any private school in France ; in Rome, the Julio Cesare government highschool is the most popular school ever.
    In Florence, (two years ago) I saw a group of school children in the Ufficio – the art gallery, with their teacher. I could not believe the amount of info that teacher was passing onto primary school students. I was impressed. I learnt a lot myself. Apparently, the kids were from Calabria. I asked the teacher. Yes., it was a government school from Calabria. Well, I thought, at least our teachers could teach about sex education and safe sex. It needs no qualifications; just personal interests will do.
    I tell you what: As far as education is concerned, Australia is one of the most mean countries I have ever come across. And ALL political parties are responsible.
    At my (first) university ( The Jagiellonian University founded in 1364) we were told time and again: ‘There are no bad students -only bad teachers” . Voila!

  3. Zen: [Jul 31 & Jul 31] you are a cat amongst the pigeons here with some of your comments. I need to reflect before deciding whether I will side with you, or the more popular pigeons.

    You hardly put your view in the parsimonious fashion that might follow earlier posts. And why indeed why should you be so constrained?

    I also need to dogpile some more on Polish Uni’s and other relevant terms.

  4. I know I am backtracking a bit but; LORIKEET (jul30) I agree, I just ran out of space to support that. I am talking primary schools here so the situation can only be worse in high schools. It appears that it is not so much a matter of rights awareness as knowing who is empowered in the student/teacher relationship. I dont think the teachers feel supported by the system and as a result they are isolated and powerless. My assumption, based on the Senator’s statement was that there should be a shift of ALL existing resources (special ed.) into an integrated system. This should mean money, existing specially trained staff (Zen), new training for teachers and all the facilities they have now. I would see it more as co-location but that is only my take on how it could work IF it was implemented. As for general education standards, well I have seen bad private schools and good state and vice versa. ‘Respect for others’ may be the most important life skill missing. I worked for a while in a non-teaching role at a private college. A religious school with fees subsidised by the church on a needs basis to be accessible to modest income families. Even single parent families who were battlers had their kids attending. The parents support the school in reasonable discipline and behavioural issues as they know the child is lucky to be there and must not risk losing their place. The school supports the teachers in every way. It took me a while to adjust to being called “Sir”. I kept turning around to see who the students were talking to! My dear wife has been a teacher in a state primary schools as a specialist. One day she came home and said some 10 yr old called her a F@#*&$% fat mole! I was shocked and angry. I said (stupidly) “You are not fat!”… which she is not.

  5. Zen:

    Don’t worry, I’m not going to collapse. What you’ve said doesn’t surprise me at all.

    I’ve got an easy answer for you. Now that the government has privatised nearly everything else, it wants to privatise schools and hospitals.

    According to a news report yesterday, almost 50% of the population has private health insurance. I think that came about largely due to income tax rebates. Where do you think this is leading?

    Two nights ago, it was reported that the Queensland state government is amalgamating 3 primary schools on the bayside of Brisbane. At the same time, Education Queensland was telling us that they don’t intend to build MEGA schools, which is nonsense.

    Our local high school has had to be run as 5 mini-schools for quite a number of years, with one Principal or Deputy Principal in charge of each year level. Current enrolment is in excess of 1700 students.

    Neither ALP nor Liberals has wanted to finance any new public schools.


    Yes, I’m glad you and your wife understand where I’m coming from.

    Schools teach rights, respect and responsibility, but they fail to carry out the disciplinary measures necessary to uphold them. It also doesn’t make sense to market the school rules as “suggestions”.

    When these kids are adults, will the police “suggest” that they don’t rob a bank or murder anyone, and then leave it open to choice?

    I think the people with the most rights are juvenile bullies. I cannot say I’ve ever had much trouble with even the worst-behaved children. I simply nip bad behaviour in the bud.

    Yes, it would be better if every adult went back to being called “Mr, Miss, Mrs, Madam, Sir etc”.

    It would also be great if parents didn’t keep undermining teachers and child care workers, and defending their very spoilt children, whom they’ve left the general community to raise instead of doing it themselves.

    In the current system, ill-behaved children are empowered over both the adults and the peer group.

  6. Ken:

    I had a bit of a look at Maralyn’s blog. I saw a post discussing sex education in schools. It seems that the NSW government wants religious groups to start teaching it.

    While I would like to see the Family Planning Association out of Queensland schools for not teaching any kind of morality, I would prefer that we followed a middle path.

    It seems to be no problem for Maralyn that the FPA are pro-abortion and encourage sexual activity among the very young.

    When my youngest son was in primary school, RE educators used their workbooks to stick their noses far too deeply into his personal life, so I think they can take a hike as well.

  7. GZG
    I thought we discuss issues not personalities.
    And I still insist that there should never be enough money spent on education.
    At the moment, our priorities seem to be military, detention centres or prisons ( a half a billion dollars ultra modern prison is going to be built in South Australia) and spy cameras.
    The French President can travel by charter planes and our leaders cannot.
    Yes, you might be right; my sense of economy must be a bit funny (and inconsistent).

  8. TONY – “As you know only a small percentage of public money (20%) goes to private schools.” 20% of what public money? The Federal govt’s budget for private vs public funding meant that 70% of public schools received only 30% of funding, while private schools (30%) received 70% of the funds. Towards the end of last year many private schools had millions in the bank, but were still eligible to receive govt assistance. Then they charge fees on top of that. At last count public education in the country had lost over $7 billion during Howard’s years. Nothing just about that! When public schools also have golf courses, tennis schools, swimming pools etc, then we could discuss funding. It’s certainly not adequate, just or fair at this time. I don’t know a private school that runs raffles for library books or gym mats? I’ve heard of many public schools who are forced to though.
    The whole formula for assessing funding is not fair either! No wonder there’s not enough places for kids with special needs.
    I was involved in the care of a child with a chronic physical disability which meant he was incontinent (bowel wise). He couldn’t have been at that school unless he had someone to care for him – I volunteered. The other kids in his class were great, and I believe it was due to their teacher explaining his condition (they were Kinder kids)-not a complaint or unkind word. “Kids can be cruel” is often the chant, but it’s usually learned behaviour from us – adults! They’re not born cruel! We teach them intolerance etc. I’ve heard parents talk of comments from other adults re their disabled child, and I’m always shocked by their cruelty!

    This little boy was as bright as a button, but had a physical condition due to being born without an anus, one kidney and a problem with his bowel! His Mum(an asthmatic)died in front of him when he was 2,and he was alone with her.Due to his long stays in hospital,he didn’t bond easily.I was happy the 1st time he took my hand!

  9. Naomi:

    I think the government just wants to privatise everything – health and education included.

    A large percentage of “middle Australia” has kids in private sector schools. Politicians put money where the voters are.

    Kids are also cruel because they are insufficiently corrected by the adults in charge, whether at home, school or elsewhere. It’s a societal problem.

  10. “Kids are also cruel because they are insufficiently corrected by the adults in charge, whether at home, school or elsewhere. It’s a societal problem.” yes, LORIKEET but who is “society’? We are? How many times do parents/adults pass negative comments about others, adults or children in front of kids? Children learn what they live – and that’s what we do, say, act, etc in their presence. They’re like ‘blotting paper’ they soak it all up, even when we’re not even aware of it-they pick things up in the media, those stupid magazines (usually for young girls). We make them!
    If adults are obnoxious, rude, judgemental and just cruel about the looks or behaviours of others (kids with a mental disability, physical appearance, blind people, people with an accent, black people etc)it’s ‘soaked up’ in their psyche and that’s the main reason we have racists and bigots and homophobics and ????Parents have the first interaction with kids – if they’re one of the hateful lot, their kids will be influenced too! Possibly end up the same way. I watched the maniacal behaviour of those in Qld re the pedophile living in their community – it reminded me of watching Mississippi Burning (based on a true story)about the lynch mobs in the US and the murders of those young black people in the 1960’s or To Kill A Mockingbird! Very scary! (Not that I’m supporting KF, but those people were hysterical and irrational – pure hatred-scary).
    In short, we can’t blame them OUT THERE! They’re us! Rudeness or bad manners was not acceptable behaviour in my kids – whether at home or at school! I told them, they weren’t going to school to learn manners, they learnt those at home!
    It’s very sad that govts have lost their way! Priorities have changed! They’re as much to blame for the ‘bad attitudes’ as anyone. As you say, they hold money as the ‘god’. They’ll sell off anything; ignore their moral responsibilities, and then have to toughen up the crimes act/s when people rebel, are enraged??It’s sad!

  11. Naomi:

    When we are talking about any kind of school (special needs or otherwise), youth group or sports club etc, the safety and attitudes of the children are only going to be as good as the disciplinary system being used.

    All adults have to be able to manage kids on their own turf, without blaming influences at home. When a large percentage of parents do not teach the right things, and schools do little to correct bad behaviour, they are unsafe places to send ANY child.

    Children learn things from every area of life experience – parents, other adults, television, internet, PEER GROUP. Children spend half of their waking lives at school, and plenty more at other activities.

    We are living in the 21st century. Things have changed!

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