Last Thursday the disability and education communities held a rally at Parliament calling for proper funding for inclusive education. It was the first time that these two groups came together and it included unions, specialist teachers, many families and a brass band. The children enjoyed the band and the adults enjoyed the kappa haka from Berhampore School. The message was simple.
Education is for all and inclusion must be funded for everyone. So many parents have struggled with a broken system and they have had enough. Teachers are aware that they cannot address all the needs. Nobody was there to celebrate the Government’s Special Education Update and proposals to rearrange funding rather than increase funding. Everyone is for early intervention, but not at the expense of children at other levels of the education system. Scrimping on learning support hurts children and families with their learning.
One of the several great speakers at the rally was Etta Bollinger. She is a student at university who is sick of being treated as an exception because the system does not value and support students. She spoke of a disabling mainstream culture that has low expectations for the young people it should celebrate and include.
I was proud to stand in support of these tenacious and passionate people, many of whom submitted to the Inquiry I initiated at the Education Select Committee, the report from which we are still negotiating. But one thing is clear, if the Government think these communities will accept a nil funding increase for their children to be included, thank again!