Australia: Education, Catholic systems yet to sign off on education reforms

Autralia/ May 15, 2018/By Emily Baker/Source:

Reforms aimed at improving the ACT’s education system for children with complex needs and challenging behaviours continue to lag.

An expert panel behind a 2015 review of the education system – triggered after a Canberra school used a $5000 cage to manage the behaviour of a child with autism – made a suite of recommendations broadly accepted by the public and Catholic education sectors.

But the Schools For All December 2017 progress report, only released this week, showed the ACT Education Directorate and Catholic Education Office were yet to finalise five and seven recommendations respectively.

Among recommendations not yet completed by the ACT Education Directorate and Catholic Education was the professionalisation of learning support assistants.

A directorate-specific progress update said the system had partnered with the Canberra Institute of Technology to offer a pilot group of workers a Certificate IV in Education Support and further pledged to “consider the minimum expected level of training for LSAs”.

The Catholic system reported 80 per cent of its classroom support assistants had either completed or started a Certificate IV or equivalent training.

Both systems were also yet to sign off on a recommendation relating to alternatives to out-of-school suspensions, originally due in June 2016.

The directorate’s Schools for All update said an off-campus alternative education option was under development “for a small number of students” who could not “effectively” access learning in a mainstream setting.

“The directorate is working closely with Canberra high school principals and the community sector to design and implement the off campus flexible learning program,” the report said.

“A first intake of students is expected to participate in the program in the second semester of 2018.”

The directorate’s progress report hinted at possible future projects in the public system.

The directorate had investigated the “schools as hub” model, according to the progress update, which had included a visit to Melbourne’s Doveton College. A report had been handed to the directorate’s Future of Education and early childhood education strategy team, it said.

Most remaining Catholic recommendations related to administrative processes. One called on the system to establish procedures to apply, monitor and report on restrictive practices.

The Archdiocese-specific report said early career teachers and “several targeted schools” had received a course on managing aggression and potential aggression. Processes to report and respond to critical incidents had been developed, it said, and “schools have and will continue to be advised on alternatives for restraint”.

A key advancement in the December quarter was the development of an evaluation baseline against which the Schools for All reforms could be measured, another government report said.

Public, Catholic and independent schools had also joined to ensure their disability criteria aligned with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition.

” … we have begun to see a systemic cultural change where all children and young people in ACT schools are placed at the centre of all decision-making relating to education policy and practice to enable their social, academic and wellbeing needs to be met,” the summary report said.


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