Dundula teachers stand firm behind their principal
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 3, 23 April 2019, page no. 18
Most members would be aware of the department’s Inclusive Education Policy, which requires all Queensland state schools to comply with Commonwealth and state legislation requiring that, as far as practicable, people with a disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as those without disability.
To assist schools to address the diverse learning needs of their students, additional targeted resourcing is provided, either directly to schools or to the region.
In the case of Dundula State School, the issue was how much extra resourcing could be provided for a student with a multifaceted disability, with Down Syndrome and associated intellectual disability. This particular student needs:
- highly individualised curriculum
- a personalised communication device
- a communication partner
- physical resources
- social and emotional skilling
- behaviour management.
The school found itself devoting all of its dedicated special needs support teacher-aide time to this one individual, to the detriment of five other students with complex needs. Members met with their acting Regional Organiser, Peter Thompson, and moved a series of motions requesting a directive to refuse instruction because of the danger to the safety and wellbeing of staff and students.
In the bargaining process that followed, an initial regional response offering little support was upgraded to a full-time special needs teacher for the student for the first three weeks of term three 2018, followed by a full-time teacher-aide to work with him, providing for his particular needs, for the remainder of term three.
Subsequently, a meeting of departmental and QTU officials towards the end of term three found us once again facing the prospect of little support for this very complex little boy. The department’s initial stance was for the teacher-aide support to be withdrawn by the end of term three, with no time available in term four. Members met with me, and once again expressed their dissatisfaction by indicating that they would be prepared to hold a stop-work meeting early in term four to discuss further action.
A swift response followed, with the department offering 21 hours of teacher-aide time per week for a communication partner for the student until the end of 2018. Members were satisfied with this compromise. Subsequently, the region has continued to provide funding for the communication partner in 2019.
The issue of the safety and wellbeing of staff at the school and the students in the classroom was paramount for the principal, Trudy Large, and the school staff. Members stood staunchly behind their principal when she was subjected to quite a deal of pressure from the regional team, and with the support of the Queensland Teachers’ Union, a very satisfactory outcome was achieved. This is a great example of what can result from local campaign action.