Challenges related to funding

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Families who contact us raise a number of questions or concerns about funding and their child’s supports.

On this page:

1. Challenges related to eligibility for the Program for Students with Disability or other funding programs, or for a Student Support Group.

2. Challenges related to decisions about supports that involve funding, when your child is on the PSD.

3. Challenges related to your child not getting enough support at school.

4. Challenges related to being asked to pay for some aspect of your child’s supports.

Introduction

Below we raise some common challenges related to funding and offer some suggestions for dealing with them. However, individual children’s needs and situations vary, and families take different approaches to advocating for their child.

Some general tips on raising a concern with school are:

  • You have the right to raise any concern you have with school or with your child’s education.
  • Understanding your child’s rights will help you to feel confident that your requests are reasonable.
  • Try to focus on one issue at a time. It’s worth taking time to gather all the information you can about the issue, to work out how express your concerns clearly and calmly, and to focus on the outcome you want for your child.
  • You always have the right to a support person or advocate in your dealings with school.

Follow these links for more about how to effectively raise a concern with school:

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Funding issues in a Catholic or independent school

Most of the content on this page relates most directly to funding issues in a government school. However, many of the tips are also relevant to Catholic or independent schools, and all of the links offered also cover information relevant to all three school sectors.

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  1. Challenges related to your child’s eligibility for the Program for Students with disability or other funding, or for a Student Support Group.

You are entitled to raise issues with school about your child’s support needs at any time. Here are some suggestions for if school seems unwilling to offer additional support or to seek funding:

  • Assess what information you have about your child’s additional needs (e.g. assessment from therapists) that was provided less than two years ago.
  • Show this to the school and ask what other information would be useful to demonstrate your child’s needs. Ask whether the school could refer your child for assessment through DET specialist staff or assessment services.
  • Another option is to ask a psychologist or other specialist to assess your child, and then take the results to the school. Talk to your GP or paediatrician about a referral.

The Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) is the main funding source for students with disabilities in government schools. It provides supplementary funding to help schools support students with moderate to severe disabilities – about one in four students with disabilities. But all students with disability or additional needs are entitled, by law, to ‘reasonable adjustments’ at school to support their learning and participation. Some parents and carers give their child’s school a copy of the relevant section of the Commonwealth Disability Standards for Education, which outlines the obligations of schools to students with disabilities or additional needs (see our resources section).

All schools receive general funding to support students with additional learning, and DET highly recommends Student Support Group meetings as an effective way to help meet all such students’ needs, whether or not they are on the PSD. SSG meetings are compulsory for students on the PSD.

Many students’ additional needs can be met without supplementary funding, for example through adjustments in the classroom or to teaching approaches. Specialist staff from the regional DET office can be a great source of ideas, as can your child’s own therapists and online resources. You can also share your own ideas and tips from your child’s previous teachers about what helps your child to feel comfortable and to learn.

Follow these links for more information:

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  1. Challenges related to decisions about funded resources, when your child is on the PSD.

The support system for students with a disability can be confusing, and it is not always well explained to families. An important principle of the system is that any supplementary funding your child is eligible for (e.g. through the Program for Students with Disabilities, if they are in a government school) does not ‘belong’ to them. Rather, it goes into their school’s budget, to help the school to support your child and others with moderate to severe disabilities.

Another key principle is that the level of funding your child is eligible for should not limit or define the amount or type of support that the school gives to your child. Rather, the school should work with you to understand your child’s academic, social, emotional and care needs, and how best to meet them through a range of adjustments, some of which require supplementary funding.

Schools often spend some PSD funding on one-on-one supports such as education support staff (aide) time or therapy, and some on more ‘universal’ supports such as teacher training or employing support staff such as an integration coordinator. You are entitled to information about the level of funding your child’s school receives to help support your child, as stated in the official PSD Guidelines (see resources section).

You inform the school about your child’s needs, primarily through your child’s SSG. This group plans your child’s learning and supports, and makes recommendations to the principal about any resources that require funding. The principal makes final decisions about how funding is spent. However, by advocating for their child, many families have helped their school to better understand their child’s needs, such that the school then changed a decision about how funding would be spent.

Any significant changes to your child’s supports should ideally first be discussed in your child’s SSG. Whether or not this happens, you can raise concerns about any negative impacts that changes have on your child. A useful starting point is to clarify what was last agreed about your child’s learning needs and supports. This should be documented in your child’s Individual Learning Plan or other support plans (e.g. related to care or behaviour management).

If you have a concern related to funding, try to focus discussion on exactly what the issue is for your child, and what outcome you want for them. What support do they need? How are their current supports not meeting their needs? What would help? Try to come to agreement through discussion in your child’s SSG and review of your child’s Individual Learning Plan. When you agree on a way forward, also agree on a date to review any changes made to your child’s supports, and to discuss whether they are working well or need further adjustments.

Follow these links for more information and ideas

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  1. Challenges related to your child not getting enough support at school.

As discussed above, you are entitled to information about the level of funding received by the school to help support your child. You are also entitled to have input into planning your child’s learning and supports, including through SSG meetings (or Program Support Group meetings in Catholic or independent schools). If you are concerned about your child’s learning or supports, the most useful approach is generally to convene an SSG meeting, and to start by reviewing your child’s Individual Learning Plan.

In preparing for the meeting, clarify for yourself what your main concerns are, and how best to express these. Is your child having a particular problem at school, which has triggered your concerns? For example, are you concerned about your child’s learning progress? The schoolwork they are given? Their participation in class, or their behaviour or relationships with other students? Follow the ‘raising a concern’ link below for a step-by-step guide to thinking through and effectively raising your concerns with school.

Every student’s needs change over time. Your child’s needs might change for many reasons, for example with changes in their health or development, in the school environment or at home. If your child’s needs change significantly, a Student Support Group meeting should be held as soon as practicable, to review your child’s plan and supports. If the school does not convene a meeting, you can request one. The school can apply for additional PSD funding, if your child’s needs change significantly, or if additional information has become available about their needs since the last application was made.

Follow these links for more information:

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  1. Your child’s school has asked that you pay for some aspect of your child’s supports

The law and Victorian government policy requires that ‘instruction in the standard curriculum’ be provided free in all Victorian government schools, and that the costs are not passed on to families. Schools can request voluntary contributions from families under three categories: essential educational items, optional extras, and voluntary parent payments.

In addition, Victorian law states that families of a student with a disability should not be required to contribute to the provision of additional support for their child’s education because of their disability.

Schools cannot ask you to pay for their child’s supports. This is not allowable under Victorian law; schools are legally required to provides adjustments that give your child the opportunity to learn on the same basis as students without a disability.  You can raise concern about such issues at an SSG meeting. See the section Raising a concern with school for tips on how to do this effectively. Write to the school expressing your concerns and ask for clarification in writing of their decision on this issue. You can then take your concern to the DET regional office if needed.

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