The law and DET policy supports your child’s right to have an opportunity to access an educational program designed to support their learning, on the same basis as students without a disability.
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All children have the potential to learn and develop, whatever their disability or learning needs. The Commonwealth Disability Standards for Education state that ‘students with disabilities have the right to participate in educational courses or programs that are designed to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding, including relevant supplementary programs, on the same basis as other students’.
Your child’s school is legally required to:
- take reasonable steps to design their programs so your child can participate in the learning experiences offered, without discrimination
- consult with you and your child about how their disability affects their ability to participate in these
- make reasonable adjustments in light of that consultation, unless this would impose an ‘unjustifiable hardship’
- repeat this process over time, to ensure they meet your child’s changing needs.
What schools can do
The Disability Standards for Education do not stipulate the particular individual adjustments to support your child’s right to learn, because every student is different. They suggest actions that schools could take, including ensuring that:
- the curriculum, teaching materials and assessment methods are accessible and appropriate for your child
- planned activities take into account the student’s learning capacity and goals
- learning materials are provided in an appropriate format, such as large print or Braille, or using appropriate communication devices or Auslan (and without delays that might disadvantage the student)
- teaching methods are adjusted for the student’s disability and learning needs
- non-classroom activities such as camps, field trips and work experience are inclusive
- assessment methods are adjusted so that the student is not disadvantaged by their disability.
All of these adjustments will require forward planning, especially major out-of-school activities like school camp.
Providing a comparable alternative
If an activity, facility, service or program cannot be adjusted so that it is accessible or suitable for your child, the school must provide a comparable alternative, in relation to the overall aims of the curriculum, so your child can still benefit from the school’s programs on the same basis as other students.
This alternative should be comparable in educational value. Students with a disability should not miss out on an aspect of learning or be left to fend for themselves, if the mainstream curriculum or activities do not suit them. Students with a disability, like all students, should be challenged and supported to learn and achieve their potential.
Support for educators
Meeting the needs of all students can be challenging for educators. Students can experience an enormous range of disabilities and additional learning needs, requiring very different teaching and learning approaches.
Your child’s education program should be developed with reference to the AusVELS – the combined Australian and Victorian Essential Learning Standards. The AusVELS curriculum is appropriate for many students with a disability, with some additional adjustments perhaps, for example in the classroom. Curricula for students with disabilities in English, Maths, Science and History have all been integrated into the AusVELS themselves. Support materials to help teachers adapt the AusVELS in all other curriculum areas are available on the AusVELS website.
The ABLES online package of assessment tools, curricula, teaching strategies and resources is available to help schools understand and meet the learning needs of all students, including students with a disability.
There are online training materials provided by the University of Canberra in partnership with DET and its equivalent in other states and territories that can help school principals and other staff develop better ways to support students with a disability to take part in education on the same basis as other students.
The National Disability Coordination Officer Programme has produced a website guide to the Standards, which can help people with disabilities, parents and carers, and education providers to understand the most important parts of the Disability Standards for Education.
Find out more
- Find out about the supports available to students with a disability.
- Read about the processes for planning, implementing, monitoring and reviewing your child’s supports in Education planning for your child.
- Read ideas for dealing with concerns about your child’s learning in Tips for dealing with common challenges.