Data released today confirms soaring rates of expulsion of students with a disability during the pandemic, indicating under-resourced schools are not coping.
Almost one in three students expelled from Victorian government schools in the first year of the pandemic had a disability, up from one in seven the year before.
Shadow Minister for Education David Hodgett said the disrupted learning and social isolation had not been matched with proper resourcing to make sure all children were supported.
“Snap lockdowns enforced by the State Labor Government are still affecting young people’s wellbeing, but school expulsion as a result of pandemic pressures risks destroying a kid’s future,” Mr Hodgett said.
“The Victorian Government is actively ignoring warnings from education experts that this is just the “tip of the iceberg” and that they “expect it to be worse this year” by not providing appropriate levels of training and support for teachers and staff that will keep all students in the classroom.
“Victorian families want a guarantee of no more lockdowns and that our schools will safely stay open, but we’re yet to get it from the Labor Government.”
According to school principals and education advocates, the disruptions caused by the pandemic have heightened anxiety and difficult behaviours among students with a disability who could no longer work to a daily routine.
State Government rules, like regular nasal Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) for students with special needs, put extreme stress on families. Less invasive saliva-based tests should have been offered but weren’t.
Shadow Minister for Disability Tim Bull said students with a disability are equally as deserving of an education that properly supports them to have the best start in life, even more so in times of massive upheaval like we saw during the pandemic.
“Expelling kids at a time of immense social and emotional pressure puts the burden back on families, with parents having to make a difficult choice to leave work to care for their child if they’re expelled,” Mr Bull said.
“Expulsion is not the answer, it’s just a sign of the lack of support for students and staff. More support to keep kids in the classroom is the first step.
“No one should be expelled as a result of their behaviours that are a result of their disability.
“After two lost years of learning, keeping our schools safe and open is the best path forward to recover and rebuild the education of the current generation of Victorian kids.”
David Hodgett MP Tim Bull MP
Shadow Minister for Education Shadow Minister for Disability