Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Strange Times

The job I’ve been doing since “retirement” has me working substantially in state schools, but about 10% of my caseload has been in Catholic and Independent schools.

As of the end of the 2012 school year, I’ll no longer be able to support these non-state school kids and teachers.

This is apparently a consequence of the Newman’s government’s cost cutting, but to be frank the decision and the reasons for it don't make sense.

First I knew about it was by way of an email telling me I would have to work hard in term 4 “building capacity” in the non-state schools where these kids with disabilities were enrolled, and I’d have to come up with some way of helping them plan to do without my support and the equipment they have on loan from Disability Services Support Unit. This is because AVT services to non-state schools in Queensland will be withdrawn at the end of 2012.

Apart from the lack of availability of specialist support (my job) into the future, there are a bunch of other implications for these schools.

How a small school is going to raise the dosh for an expensive piece of equipment previously available free on loan, is right now, another mystery. Given that I work exclusively in small bush schools with very small budgets, this has the whiff of making wine from water. I guess that the Catholic schools may have special abilities in this area. I hope so, because it stumps me as to how they're going to do it.

The only reason put forward (by the minister, John-Paul Langbroek when he was cornered by the ABC after a complaint from the parent of a lad in Brisbane with Cerebral Palsy) was that the non-state schools were “double-dipping”.

This makes no sense at all.

There is a funding agreement between the Federal government and the non-state system which allocates money to non-state schools on the basis of enrolments of kids with disabilities. This has been in place (in various forms) since the eighties. I’m thoroughly aware of it, as in another life in Mt Isa; I was responsible for administering the grants for North West Queensland.

As far as I know, this federal-state agreement continues. What apparently will not continue is the agreement between the Catholics and the state government.  Last year's agreement is available on line - this year's was much the same. It appears, therefore, that the Newman administration believes that because the feds are looking after kids with disabilities in non-state schools, they're relieved of any responsibility.

The trouble is that these federal grants are used to buy teacher aide time and teacher time, based on the level of need of individual students. This is calculated using a complex process called Verification, which is essentially the same for state and non-state schools. The higher the level of need – the more resources. Unfortunately (because it's dead boring), one aspect of my job is guiding this process, something closer to financial auditing, rather than teaching. Teaching kids and working with teachers is what I’d rather be doing, but if I don't ensure the Verifications go through, the kids (and schools) don’t get any help. So I have to do it.

Be that as it may, the Verification process supplies the resources, and the service I provide operationalizes these resources. From the beginning of next year, for non-state schools, the second part of this support will cease.

It’s a bit like being given a new car to drive, but being told there’s no petrol available.

I doubt that there’s been any thought, planning or consultation behind this.

The weird thing is, you’d be hard put to identify where any savings are going to come from. The AVT service is continuing for non-state schools, and these are by far the majority.

How much extra does it really cost to work in the non-state school in a small town, when the job is already being done in the state school a few hundred metres down the road?

My habit has been (in a town like St George for example) to divide the school day into thirds, and spend a third of each day in the state school, the high school and the Catholic school. I’ll still have to drive the 400kms (5 hrs) to St George, but won’t be allowed to set foot in the convent school.


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