The report details the progress made by the Department of Education and Training on the Commission’s recommendations in its ground-breaking 2012 research Held back: the experiences of students with disabilities in Victorian schools. It draws on an analysis of information and engagement with the Department and other key stakeholders.
Held back found that while some students with disabilities have positive experiences in Victorian schools, many experience discrimination, exclusion and bullying. The research showed some students had been physically restrained or kept in isolation, others were excluded from classroom activities and camps or only attended school part-time due to a lack of available supports in schools.
"The Commission welcomes the positive developments by government and many Victorian schools since our 2012 report. However some of the issues raised in Held back remain and further work is required on others," Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said.
"One of the most important things is that we need a clear framework to measure the progress."
Positive initiatives include the comprehensive Program for Students with Disabilities Review, the significantly greater oversight of the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, and improving processes for school dispute resolution through the recently established Independent Office for School Dispute Resolution.
"Some stakeholders have suggested that while these high-level policy changes are to be commended they are simply not being felt in schools. While the government’s initiatives and reforms will take time to fully implement, we remain concerned that students with disabilities are still facing exclusion through enrolment policies and that some schools are struggling to understand and make the proper adjustments needed to ensure that all children are able to participate equally in our education systems."
Commissioner Hilton said that genuine and lasting change will require sustained commitment by government, improved data collection, regular evaluation of progress and consultation with stakeholders.
If you feel you or your child has been discriminated against because of a disability, or any other personal characteristic protected by the law, call the Commission on 1300 292 153 or find out more about making an enquiry or complaint.