Advice please: dealing with NSW Dept of Education re a student with disabilities

So, one of my togsprogs has a friend in hir year at school with severe disabilities which have meant that several hospital stays of multiple weeks duration have been necessary this year for hir survival.

This friend is not adequately being kept in the loop at hospital school regarding hir “normal school” course material and upcoming examination dates and expectations. Sie is a keen student and keeping on top of hir studies is important to hir.

I do understand that due to the vagaries of teacher rosters that perhaps the Year Advisor (even though we are talking about the HSC years here) may perhaps not have all the training on dealing with such situations that we might hope would be the case.

Still, how the fuck can I help this rather lovely young person get the best out of hir education when the existing systems seem to be letting hir down?

Categories: crisis, education, ethics & philosophy


9 replies

  1. Gah. So frustrating, I’m sure. Educational institutions are so often faily when it comes to ensuring PWD get proper access.
    I’m pretty sure there was an education-for-pwd-advocacy group in NSW, but I’ve lost whatever details I ever had, and my google-fu is failing me. There is Disability Advocacy Inc. But I suspect a good first step is to contact the Anti-Discrimination Board just to find out what the lie of the land is. It’s a lot easier to negotiate with, for e.g., the Dept of Education, if you have a fairly strong sense of what requirements are made of them by government.
    But all of that is probably obvious. I’ll ask some of my disability sector peeps and see what they suggest…

  2. Have you tried emailing the principal with pretty much what you’ve written above? Knowing that other parents notice, are concerned, and have a definite idea of what should be happening, might make some difference.

    • I plan to talk to hir custodial parent today, to offer to liaise on hir behalf, because sie too is living with a chronic disability which is flaring up right now. That conversation will determine exactly how I plan to approach the principal.

  3. When a good friend of mine was hospitalised with anorexia back in the 80’s we, her classmates, shared out her various subjects between us and made copies of all our classwork, collected copies of anything handed out in class and passed it all on to her via her parents once a week.
    Of course it’s not the responsibility of fellow students to pick up the slack on this sort of thing, but it wouldn’t hurt to see if there’s a group willing to help out.

  4. If the custodial parent is keen, then make a big fuss. There are lots of layers of people you can bring this up with.

  5. I would suggest trying to work through the school counsellor. It sounds like what you need is someone at the school to coordinate the school’s response and the school counsellor does not have teaching responsibilities. Addressing accessibility issues is part of their role and they should also know if there is any other assistance available for this friend.
    In general, though govt schools are chronically underfunded, so the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease. Suggest the friends parents call the counsellor, set up an appointment and follow-up regularly to make sure an appropriate plan of action is being arranged.

  6. Thanks for the advice, all. This has given me a few avenues to pursue. I’ve left a message on parent’s phone, waiting to hear back.

  7. Write to the Minister for Education and cc to the Premier – outline your concerns really clearly/be very specific and number them so they’re harder to ignore in the response the dept prepares for you. Good letters from the public to MPs get things happening.. no, really.. more than you think.

  8. Sadly, it seems that the Illness and Misadventure procedures for HSC candidates are focussed on exam performance – did this illness affect the student’s ability to sit an exam and have the result be a fair measure of their performance?
    Ditto the Disability Provisions, which is very specific about the limits of the provisions: Note that the disability provisions apply only where the disability is such that a practical arrangement is required to reduce disadvantage in an exam situation.
    Neither of these sets of provisions seem to offer the assistance your friend needs.
    There is, however, a Disability Action Plan, which includes statements about development of appropriate programs of study – Life Skills courses – which would lead to the award of a School Certificate or HSC. A friend of ours, who has Downs Syndrome, was awarded his School Certificate last year after completing the Life Skills courses. This program is more suited to students who don’t attend mainstream schools.
    There are also provisions for flexibility in study, allowing students to accumulate their HSC subject over a period of up to 5 years, and repeat subjects if necessary. I’ve seen this program – HSC Pathways (expand the FAQ on this page) – in operation for students who were combining study with elite sports training and competition, but I gather it is also suitable for students in other circumstances including disability. This might be a way forward for your friend.

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