School gets in the way of education

The link below is a newspaper report that a teenager with cerebral palsy is suing the Queensland State Government for discrimination after allegedly being told to avoid certain subjects at a Brisbane government high school due to his disability.,23739,23307111-3102,00.html

The newspaper reports that the student’s mother was allegedly told that her son’s English was only at a Year 3 level and “to go home and bring him up to a grade 4 level”. However, her son had just received a B for English in Year 10.

When the student moved to a private school, he performed better in English and German in his final year than previously. He wants to be a lawyer.

It seems the government education system judged this young man’s intellectual capacity based on his physical disability and cortical vision impairment. His disabilities make it hard for him to read, write or type because of being effectively blind during exams and being unable to control his arms.

So why couldn’t he use alternative methods to demonstrate his knowledge? Maybe provide oral assessment tasks or use voice recognition software to convert speech to text for assignments and assessments.

There is a huge variety of learning technology to let us step outside the tired old square of writing our opinions/reports on bits of paper. The State education exam markers are surely capable of assessing the academic or other value of a variety of work, even if the process did not include the physical act of writing words on paper?

As we have said before and will no doubt repeat many more times, the education systems need to stop incorrectly judging students’ learning abilities based on their medical diagnoses. Instead they should ask one simple question:

“What educational supports or tools does this student need to be able to learn?”.

And then provide them. It would enable many more students with disabilities to leave school with the skills to gain meaningful employment or undertake further study. And we do need more skilled workers, don’t we?

I guess this young man will excel in law. And we need him.



Filed under activevoice1

7 responses to “School gets in the way of education

  1. Pen

    Yes, well. Education Queensland allowed several principals to refuse to admit our son to their schools because of his physical impairment. They limited the choices in our part of Brisbane so much that we ended up moving to a different area. That school was pretty good with the physical issues – good terrain, teacher aide support and so on – but could not offer a satisfactory education. That principal suggested that they couldn’t deal with high academic needs because they put all their energy into supporting children with impairments. At which our jaws dropped and we asked, ‘but what about children who have both needs?’. The assumption, of course, being that a child with an impairment could not be academically bright. Horrible.

    The person who was supposed to help us suggested that a Catholic school might be a nicer option. Oh so helpful.

  2. Frantic in Canada

    I have been following policy and actual practice in Australia as I am moving for a year to Brisbane with my 3 children, one of which will need significant supports to do well in school. How do I find a good school? Reading all the ‘inclusive’ policies is not helping. What can you suggest for my fabulous 8 year old son?

  3. activevoice1

    There is a lot of useful research in Australia about the value of inclusion, learning technology such as the link below (I’ll send you PDF if you can’t open the link).

    The trouble is principals, teachers and most regions don’t see any connection between current research and what they actually do in schools.

    If you plan to send your children to a government school in Brisbane, I believe the education system codes the schools based on physical access, which would be on the QLD ed website. There also still seems to be a practical emphasis on “special units/schools” despite research showing that segregation is, in general, not helpful to the children, even if it is to the system.

    However, I am more interested in how schools/teachers educate my child, than if they’ve got ramps which mere money can buy. This is where all the “inclusive” policies you’ve read are not helpful. Principals and teachers still do not get that what is needed as much as ramps are changes to teaching methods, learning technology and most of all an attitude that expects your child is capable, given the right tools. Maybe some QLD parents can give you some hints. Also try contacting this site:

    They are a Brisbane inclusive learning technology company and may offer a good starting point in your search. I plan to move to Brisbane in future also, so please share any feedback!

    best wishes

  4. Frantic in Canada

    Thanks Fiona,
    I’m checking out Morningside, Calamvale and Macgregor schools. I have had some great help via the web. You are right, trying to get to what really happens at a school seems to bear no relation to inclusion policies. I have been in touch with QPPD and am waiting to hear from them. It seems (like here) that it comes down to the pricinpal, teacher and TAs values and approaches. I will let you know what happens…..
    Thanks again, S

  5. anonymous


  6. Pen

    I don’t have any good advice about a particular school in Brisbane. Very few people in the state education department were helpful to us in any way. Their attitude was that things were not possible, schools could reject our son because of his physical impairment without so much as a by-your-leave and that denying my son a decent education was perfectly reasonable, and we should be grateful that any accommodations were made at all. They tried to tell me it would be fine for my son to be taxied forty minutes each way to school, despite the fact that one of his major problems is fatigue, which can become life-threatening very quickly. My anger at the people who are supposed to support children is such that I try not to express it, because I can’t express it coherently or with a pleasant demeanour.

    Preschool was a different story – Playcare offered much support in a really positive way.

    I must say, despite my genuine exasperation at the state system trying to palm us off onto the Catholic system (my family are not religious at all), that the Catholic principals certainly had a more equitable and inclusive attitude. It is worth exploring this option if you have any extra money.

    One of my friends was very happy with some of the state schools in Forest Lakes or Springfield. They are not places I would choose to live, but two schools there welcomed her son, who has very high support needs, and encouraged her to send him there.

  7. activevoice1

    Dear anon

    Please enlighten us a little about Calamvale and Macgregor. I assumed you were a parent, and then got really paranoid and thought you may be a teacher. Please put me out of my misery. Is there a state school in Brisbane that walks the talk?

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