New research highlights severe underfunding for students with disabilities in Australian schools.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) has completed its 2024 State of our Schools survey, which involved over 15,000 principals, teachers, and support staff across the nation.

The survey reveals a significant decline in the number of principals who believe they have adequate funding for students with disabilities, dropping from 17 per cent last year to just 11 per cent this year. 

A staggering 89 per cent of principals reported reallocating funds from other budget areas to cover the needs of these students due to insufficient government funding. 

This reallocation amounts to approximately $158,820 per school, summing up to $948.7 million annually across the country.

Schools are faced with tough choices, leading to cuts in other critical areas such as maintenance to support students with disabilities. 

“The diversity and complexity of student needs in our classrooms has never been higher<’ says Correna Haythorpe, AEU Federal President.

“Students with disability deserve every opportunity to succeed but public schools across the country are not fully resourced to be able to meet all their needs.”

The primary resources lacking are teacher aides and specialist support like speech and occupational therapists. 

There are also significant gaps in professional development for teachers, with only 36 per cent feeling adequately trained to address the needs of disabled students.

Eight out of ten principals and teachers reported having students with disabilities who are ineligible for Federal Government funded support, despite their evident needs. 

This has led to situations where critical support is compromised, as noted in various individual school reports from the survey.

The AEU is advocating for urgent action, calling for new agreements between the Albanese Government and state and territory governments to ensure public schools are funded at 100 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard. 

“The current funding arrangements for students with disability also need to be overhauled,” Haythorpe says. 

“Under the current model, there is no funding from the Federal Government for 30 per cent of the students with disability in public schools.”