Roger Law the secretary for Tasmania’s Autistic Children has every right to be concerned if Minister Bartlett really believes that up to $16000 of support for a child diagnosed with severe autism and enrolled in a mainstream school (Mercury 1st March P15) is anywhere near sufficient. Teacher aides are paid twenty five dollars per hour costing $1000 for one hour of support to a child for each of the forty school weeks of a year. For this sum of money a child is therefore supported for up to sixteen hours during each week in a normal classroom when schools are operating for twenty five. It also needs to be recognised that several aides may be timetabled to work with each child with a disability and that the teacher will need to communicate lesson approaches with each at different times in a day. The consequence is that a child with autism will be in a classroom without support for nine hours per week which is almost two full days. This is not counting a funding reduction that is needed to pay for twenty minute recess breaks for the aide, release costs to cover meeting attendance to review the child’s progress, or money that needs to be put aside to cover absences of the aides through illness or professional learning. Consider how a teacher feels when politicians and so called expects, none of whom work in our schools and are ignorant of the realities of a massively under funded inclusion policy criticize teachers’ competence and schools’ effort to improve literacy and numeracy results for all other children within their care. To add to their insults, the minister has announced with pride that Tasmania, the state that has thirteen percent more children with high needs in mainstream schools, and even then measured with IQs below 50 rather than the measure of 70 that other states use, will ‘lead the way’ by releasing data that allows literacy and numeracy results of schools to be compared. The profession is appalled.

Terry Polglase
Vice President
AEU National Principals Committee