Giving every child every chance



More individualised support for all students


Meet Tom

Specialist training for educators transforms Tom’s life

Tom, 11, is prone to “meltdowns”.

He is in Grade 6 at Kilberry Valley Primary School in Hampton Park, and whilst he is high functioning, he has Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that affects people’s communication and socialisation abilities.

People with Asperger’s often have average or above average intelligence but can struggle to contain their emotions.

“If something doesn’t go his way or he doesn’t understand why he can’t do something, his behaviour is bad!” mum Jody Newton says. Read more about Tom.


Public schools have a diverse student population, embracing many students with high educational needs. Schools require targeted resources to support them, whether they are disabled, have learning difficulties or are experiencing emotional and behavioural issues.

Evidence suggests the number of students requiring additional support because of their learning difficulties is increasing. A recent report[1] shows at least one in six students in Victorian schools has been diagnosed with a disability, mental health issue or learning disorder – including Autism Spectrum Disorder, dyslexia, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The current figures likely underestimate the real number of students with disabilities in schools. A report on the nationally consistent data model that informs the new loading formula for disabilities – meant to be delivered through the Gonski reforms – estimates that there are about 296,000 students with disabilities in Australian schools, which represents 8.4% of all students. Existing funding arrangements cover about 5% of these students, leaving an estimated 120,000 without the support they need.

The Victorian Auditor-General’s report into Programs for Students with Special Learning Needs came to the following conclusion about the Education Department:

DEECD does not know how many students in Victoria have unfunded special learning needs. It cannot identify these students nor can it determine if they are being adequately supported by schools.[2]

Our Recommendation

If students get the level of needs-based funding and program funding they require, they can successfully participate in learning to achieve this in Victoria, the government needs to provide:

  • Wider eligibility criteria for the Program for Students with a Disability funding
  • An increase in the number of Student Support Services Officers providing specialised, professional support
  • The provision of local school Literacy and Numeracy Support Officers, Koorie Support officers and Reading Recovery trainers and tutors
  • Additional funding for improved transition between preschool and primary, and primary and secondary for students with higher educational and welfare needs
  • The provision of adequate funding to schools to enable the operation and coordination of viable high quality VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) and VEt (Vocational Education and training) programs for senior students
  • The necessary resourcing for schools to implement intervention programs for students with high needs through reduced class sizes and the employment of suitably trained and resourced education support staff.

[1] Department for Education and Child Development, Office for Children and Young People, 2014 South Australian Implementation of the National Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (2014).
[2] Victorian Auditor-General, Programs for Students with Special Learning Needs (2012), http://www.audit.vic.gov.au/publications/20120829-Special-Learning-Need/20120829-Special-Learning-Need.pdf, p10, 1 July 2015.