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This conference presentation was originally published as:

Shields, M. (2011, September). Joys, tensions and issues: Special needs provisions in an Australian Christian education system 2009/2010. Paper presented at the Australian Association of Special Education Inc. (AASE) National Conference, Gold Coast, Australia.


130312 Special Education and Disability

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Inclusion in mainstream education for students with special needs has been accepted for the last 25 years in Australian government schools. However, Christian and non-government schools have been slower to include these students.

This research project investigated the current provisions for students with special needs (SWSN) in a national, Australian, Christian school system (49 schools) during 2009 and 2010. Most respondents were the designated special needs teachers in those schools; however, in some of the small schools the principal also carried this role. In addition to the quantitative date reported via questionnaires, respondents were able to comment on relevant issues and possible solutions as they perceived them.

Issues and tensions included managing limited funding for SWSN in non-government schools, a lack of appropriate qualifications for staff who worked with SWSN, issues in enrolment of SWSN and a changing school profile; lack of networking and sharing between the schools in the system; and issues of incorrect diagnosis for all students with special needs. Results indicated that 16% of the students had special needs, 28% of the schools did not have any designated special needs staff, while a further 36% did not have qualified staff in this role.

The paper includes discussion of the evidence-based issues facing these schools and the system, drawn from the data, together with a number of recommendations for improvement.


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