Improving the Learning and Support Journey
The improving the learning and support journey project delivered on the Disability Strategy commitment to improve the family experience.
The NSW Department of Education's vision is to be Australia's best education system and one of the finest in the world for all children and young people.
We are committed to continuously improving the education experiences and outcomes for all students in NSW. We envisage an education system where all schools and classrooms have the support they need to educate and include the range of children and young people in their local community.
Through our ongoing work with families and schools we heard of the need to improve and simplify the access request process, including the timeliness and consistency, and clarity on how the process works.
An access request is used to apply for additional learning and support provisions for a student, above what is available within usual school resources.
We have improved transition planning for students moving between school settings including primary and secondary school. We created more transparent, consistent and timely access request panel processes. We are prioritising more effective, timely communication to parents and schools in response to access requests.
- streamlined placement panel processes that schools use to request additional support for students to be transparent, consistent and timely
- improved transitions for students moving from primary to secondary school who receive integration funding support or are accessing support classes
- ensured parents have access to clear, accurate information regarding processes in NSW public schools and their child’s supports
- improved the provision of timely information to families regarding the outcome from their request for additional support for their child.
Changes reflect our commitment to improve the learning and life outcomes of students with disability, and to do this in a way that reduced the time spent on the process by schools.
Access request improvements
As part of changes made to improve the learning and support journey:
- Access requests are no longer needed for applications for hearing support only below eight hours and/or vision support only below 12 hours, which allows support to be provided in a timely manner.
- Placement panels that assess access requests now have consistent functions and membership across NSW.
- Most placement panels that assess access requests now occur twice a term at consistent times, and placement panel members are required to complete professional learning about panel roles and responsibilities.
- A central Integration Funding Support (IFS) team now provides a single point of contact for additional funding that supports some students in mainstream schools.
These changes standardise practices across all NSW public schools so that all access request applications for immediate and next term support have a panel decision communicated to families within an average 28 calendar days (excluding school holidays and public holidays). These changes reflect the Upper House Inquiry recommendation to reform the access request process. They also deliver Disability Strategy commitment 3.3 to ‘streamline and improve the processes by which families, children and young people access support at schools’.
Transitioning to secondary school can be overwhelming for any student, but for students with disability and their families it can be a source of greater anxiety.
Previously students with disability often had to wait until the end of Year 6 to know where they would attend secondary school and the support they would receive, making it difficult for them and their families to prepare for the change.
As part of changes made to improve the learning and support journey for students transitioning from primary to secondary school:
- Students are now able to find out their high school placement as early as Term 4 of the year they are in Year 5. This change will lead to better educational and social outcomes for students and facilitate increased time for good transition planning with parents, students, the primary and high school.
- Students do not need an updated assessment and/or diagnosis of disability where there is no change in student need and they have previously completed the department’s disability confirmation process for autism, severe intellectual disability, physical disability, hearing or vision.
- Students who receive Integration Funding Support (IFS) in primary school will have it automatically rolled over to secondary school without the need for a new application. Integration Funding Support supports students in mainstream classes with moderate to high learning and support needs.
- These changes will create more positive experiences for families and reduce the administrative burden for schools.
Improved access to information
The Disability Strategy acknowledges that families of children with disability are often faced with incredible pressures, and commits the department to making their experiences with schools are supportive, transparent and straightforward.
- Built a new online hub for parents and carers of students with disability, which offers clear and consistent information about the support available, access requests, transitions and more.
- Improved processes so that outcomes from placement panels are now consistently communicated to families by the referring school with support from Delivery Support where appropriate.
We worked collaboratively across the department and engaged external stakeholders to better understand the access request process from each perspective: parents and carers, students and schools.
We engaged in field observation, piloted key changes in NSW public schools, and interviewed schools to gain greater understanding of the needs and expectations for each user.
We will continue to work with all our partners to improve the process and encourage staff, students and families to share their feedback.
School staff are encouraged to contact their local learning and wellbeing team if they have any questions or require support to implement these changes.