Improving the family experience through access request changes

Key to our commitment to build a more inclusive education system is providing faster, more consistent decisions around where and how students with disability will learn.

Changes to the way the department processes requests for additional support to students with disability and additional learning needs will help us create an education system where all students, including those with disability and additional learning needs, feel welcomed and are learning to their fullest capability.

Access request applications seeking immediate or next term support for students with disability will now be resolved within an average of 28 calendar days. An access request is put together by a school and a student’s family if it is identified that the student needs support beyond what the school already provides.

The new access request process was developed with staff, families, and subject matter experts.

Improvements will impact:

  • placement panels, which place students with disability in support classes, and,
  • Integration Funding Support, which gives schools extra resources to provide adjustments for students with some kinds of disability.

“We’re really excited about these changes which will ensure families will find out what support their child will have in place sooner and in a way that is consistent across all NSW public schools,” said Director of the Disability Strategy team Sarah Hanson.

“Timely responses on important issues like where a child learns or what supports will be available for them in the classroom will assist families and also schools to ensure every child is achieving to their full potential.”

Under the new process:

  • Placement panels will be held in Week 3 and 7 each term to ensure timely decisions are given to families
  • Placement panel members will be required to attend professional learning
  • Outcomes from placement panels will be communicated to the family by the school their child is currently at, with support from department learning and wellbeing teams
  • Placement panels will have consistent functions and members ensuring decisions about are made in the same way across the state
  • A centralised Integration Funding team will provide a single point of contact for school staff

Reforming the access request process was a recommendation of the 2016 Upper House Inquiry into Education of Students with Disability or Special Needs in NSW, and is part of our Disability Strategy commitment to improve experiences for families.

During Term 4, 2020 early adopter offices adopted some of these changes in order to support successful implementation statewide in Term 1, 2021. Recorded drop-in sessions are available for staff to learn more about the changes and will continue in 2021.

These changes build on improvements already made for students accessing vision and hearing support. Families and carers are also now supported by a new online Inclusive Learning Support hub that provides clear and consistent information including what an access request is and when a child might need one.

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