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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 190

(Question No. 858)


Senator Macklin asked the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, upon notice , on 2 May 1984:

(1) What is the current situation regarding handicapped children being allowed to integrate into normal state schools.

(2) Does the Commonwealth Schools Commission's policy require handicapped children to be accepted into normal state schools only if the child is fully integrated immediately upon acceptance; if so, why; if not, what is the Schools Commission's policy.


Senator Ryan —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The Government accepted recommendations from the Commonwealth Schools Commission for 1984 and provided $1.348m to support programs for the integration of handicapped children into regular state schools. This represents an increase of 20 per cent in real terms over the level of assistance provided during 1983.

(2) One of the basic principles of the Commonwealth's support for special education is that each individual should have the opportunity to participate in the life of the community to the greatest extent possible. This principle suggests that handicapped persons should have access to mainstream social institutions and that handicapped children should, where possible, be integrated into regular schools, The Commonwealth Schools Commission recognises that there are differences in the extent to which integration has been achieved and that there are variations in State and Territory policies concerning the ways in which it should be undertaken. However, for both government and non-government sectors, Commission policy has recommended that funds be applied in accordance with the following priorities:

The movement of handicapped children from special to regular schools.

The provision of services to enable isolated handicapped children to attend neighbourhood schools.

Facilitating enrolment into regular primary schools of handicapped children who are beginning their formal schooling.

The funding of activities to assist in the education of handicapped children already fully or partially integrated into regular schools.

Facilitating enrolment into regular pre-schools of handicapped children below school age.

It is important to note that for government schools individual priorities for the use of integration grants are determined by State and Territory education authorities. State Education Departments have advised however that decisions on whether handicapped children are accepted into regular schools on full time or part time bases are dependent on the particular needs of the individual handicapped children involved.

In summary, Schools Commission policy indicates that the integration of handicapped children should take place in circumstances where it is clear that it will be profitable and fulfilling for the children concerned.