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Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Page: 4332


Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (14:38): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. Does the minister expect to capture a greater number of students with a disability under the new system? If so, how many more? Can the minister also provide the number of students expected to be captured by the supplementary category, the number of students expected to be captured by the substantial category and the number of students expected to be captured by the extensive category?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:38): I say to Senator Lambie—through you, Mr President—that I do not have all of those numbers with me in the chamber. I am happy to take that on notice and provide them to her at the earliest opportunity. I can say on the proposal to implement this use of the nationally consistent collection of data on students with a disability that it will capture more students across Australia and therefore provide more support for students with disability across Australia. We have growing funding that will be available to support those students with disability around Australia. It is designed to ensure that the support for students with disability actually targets and meets the needs identified by the classroom teachers and schools in terms of the level of adjustment assistance that an individual student requires. It has been long worked upon and long advocated for by those opposite and others that we should move to funding on the basis of NCCD data, and that indeed is what we seek to do in this model which will capture and support record numbers of students in the future by providing support based on identification by their schools and their classroom teachers.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, a supplementary question.

Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (14:40): Minister, under your proposal principals and teachers will determine which student with a disability fits into which category—supplementary, substantial or extensive—under the nationally consistent collection of data. Given that the NCCD is still new, and given that funding driven by what is primarily self-reporting can often lead to rorting, how does the minister propose to prevent questionable reporting?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:40): Senator Lambie has raised a very important question. That is addressed through ensuring there is a consistent moderation approach applied across each of the states and territories and across each of the different schooling systems in Australia. That moderation approach has been developed by each of those states. It is overseen by a working group that comprises representatives of all states and territories and the Catholic and independent education systems. They will continue to work to refine that. I note that, in Tasmania, the moderation approach is regarded as reasonably well advanced in some of the independent auditing that has been undertaken of the NCCD process to date. All schools across Australia have participated in this data collection process for the last couple of years now, so they are well versed in what it means, how to apply it and the reporting arrangements for it. Of course, we will work very hard with the states and territories to continue to improve that, including the moderation around that data to ensure there is no rorting of it. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, a final supplementary question.

Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (14:41): Under the coalition's Australian Education Amendment Bill, Tasmanian students with a disability are reported to lose a total of $12 million across all sectors in 2018. When the education sector already considers students with a disability to be under-resourced, how can you justify making these cuts?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:41): As I outlined in response to Senator Duniam earlier, the overall rate of increase for Tasmanian school students is in excess of four per cent per annum. That is net of all the different changes, including the impact of using the national existing collection of data on students with disability. As I said, that data does capture more students across the country; but it is correct that the reporting rates from schools in Tasmania have been lower than elsewhere around the country. In that sense, it is a demand driven loading; as long as schools are reporting according to the methodology, for students who genuinely need that support and assistance in the future, that support will flow into their schools, their systems—whichever they are—across all of the different sectors. That is reflective of the need identified by each of their schools and classroom teachers rather than a model which, at present, is one flat loading which does not adjust for the relative need of different students with disability. (Time expired)