Special-needs funding push

A MUM from a Tamworth school for children with special needs is pushing the federal government to commit to millions of dollars in additional funding under the Gonski review.

Katrina Webb has two children with autism and intellectual disabilities, Thomas and Angus, who attend Bullimbal School for Specific Purposes.

On Thursday she approached member for New England Barnaby Joyce’s office about Gonski funding support.

Mrs Webb said they wanted the government to honour its election promise to fulfil the federal funding agreement with NSW for the full Gonksi. At present, the commitment is only until the end of 2016, not for the final two years of Gonski.

Mrs Webb said Bullimbal needed more staff employed and more resources.

“Having the last two years of Gonski pulled is absolutely devastating,” she said.

She said Bullimbal School parents and teachers wanted their children with disabilities to have the same rights as other Australians to an education allowing them to reach their potential and treating them with dignity.

“For us, the full Gonksi funding over the next six years will allow us to really expand the educational programs and learning support we know will make a difference in what our students achieve,” NSW Teachers Federation representative Greg O’Sullivan said.

Mr Joyce said the Coalition’s forward estimates went for only four years, so no promises could be made for beyond that period.

“The only thing the Labor Party promised was a promise, because their forward estimates only go for four years, too,” he said.

“We’ve promised our funding is the same in the forward estimates, but we need to not only fund Bullimbal but fund schools generally and hospitals generally. If we go broke, it’s just an argument in semantics.”

Mr Joyce said the Coalition could not commit past 2016 – this would not be “an honest promise” because it did not know whether or not it had the money to fulfil it.

He said, though, that he was “only too happy to discuss with the people from Bullimbal”.

Mrs Webb said she would love Mr Joyce to visit the school to see how hard the teachers worked in attending to the children’s physical needs while trying to also educate them.

“In a class of seven children, they could all still be in nappies and on peg feeds, which takes so much time,” she said.

“Education falls by the wayside, so we need more people to come in and support them.”

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