Children with disability: education rights and entitlements
In Australia, all children aged 6 years and over must go to school.
Your child with disability has the right to go to a mainstream government, independent or Catholic school, regardless of their disability. They might also be able to go to a government or independent special school. You can decide which option you think is best for your child and your family.
Special schools have rules about eligibility. To find out whether your child is eligible to go to a special school, it’s best to contact any schools you’re interested in.
At school your child might be entitled to services and resources like teacher aides, special equipment and therapy services.
You can find out more about school for children with disability, including school options, choices, enrolment and support.
Disability Standards for Education 2005
Your child’s education rights are protected by the Disability Standards for Education 2005.
What are the Disability Standards for Education?
The Standards are part of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992. These Standards set out the rights of students with disability and how education providers, like schools and universities, must help students with disability.
The main aim of the Disability Standards for Education is to give students with disability the same educational opportunities and choices as all other students.
Who is protected under the Disability Standards for Education?
The Standards protect any person with disability who is enrolled in, has been enrolled in, or who has approached an education provider about enrolling in early education and care, preschool, school, college, university, TAFE or any other organisation that educates people.
Who has obligations under the Disability Standards for Education?
The Standards cover the following education providers:
- preschools and kindergartens
- public and private schools
- public education and training places, like TAFE
- private education and training places, like private business colleges
- organisations that prepare or run training and education programs.
What obligations do education providers have?
The Standards say that education providers must consult, make reasonable adjustments and get rid of harassment and victimisation.
What are adjustments?
An ‘adjustment’ is something the provider does to make sure a student with disability has the same opportunities as other students to take part in the provider’s programs. ‘Reasonable’ adjustments balance everyone’s needs – the student with disability, other students, staff and the education provider.
A reasonable adjustment might be changing seating arrangements in a classroom so that a student with a wheelchair can move around independently. Or it might be using videos with captions for deaf students. Schools can get funding to make adjustments, but if an education provider can show that making an adjustment is unjustifiably hard, it’s not against the law for the education provider not to make that adjustment.
When do the Disability Standards for Education apply?
The Standards cover the entire time that a person goes to a school or education or training course – from when they apply to enrol right up to when they finish.
The Standards say it’s against the law to discriminate against someone because of disability at any of the following times:
- when an education provider is deciding what will be taught in a course
- when a person is enrolling in a school or course
- while a person is taking part in school activities or a course
- if a person needs support services to take part in school activities or a course
- when a person finishes school or a course
- if a person is suspended or expelled from a school or course
- if a person is harassed or victimised while taking part in school activities or a course.
Discrimination in education
The Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992 says it’s against the law for education providers to discriminate against students with disability.
If you think your child is experiencing discrimination at child care, preschool or school, it’s always best to try to sort out the issue with your child’s education provider first. You can also contact your state or territory education department. But if you can’t sort things out and your child is still experiencing discrimination, you can make a formal complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
It’s best for your child’s wellbeing and development to be in an environment where they feel safe, respected and valued. If you decide that moving schools is the best way to support your child’s development and wellbeing, it’s good to get support with this process. You could contact an advocate or advocacy provider to help you.
National Disability Insurance Scheme and education
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a national scheme that funds reasonable and necessary supports to help people with disability reach goals throughout life.
The NDIS will fund reasonable and necessary supports that enable your child with disability to go to school.
Types of supports that the NDIS might fund include:
- self-care at school related to your child’s disability, like support with eating
- specialised training for teachers and other staff in how to support your child
- specialist transport
- transportable equipment like wheelchairs or personal communication devices
- non-educational therapies that you and the school have agreed your child can have during school time.