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Education, Children and Young People – Students with Disabilities

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Tags: Students, Disability, Education, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Hello, minister. I have some questions on students with disabilities. Can you please tell me for 2022-23 about the total budget spent to support students with disability? I am trying to distinguish how much of the money was spent in certain areas. How much was used on reasonable adjustments? How much was spent on support teachers? How much was spent on teacher aides? What else was the total budget allocation used for, if there was any extra? I can put these on notice if you want.

Mr JAENSCH - No, we are going to try to answer all of your questions here if we can as much as possible. I will give you a couple of high-level answers to commence with and then my secretary may be able to provide some extra responses.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, just looking at the time, I'm happy to go straight to the answers to those direct questions if that is okay.

Mr JAENSCH - In terms of budgeting for support funding for students with disability, for 2023 the budgeted figure is $148.5 million, which I understand is about $10 million more than last year.

Ms O'BYRNE - Did you say $148.5 million? I thought it was $148.32 million.

Dr WOODRUFF - Let's just talk about what was spent which is what I'm interested in, that's what my questions are about.

Mr JAENSCH - I am talking about what is in the Budget.

Dr WOODRUFF - For last year.

Mr JAENSCH - No, in the Budget for the year ahead - $148.5 million is the overall figure.

Dr WOODRUFF - Hold on, that wasn't my question.

Ms O'BYRNE - Chair, just some clarification - that wasn't the question that was asked.

Dr WOODRUFF - I can speak for myself, but thanks.

Mr JAENSCH - The boundary umpires are doing a great job.

Dr WOODRUFF - The question is for last financial year 2023. I don't want to know what the total amount was, I want to know what it was spent on. How much was spent for reasonable adjustments, how much was spent on support teachers and teacher aides and what was the rest of the money allocated spent on?

Mr JAENSCH - We'll get you as much of your answer as possible. The point I'm seeking to make is that whilst each year there is a budget against this item, it is a needs-driven investment. Whilst there is a provision in the budget and the budget for this coming year is around $10 million higher than it was for the year before, the actual spend in each year will be driven by the assessments that are made, the adjustments that are provided and the supports that are available to both individual students and the schools in which they operate to support them. I'll ask Kane Salter to provide some more resolution.

Mr SALTER - The reason for advising 2023 is because the allocations are made on a school year basis. That's why the minister's referring to 2023. Regarding the breakdown of that $148 million into categories -

Dr WOODRUFF - Just to be clear, we're talking about the financial year of the budget just past, 2022-23. That's what I want the information on. Otherwise it's too confusing.

Mr JAENSCH – This runs in school years.

Dr WOODRUFF – I want it for the budget year. I'm happy to put it on notice.

Mr SALTER - Perhaps if I advise the 2023 calendar year. If there's still the question on notice we can then split it in two.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is a question on notice. There is a specific question to know what the budget amount in last year's budget was and what was spent from that budget into these areas. So if you are not able to provide it now can I put it on notice?

Mr SALTER - So what I could provide is going through the 2022 calendar figures along with the 2023 knowing that half of each of those contributes to the 2022-23 financial year-

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, but it is not very helpful for me because I do not know -

Mr JAENSCH - Please be patient, he is trying to answer your question, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - I know, I am just saying that it is not very helpful information because it will not answer the question that the disability community has asked me to ask for them.

Mr JAENSCH - We can provide the information on the way that the funding works. Maybe that will also be useful to the constituents you asking this on behalf of if you can explain why it is the way it is.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, they do not need that explanation but they would like the information if that's possible. If it's not able to be done here I am happy to take it on notice. You have budgeted an amount each year and all they want to know is of that budget, where was it spent in these areas.

Mr JAENSCH - Can we provide information about 2022 year budget and then the spend?

Mr SALTER - In terms of the budget and the spend minister, we flow the majority of the funds out to schools, so we would be providing the allocation that is being provided to schools to spend for that purpose.

CHAIR - Excuse me, can I ask you to speak into the microphone or pull the microphone down, thank you.

Dr WOODRUFF - You can see there is a straddle effect and you can never play catch up and understand how much of the budget was spent on a particular area. They just want to know how much was spent on support teachers in the allocation for the 2022-23 budget. I get that you might not have that now and you will need to split it across two years, but that's important information for the committee to understand. Support teachers and teachers aids, the staffing allocations for students with disability. Pretty easy stuff. I do not understand why it is not at the table.

Mr SALTER - For the staffing allocations that you refer to, the support teachers are allocated on a calendar year basis in accordance with the needs for the students in each particular year. We can advise what that allocation was for 2022 calendar year and 2023. Regarding teacher assistants, the direct funding that goes to schools for educational adjustments, they make a determination on how they use that for teacher assistants and other purposes.

Dr WOODRUFF – You're saying that you've made an allocation in the Budget for students with disability and no one is able to know exactly how much of the Budget for this year is going to be spent for students with disability for this budgeted year. I do not understand why you can't pull it apart and provide us the information of how much was spent in the last budget.

Mr JAENSCH - Are you asking about this year or last year? You keep asking different things.

Dr WOODRUFF - How is that not possible?

Mr JAENSCH - Are you asking about this year or last year?


Mr JAENSCH - You keep asking different things.

Dr WOODRUFF - No I don't. I'm asking about last year, but here we are in the Budget this year, and there is another allocation for this year. We want to know how much is going to be spent on that matter and we want to know how much was spent last year. Last budget. Otherwise there's moving goalposts, and we never actually understand what was spent. I don't understand why.

Mr JAENSCH - What Mr Salter explained was that, and I hesitate to put words in his mouth, but as I understand it, the allocation that is made through a budgeting process is then allocated to schools to spend. Schools have their allocations to spend. For the year 2023, there is $148.5 million of which $102.1 million is funding directly attributable to students with disabilities. The remaining $46.2 million is for support services funding, including professional support staff.

That reflects the allocation that is made to schools, and if that answers your question for this year, we could get those numbers for last year. Does that help you?

Dr WOODRUFF - You say that you are going to spend $102.1 million on a certain area. How do we know that that's been spent on that area? It sounds as though you're just saying to schools 'Off you go, get some support teachers and teacher's aids, get as many as you want'. What's stopping them getting an extra 10, for example? What's the pressure? Surely there must be an accounting to you. You said there's this much money, you can't go above that. What happens if they go above that? What happens if they go below it? This is what we're trying to work out?

Mr JAENSCH - Now you're asking a question about the process, about how schools allocate according to assessed needs of their students. I am happy for someone to come to the table and explain that.

Dr WOODRUFF - No. I want to know where the budget was spent for students with disabilities last financial year.

Mr JAENSCH - The budget was allocated to schools and the schools spent in accordance with the process. Do you want to hear about that process?

Dr WOODRUFF - I'd like to get the money. Can I put those questions on notice, and you can compile it?

Mr JAENSCH - I'm going to ask how we might retrieve the information that you think you're asking for.

Mr BULLARD - Schools are making local decisions within the parameters of funding. What we can see is that this year there are 5759 FTE students with a disability. The funding model is funding those students. Of course, it's in the school's best interest to be that money on the supports for those students, because they work very hard to ensure that there's a learning plan in place and that identifies the adjustments that are required for the young people to engage actively in learning. The plan identifies the level of funding that they attract and then the school acquits that funding against that plan.

What's being asserted is that somehow schools wouldn't be spending that money on the students with disabilities.

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm not asserting that in the slightest. Last year, how many support teachers were there for students with disabilities? How many teacher's aides were there funded in Tasmania? Calendar year if that's the only way you can do it.

Mr BULLARD - I think Mr Salter has explained some of those are locally based decisions, and some are centrally based.

Dr WOODRUFF - Sure, but how many?

Mr BULLARD - We can see how many teacher assistants a school has, but they would have those for a variety of reasons. If you think about how a school's funding package is made up, the school is funded under the model to ensure that funding flows to student need. That need can be around the socioeconomic status, around the English as an additional language, disability, rural and remoteness. Schools make a range of decisions about how best to support individual students and classrooms. When it comes to students with disabilities, as Mr Salter's explained, there is a level of resourcing which is centrally determined, and that is around support teachers in the main, then there is a level that is allocated to schools to make the best decision about how to support those young people they are educating. So we would have a level of transparency around some of that, but -

Dr WOODRUFF - Is there any central accounting? Surely, all the individual schools do that. Don't they report back on how many support teachers they funded and how many teacher aides were funded, otherwise how is there any capacity to know that we're doing the best thing by students with disability if there is no central accounting?

Mr JAENSCH - If those students have an assessment of their needs and a plan for how to meet them, the question is how many of those students have got their needs? It might be that a support staff person is partly supporting a student with their needs and may also have other roles as well. What do you want to account?

Dr WOODRUFF - It sounds utterly hands-off. It's like you just wash your hands and say, 'Off you go out there, work out how you want to spend, we'll give you a few bickies and you work it out'.

Mr JAENSCH - No, we've got central resourcing but we've -

Dr WOODRUFF - You've got a lot of well-paid central people, but there are no numbers on how students with disabilities are being funded.

Mr JAENSCH - I don't want you to reflect on our staff and what they're paid and those sorts of matters. What we need to have for children with disabilities in our schools, in their school, where they live, with their teachers, with their principals, with their other support staff and their families, that their needs are assessed and are met in a plan.

Ms O'BYRNE - We also need to know, minister, that you know who is doing it.

Dr WOODRUFF - We want to know that it happened. That's what we are asking. Did it happen?

Mr JAENSCH - To that extent, we have a system and a process for them to do that through, which we are also reviewing now to make sure it is as good as it can be.

Dr WOODRUFF - It's so bad it can't give us any numbers.

Mr JAENSCH - To that extent, what you're characterising as hands-off I would say is getting the people who know that child best to be involved in understanding their needs and designing a response to them. I am happy with that. We provide the resources for it, we don't try to determine it from an office in Hobart.

Dr WOODRUFF - So you don't know many how many teacher aides and how many support teachers were funded in Tasmanian schools last year? You don't know that?

Mr JAENSCH - Across all of our schools, across all of the things, not just disability, we've got numbers on how many teacher aides and support staff, we can provide that all day.

Dr WOODRUFF - But you don't know how many are dealing with students with disability. The Tasmanian Education minister does not know how many teacher aides and support teachers are working with students with disability.

Mr JAENSCH - You're setting up your grab line today, but I think you are willfully misunderstanding what you are being told about how this works.

Dr WOODRUFF - You don't have the information.

Ms O'BYRNE - Minister, you're rightly saying that schools make these decisions, but you are also saying that it would be a raft of information that schools are supposed to report on. At no stage do they report to the department on how they made that decision outcome.

Dr WOODRUFF - Give us the figures.

Ms O'BYRNE - There must be some framework because you would have to have.

Mr BULLARD - Of course there's a framework and the framework is based around the needs of the student.

Dr WOODRUFF - Sure, but there's no reporting on that?

Mr BULLARD - First and centrally is understanding the needs and adjustments that a young person needs. Second is ensuring that that leads to learning outcomes for that young person which we capture in a learning plan and the adjustments that are needed to deliver that. Third, there are moderations of those plans to ensure that they're reasonable and are in line with the expectations of the model. Fourth, the learning plans are acquitted. We need to be student-centric. The old model had a range of inputs and outputs which basically treated children with disability as similar entities, but we know these children and young people are individuals and each of them have their areas for additional support, but more importantly, they all have assets and this model recognises that. As to how many TAs are they getting or how many support teachers are they getting, they are inputs.

Dr WOODRUFF - Sorry, Chair, I apologise, but I just -

Mr BULLARD - What I'm interested in is supporting children and young people with disability to engage in and enjoy learning and that's what this system is set up to do.