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Friday, 10 January 2014

2014 Australian SWD Funding Changes

It is so very hard to think about work when holidays have been a great break from everything. Lots of projects undertaken and completed, some just started, time spent with family and friends, and getting our middle girl ready to start school. It’s been wonderful.

In saying that, I promised to write about the funding changes for this year, so here it is.

Background: In the not-so-olden days we had Ascertainment which ranked students 1-6 based on their needs. It came down to percentiles and numbers and quite often teachers/educators would refer to students as ‘he’s a level 6’. I still hear the language of ascertainment bandied about. Reducing students to numbers based on funding is tantamount to the way penal colonies would remove prisoners’ names and assign them a number. Even in death they were sometimes nameless.

After Ascertainment came the current Education Adjustment Profile (EAP).  Initially it seemed like this was merely a change of name, but working with this system you could see that it wasn’t about what a student couldn’t do. When applying for the funding we had to focus on the frequency and intensity of changes that were being made by the teacher. The emphasis was really about the teaching. Personally I like this model because it’s all about the student’s abilities, not the disability. It’s about only providing teachers and schools with extra funding if they are going the extra mile for a student.  I have had students with a diagnosis who we didn’t need to make any changes for – thus we didn’t apply for funding (it wasn’t justifiable). I’ve had so many other students where so many adjustments were being made that we could easily justify the application, but needed to get a diagnosis to confirm the need.

The EAP model broke funding into 4 levels. Level 1 is your ‘regular’ student and attracts no funding. Level 2 is for students who have a few changes made occasionally. Level 3 is for students who need a lot of changes frequently. Level 4 is for students with complex case management.

Funding is broken into two parts. State funding and Federal funding. They both fund according to the levels but at different rates.

Ok, so 2014. Why change a system that seemed to be working in practise and had a good ideological underpinning?  Short answer is time will tell.

As of this year the Federal funding is no longer based on the EAP levels. State funding still is. The Federal funding is going to be based on the ‘per student’ funding that the school already receives. Each school receives an amount per student enrolled and that amount is determined by their geographic location and the socio-economic status of the families enrolled (ever wondered why you have to answer those questions on enrolment forms? All the information goes up on the My School website too).  Not all schools receive the same amount per student.

Here is where the changes start happening, SWDs will now get 186% of the per student payment their school is entitled to. The 100% is what they have always received as a student enrolled, it is what every student at the school gets. The additional 86% is their SWD funding. In order to get this they need to be verified through the EAP system, but they will all receive the same 86% loading. There will be no EAP levels in the Federal funding so is the 86% based on Level 2 funding, Level 3 or Level 4?

Given that disability doesn’t discriminate based on geographic location or socio-economic status (heck disability doesn’t discriminate full stop!) I’m not sure why the funding is grounded in that rather than the needs of the student. Does this mean parents will need to shop around for a school with a higher per student payment to increase the 86% their SWD would receive? I don’t know. Again, time will tell.

This is of course just the lead in to bigger changes in 2015, but I’ll fill you in on that next week. This is enough ‘work’ for today. I’m off to continue my holiday in my garden! The driveway starts today!

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