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Funding for disabled students to be overhauled in $1.6b program

“And it’s a deficit model. It basically looks at what a student cannot do. And if you’re in, you get additional funding, and if you’re out … you receive no funding.

“This package will completely overhaul the way we fund and support students with a disability.

“I’m just so proud that we’re here announcing this today … It is years of work.”

Mr Merlino used two examples to illustrate the reforms. Sarah, a grade six student with borderline intellectual disability and an IQ of 71, would marginally miss out on funding under the current scheme. So would Pham, a grade one student with dyslexia and autism who scored 75 in a standardised language test.

With the doubling of tier three funding, for socialised high-needs packages, both students may be eligible for tailored support.

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If they still did not qualify for the highest level of support, the students could benefit from funding that will be provided to all schools to spend on equipment and teacher training with a focus on teaching disabled students. A metropolitan primary school with about 500 students will receive between $100,000-$150,000 and a large secondary school will gain about $200,000.

About 20 per cent of students require some level of support and schools teaching students receiving tier three funding will receive between $8000-$60,000 per student each year.

The scheme, which has been piloted in recent years, will be rolled out next year in Barwon, Loddon Campaspe and Bayside before being expanded across the state.

Mr Merlino said the current funding system relied on parents filling out forms to apply for support for their child. Under the new system, parents meet with school representatives and medical practitioners to determine the child’s strengths and weaknesses.

“This is about bringing people together with the child at the absolute centre,” he said.

“Every parent has aspirations for their child. Every child, every single child, has a spark. And it’s the responsibility for all of us in education to identify that spark, grab it and ensure that child reaches their full potential.

The Deputy Premier said the program was the result of years of work and was initially conceptualised when the Labor Party was in opposition before the 2014 election.

“I am a bit emotional,” he told reporters at a new school in Greenvale, in Melbourne’s north-west.

“There are many projects that ministers work on … but obviously some have more meaning than others.”

“This is about every single student, every single parent or carer that has struggled with this system as we have got it. This is for them.”

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