Bendigo children with disabilities and their parents will have access to after school hours care mid-next year, thanks to state government funding announced on Monday.
Kalianna School Bendigo is one of three schools across the state to share in $7.5 million in funding to develop and run after school hours care and school holiday demonstration programs from term three in 2018.
Principal Peter Bush said the funding would put an end to the students being “softly discriminated against” and excluded from existing programs based on staffing ratios.
“It’s very exciting – it means that finally our students will have access to a program over the holidays and after school,” he said.
“At the moment they’ve got limited choices because the of the higher numbers that you need to staff the programs for students with disabilities.”
Students at Bendigo Special Developmental School will also be eligible for the program, through a partnership between the school and Kalianna.
School council president and mum to 11-year-old Brogan, Leah Thomas said it would mean a lot to parents and students alike at SDS.
“It’s just the inclusion, just to be doing the same things as everybody else – that's what we want for them,” she said. “That’s all we ask.”
Kalianna mother Rita Annesi-Belleggia said the after school hours care would reduce the pressure at home and allow son Sebastian to develop new skills.
“It’s a dream come true because we’ve been waiting for this for so long,” she said.
Similarly, grandfather Merv Nichols said it was wonderful news and it had been a long time coming.
“I think it’s the best thing that’s happened,” he said.
“Not just for my granddaughter but for every little child here, they more than deserve it.”
The funding forms part of a wider $61 million package from the state government for inclusive education initiatives including new equipment and programs.
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the package was about ensuring Victorian children and students with disabilities had the support they needed to thrive.
“We are delivering these initiatives because every child, every parent and every family deserves the hope that a truly inclusive education system provides,” she said.
The package follows on from round table discussions between the government and parents of children with disabilities, including Kalianna grandparent Marg Rogers.
“This government I cannot thank enough for what they’re doing for the special needs children,” she said on Monday.
“It's absolutely fantastic, the best thing that could ever happen because these kids deserve the best.”
Kalianna School is one of four special needs schools to participate in part of the $61m package announced today by the Andrews Labor Government that will transform the lives of thousands of Young Victorians with special needs, their families and carers.— Maree Edwards MP (@mareeedwardsmp) November 27, 2017
The out of school ho… pic.twitter.com/HmrzHCRdzm
Other initiatives funded through the package include:
- $12 million to buy specialised equipment – such as braille translation software, e-book and e-text readers, talking and accessibility software – to help students with their learning
- $6.5 million for scholarships for teachers and other school staff, including 145 scholarships for postgraduate studies in special education and 60 scholarships to undertake the Master of Education (Applied Behaviour Analysis) at Monash University
- $7.5 million to ensure all government schools are taking an inclusive approach to students at every level
- $6.4 million to upgrade early childhood infrastructure and equipment - including playgrounds – across the state and provide grants to allow kinders to provide safe and more inclusive environments
- $3.2 million for the Kindergarten Inclusion Support program to give 225 more children with disabilities or developmental delay access to state-funded kinder in 2018 and 2019
- $5.1 million to train all maternal and child health nurses in early identification for autism and train 5,000 early childhood professionals in a new online assessment tool to provide a more tailored learning experience for children with a disability or development delay.