THOUSANDS of dollars in state government funding for Hastings pupils with disabilities have been stripped from six of our schools, outraging parents.
Since the start of term three, the Every School, Every Decision policy has begun to rip about $75,000 funding collectively, which will reduce the hours school learning support officers [SLSO, formally teachers aides] can spend in classrooms.
The government says the policy is based on the number of enrolments and students with additional learning needs, and aims to provide every school with a resource allocation for learning and support.
Hastings Public School will lose the largest chunk of funding in our region, with $22,000 snatched annually.
The school's Parents and Community [P and C] committee has drawn up a petition, which is circulating in the region. With at least 500 signatures, the committee can submit the document to Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams for tabling in Parliament.
Mrs Williams has met twice with the Port Macquarie Teachers Association, as well as parents and teachers from Hastings, North Haven and Tacking Point public schools to hear their concerns."I will discuss all concerns raised with the Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli at a formal meeting next week on behalf of local constituents," she said.
More than 20 pupils with additional needs attend the school.
"There is no change in the way eligible students with moderate or high learning and support needs enrolled in regular classes are funded."
The P & C says only five of these children will be directly allocated funding under the new model.
Dad-of-two Stephen Long has enrolled Sarah, 9, and Isaac, 8, at Hastings.
While his children did not have special needs, he said the funding cut would indirectly affect them in terms of disruptions and the time teachers can spend with each student.
“Every kid who leaves the school system without the best education they can get is having the opportunity to contribute to society taken away from them,” he said.
P & C treasurer Amy Wilcox, whose daughter Emali, 6, attends the school, said the new model demonstrated “politics getting in the way of a fair go for our kids”.
“It should be based on needs, not an accounting formula,” she said.
Virginia “JJ” Sheaves has been a full-time SLSO at the school for five years.
Mrs Sheaves works one-on-one with three pupils, as well as assisting other students and the teachers when required.
“An SLSO can tell when kids are going to have a blow-up and take them out of the classroom to calm them down,” she said.
“[The funding cuts] will mean teachers have to manage more often by themselves, which increases their stress and could mean they need to take more sick leave.”
Beechwood Public School will lose $19,000 in funding.
The school’s NSW Teachers Federation representative, Bill Newell, said it had to make a full-time SLSO redundant and decrease hours of the other staff member.
Paediatrician Dr Mark Johnson, who works at the Hermitage Medical Centre, consults with up to four families daily who are concerned about the cuts.
He said an SLSO assists children with special needs to learn more effectively by simplifying instructions and managing behaviour if the child becomes upset.
“Without them, the child may be sent home from school and they miss out on learning for that day,” Dr Johnson said.
He wrote a letter to the Port News editor, expressing his concern.