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NSW expands disability support classes in mainstream schools

female teacher sitting at desk with a Down syndrome schoolboy

An extra 243 support classes have been approved to open in 2024, bringing the total to almost 4,500 support classes across all public education settings.

It means more than 1,500 students with a disability will have a place in a NSW public school support class this year.

The majority of these classes will be established in mainstream public schools while 12 additional classes will open in Schools for Specific Purposes (SSPs).

The expansion comes as the NSW Government is tackling a shortage of teachers that has impacted support classes. The NSW Government is deploying a multi-pronged approach to address the challenge, from scholarships and professional learning opportunities to admin reduction and the biggest payrise for NSW teachers in 30 years.

Support classes in mainstream public schools are available for students with moderate to high learning and support needs, such as intellectual and/or physical disability, mental health issues, autism, sensory impairment and behaviour disorders.

There are 206,000 students with disability in NSW public schools, with the majority (86 per cent) learning in a mainstream classroom in a mainstream public school.

Eleven per cent of students with disability attend support classes in mainstream schools and three per cent are enrolled in schools for specific purposes.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car said: “We’re committed to building a more inclusive public education system, providing all students with an education that best meets their individual learning and development needs.

“This additional support for students with disability provides an opportunity for more specialised, intense support for students with disability and those with higher support needs.

“Our new Plan for NSW Public Education has equity as its centrepiece to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education.

“Support classes can only help students if they are adequately staffed by qualified teachers – that’s why we are so focussed on tackling the statewide teacher shortage and doing so is key to the success of these classes.”

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Inclusion, Kate Washington said: “The NSW Labor Government is committed to improving inclusion and accessibility across all mainstream services, including in our wonderful public schools.

“We’re working hard to remove barriers that students with disability face in accessing safe, quality and inclusive education in public schools.

“We want young people with disability to have the support they need to achieve their full potential – increasing support classes is an important step.”

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