The BNLLEN has made a commitment to improve the education outcomes for students with a disability. We have undertaken a number of activities which reflect that commitment; some of which are mentioned below.
In 2008 the BNLLEN formed a network aimed at supporting Banyule and Nillumbik Schools to assist their students with a disability. The network which now meets 4 times a year at a venue provided with the generous support of NMIT Greensborough brings school representatives together to discuss issues, share knowledge and strengthen their capacity to support students with a range of diagnosed and undiagnosed disabilities. The network provides the schools with an opportunity to meet and engage with agencies and programs, hear from a range of guest speakers and be updated on new activities and resources.
In return for starting this network the BNLLEN has gained insights and direction that helped us to improve the retention and transition of students who may be at greater risk of disengaging prematurely from education.
We have applied these insights to a number of new initiatives since the network has commenced.
To support students looking towards transition for the last two years the BNLLEN has worked in collaboration with our local National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) and RMIT to deliver a regional forums “Transition to Tertiary Study – for Students with a Disability”. These forums have provided, students, parents and school staff with the firsthand insight of Tertiary Students with a disability. These students were engaged to share their experiences, perceptions and recommendation alongside the more structured presentations delivered by RMIT staff covering assistance available through the Equity and Access Office, scholarships, the SNAP program, Special Entry Assistance Scheme (SEAS) and accommodations including Assistive technologies.
These forums have provided inspiration, clarification and a demonstration of the real opportunities at TAFE and University available for students with a disability.
Another forum will be run at the Bundoora Campus of RMIT in June 2011.
One of the key programs available to assist students with a disability who are aiming to transition to Employment is the Disability Employment Service (DES). We have a number of DES providers in Banyule and Nillumbik; some of which are specialist agencies like the Mental Illness Fellowship Foundation Victoria. These services can provide substantial support for young people with a disability when they are seeking employment for a minimum of eight hours per week. This includes students who may be in their last 6 months of school or who are undertaking a school based apprenticeship. They can offer a range of assistance, including working with the employer to establish appropriate accommodations for people with a disability in the workplace.
Schools have indicated that there are significant numbers of students who experience significant barriers to success in their education due to issues related to processing, reading, writing, numeracy, concentration and comprehension. These barriers may or may not be related to some form of Learning Disability? Unfortunately, the extent, nature and impact of Learning Disabilities in our schools remains unmeasured however, the anecdotal evidence is substantial.
Many students experiencing these barriers and/or their parents have reluctance to the student undertaking an assessment and where there is willingness the option is costly and not easily obtained.
A lack of familiarity with Learning Disability characteristics and appropriate strategies is impacting on our students. This means many students may not be receiving the appropriate level and nature of support required to overcome these barriers.
In May 2011, to highlight the issue of Learning Disabilities, the BNLLEN is aiming to provide local schools and agencies with a free Professional Development activity to help staff better understand Learning Disabilities. They will also be provided with information and insights into the application of technology to improve the inclusiveness for students experiencing the types of barriers mentioned above.