Posted on

Congratulations to Jackie French; Senior Australian of the Year for 2015

jackie-frenchAUSPELD extends congratulations and accolades to Jackie French for her well-deserved award of Senior Australian of the Year on Australia Day. Jackie has been a long term supporter of many of the State and Territory SPELDs and has already done so much to encourage and support Australian children and adults with learning difficulties. She is an inspiration to so many, and, as a person who has experienced first-hand the challenges of attending school with dyslexia, is able to speak from the heart about the importance of providing effective support and encouragement to all students.

{gspeech}We look forward to working with Jackie in 2015!{/gspeech}

Posted on

Australian National Curriculum Review and Federal Government’s Response

Earlier this year the Federal Government established a review of the process and development of the Australian National Curriculum.

Professor Ken Wiltshire AO, the J.D.Story Professor of Public Administration and Leader of the Not for Profit Unit at The University of Queensland Business School, along with Dr Kevin Donnelly, Executive Director of the Education Standards Institute and Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, were appointed to carry out The Review.

The Review of the Australian Curriculum Final Report was released in October 2014 and three weeks later the Initial Response from the Australian Federal Government was also released.

AUSPELD welcomed The Review as it shows encouraging amounts support for the explicit and systematic teaching of phonics when it comes to early literacy. Although the teaching of phonics is already referenced in the Australian National Curriculum; submissions to The Review of the Australian National Curriculum outlined a need to increase the Curriculum’s emphasis and detailed guidance on phonics. As a result The Review noted the following recommendation:

The Australian Curriculum: English should be revised to place greater emphasis on a more structured and systematic phonics and phonemic awareness approach during the early years of reading.

The full Review of the Australian National Curriculum, the Federal Government’s Response to The Review as well as all submissions considered in writing The Review can be downloaded through StudentFirst website. See;

Posted on

Defy Dyslexia: Help Raise Awareness

In August 2013 the national campaign, Defy Dyslexia, was launched to combine the lobbying efforts of all dyslexia advocates. The campaign was launched by Brisbane Dyslexics to specifically target federal and state Education Ministers and other elected representatives. The Defy Dyslexia website provides an easy way for anyone to send their state representatives an email, reminding them that changes need to be made to the way dyslexia is recognised in the education system. Anyone who would like to find out more an send their state representative and email can do so through

Defy dyslexia logo

Posted on

Review of the Disability Standards for Education


The final report on the Review of the Disability Standards for Education was released, on the 1st of August by the Hon Jacinta Collins Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations. The Report makes 14 recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the Standards, a copy can be dowloaded by clicking the following link – Final Report on the Review of the Disability Standards for Education.
The report provides valuable information on what needs to happen to support students with disability in education, the Australian Government has responded to the final report with the following – Australian Government Response to the Review.

Original Post…

Earlier this year, the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett, invited submissions for the Review of the Disability Standards for Education (the Standards). The most recent version of the Standards came into effect in August 2005 and, as with previous versions, was designed to clarify the rights of students with disabilities to access and participate in education and training on the same basis as students without disabilities. It was also intended that the Standards would give education providers clear guidance on how to meet their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992).

A major focus of the review was to ascertain to what extent the Standards were understood by education providers and to establish whether students, and their families, were aware of their rights. The Standards are intended to give students with disability, including learning disabilities, the same access to educational programs, as other students. All students, including those with a developmental learning disability, should enjoy the benefits of education and training in a supportive environment which values and encourages participation by all students. Education providers have a positive obligation to make changes to reasonably accommodate the needs of a student with disability. Mandy Nayton, current President of AUSPELD (the Australian Federation of SPELD Associations), provided the following submission for the review process.

Please click here to view the submission.

Posted on 1 Comment

The Gonski Report – Implications for students with learning disabilities

The final report of the Review of Funding for Schooling, chaired by David Gonski, was recently submitted to the Federal Government and subsequently released for public comment and consideration. The review of funding arrangements was initiated with the specific purpose of developing a system that would be viewed as transparent, fair, financially sustainable and ultimately effective in promoting excellent educational outcomes for all Australian students. As part of this process the review team took into consideration issues of equity and disadvantage, evaluating the implications of the current model on disadvantaged students, including those with a disability.


It is frequently noted that education has the potential to transform people’s lives. Gonski makes this point early in the report, suggesting that:


High-quality schooling fosters the development of creative, informed and resilient citizens who are able to participate fully in a dynamic and globalised world. It also leads to many benefits for individuals and society, including higher levels of employment and earnings, and better health, longevity, tolerance and social cohesion (p. xiii).


Ensuring that all Australian students, including those with disability, gain access to high-quality schooling is an important target for both Federal and State Governments.


The report provides substantial evidence of the significant gap in and across Australian schools between the highest and lowest performing students. This performance gap is far greater in Australia than in many other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, particularly those with highly successful schooling systems, such as Finland, Canada, Korea, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Significantly, many of Australia’s lowest performing students are not even meeting minimum standards of achievement. The strong correlation between low levels of achievement and educational disadvantage is frequently well-documented and was clearly identified within the report findings.


Educational Disadvantage

Evidence from both research and practice suggest that there are five key factors of disadvantage currently impacting on educational outcomes in Australia. At the student level, these factors include: socioeconomic status, Indigeneity, English language proficiency, and disability. Students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dysgraphia, fall within the disability category. At a school level, remoteness is viewed as an additional factor impacting on the educational outcomes achieved.


As a consequence of these findings, the panel identified the issue of equity as an important consideration if Australian educational standards are to be raised. The panel suggested that, in order to achieve greater equity, schools must have access to the resources necessary to cater for both the individual and collective needs of disadvantaged students. In addition, the provision of appropriate training to school personnel on the use and effectiveness of these resources was viewed as critical.


Factors Affecting the Impact of Disadvantage


The data collected from all states and territories demonstrates that the impact of disadvantage varies. For example, although there is a strong correlation between students’ socioeconomic background and their levels of achievement, effective instruction and additional resources will frequently reduce the impact. Unfortunately, some students experience multiple factors of disadvantage, sometimes referred to as compound disadvantage, which tends to result in significantly greater functional impact. An Indigenous student with a home language other than English, living in a remote (low SES) area of Western Australia is exposed to compound disadvantage. The same student may also have an underlying (perhaps undiagnosed) disability, a disadvantage that has been overshadowed by the existing – more obvious – factors. These students are, not surprisingly, at an even higher risk of poor academic performance, and require significantly greater levels of support to reach their full educational potential.


A final factor relates to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that the composition of a school’s population has a significant impact on the outcomes achieved by all students at the school. This is particularly significant in Australia in light of evidence that some parts of the schooling system are becoming increasingly stratified according to socioeconomic status.


Students with disability120


Education providers in all sectors are required by law to make reasonable educational adjustments for students with disability so that they can participate in schooling on the same basis as students without disability. There are significant differences in the levels of adjustment required for students with disability. Not all disabilities limit the educational achievement of students. Some students with disability may not require any adjustment. Other students, with minor or more significant educational adjustment, can achieve the same outcomes as students without disability.


In 2010, an Expert Advisory Group (in response to an agreement reached by the Council of Australian Governments – COAG) developed a model for collecting nationally consistent data on students with disability and the level of adjustment provided for them. All states and territories agreed to a trial of this model and the collection of data during the 2011 school year. Students with identified learning disabilities were included in this trial. The information collected included data relating to the level of adjustment provided, on an individual basis, to ensure access and participation. These levels were identified as being consistent with one of four categories: no adjustments; supplementary adjustments; substantial adjustments; and, extensive adjustments. Additional information is provided in the following table:


Varying Levels of Adjustment for Students with Disability

Category/Level Provided when… Examples of adjustments
no adjustments …students with a disability do not require any personalised adjustments. No specific strategies beyond the resources and services readily available for all students.
supplementary adjustments …there is an assessed need to provide specific strategies and resources over and above those already available within the school. Modified curricula and instruction, limited specialist teacher support, assistive technology, external support, separate supervision and extra time.
substantial adjustments …students have ongoing significant support needs, although they can generally access and participate in learning programs and school activities with the provision of extra resources and adult assistance. Extensive and frequent individual instruction, close supervision, a highly structured learning environment, regular visiting teacher, resources to address mobility, communication and safety needs.
extensive adjustments …sustained levels of intensive support are required at all times to address the individual nature and acute impact of the student’s severe disability. Constant and vigilant supervision, complex personal care and hygiene assistance, associated support for medical conditions, mobility and communication.



In the majority of cases, students with learning disabilities were provided with either no adjustments or supplementary adjustments, although feedback from schools suggested that in cases where no adjustments are provided it is frequently due to a lack of available resources rather than as a consequence of a deliberate choice.


One of themes presented within the report is that every school should be appropriately resourced to support every child and every teacher must expect the most from every child.



Effective Strategies for Improving Outcomes


The report examines current national and international research evidence relating to successful teaching and learning practices for disadvantaged students. A recurring finding points to the importance of teacher quality in improving outcomes for students experiencing disadvantage. High-quality teachers develop differentiated practices to cater for the variety of learning needs within their classroom, and are flexible in adapting and applying the curriculum in a way that is relevant to disadvantaged students. They diagnose problems with the development of skills at an early stage and select the best intervention strategies depending on the individual learning needs of each student.


The OECD (2011) argues that direct and student-oriented instruction methods are most effective for teaching disadvantaged students. Similarly, the Productivity Commission (2011) suggests that specialist components on appropriate teaching strategies for disadvantaged students be incorporated in to all teacher training courses, and that pre-service teachers should be given more opportunities to undertake their practicum in disadvantaged schools.


Beyond initial teacher training, skilled teaching is reliant on ongoing professional learning in both subject matter and pedagogy. Building the capacity of teachers and school leaders through engagement in quality professional learning is a key to improving the learning outcomes of disadvantaged students (Dinham, 2008).


Nationally Consistent Data on Students with Disability


In order to better support disadvantaged students the review committee recommended that supplementary loadings be paid in addition to the applicable schooling resource standard per primary or secondary student. In cases where students are experiencing multiple factors of disadvantage, additional funding for all areas of disadvantage should be provided. The review committee made it clear, however, that there were a number of statistical and definitional issues preventing the development and rapid implementation of this funding stream for students with disability. They were strongly of the view that this should be addressed urgently, prior to any new arrangements being finalised. It was felt that collecting more extensive and accurate data on both the incidence of disability in Australian schools, and the level and cost of educational adjustment required, will provide a good basis to inform the development of future funding arrangements for students with disability.



Review Recommendation (26)

The Australian Government and state and territory governments, in consultation with the non-government sector, should, as a matter of priority, progress work on collecting nationally consistent data on students with disability and the level of educational adjustments provided to them to enable national data to be collected and reported from January 2013.



Students with disability entitlement


Under the panel’s proposed funding arrangements, all schools with students with disability (regardless of sector) would be allocated the applicable schooling resource standard per student. The school would also attract any other applicable loadings, for example, due to location or other educational disadvantage. For some students with a learning disability, this recurrent funding may be sufficient to enable equitable participation. However, for many students with learning disabilities, additional funding is needed to make the necessary adjustments for them to participate effectively in schooling.


The review also examined the role of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, suggesting that it may cover the costs of certain goods and services used to support students with a severe disability, in the event that these goods and services are also required for everyday living. It is yet to be determined as to whether or not the NDIS will be available for students experiencing severe functional impact as a consequence of their learning disability. Initial reading of the document does suggest that these students and their families will be eligible to apply for funds through the NDIS.




Review Recommendation (27)

The National Schools Resourcing Body should work with the Australian Government and state and territory governments in consultation with the non-government sector to develop an initial range for a student with disability entitlement. The entitlement should be:

• provided in addition to the per student resource standard amounts

• set according to the level of reasonable educational adjustment required to allow the student to participate in schooling on the same basis as students without disability

• fully publicly funded and applied equally to students in all schooling sectors.



The Review of Funding for Schools is an important and potentially innovative blueprint for much-needed change in the Australian educational landscape. The desire by the panel to highlight the need for greater equity in our schooling system is evident throughout the report.


The recommendations discussed in this article may finally result in improved opportunities for students with learning disabilities. Up until this time the provision of support has been exceptionally poor with very few Australian schools offering appropriate intervention and accommodation. There remains some ambiguity as to the level of support likely to be available to students with disability generally but it is hoped that students with learning disabilities are not, yet again, removed from the equation and placed in the ‘too hard’ basket.


Mandy Nayton

DSF Executive Officer


For a full copy of the report and all references please visit:


Posted on

Tony Piccolo MP Indicates Government’s Support to Help Children with Specific Learning Difficulties

SPELD (SA) along with the Dyslexia Action Group – Barossa, Gawler and Surrounds have gained some much needed recognition in parliament through Member for Light, Tony Piccolo. Below is a speech made by Tony Piccolo MP to the South Australian parliament on the 28th of March 2012.

Mr PICCOLO (Light) (16:09):

Today, I would like to bring to the house’s attention a public meeting
which took place last week in my electorate. The public meeting was organised by the Dyslexia
Action Group, Barossa, Gawler and surrounds. At the outset I would like to acknowledge the
wonderful work undertaken by Dr Sandra Marshall and Ophie Renner. Ophie was the Gawler Citizen
of the Year this year and also the South Australian Citizen of the Year. These two people, with a small
group of volunteers, have been very active in bringing the issue of dyslexia to the attention of the
local community and also ensuring that particular children with dyslexia are given a fair go in the
education system.
I had the honourand the privilege to be asked to chairthe forum, both last week and an
earlier forum late last year. The forum was attended by a number of parents, teachers and other
community members and both forums have had capacity crowds, so there are a lot of children in our
community, and obviously families who are concerned about their children’s development because
they have the disability of dyslexia.
The forum, apart from myself who actually chaired the session, was also attended by the local
mayor, mayor Brian Sambell, who spoke about some of the positive outcomes for young people in
addressing the issue of dyslexia. Ms Angela Weeks, the Clinical Director of Specific Learning
Difficulties of South Australia (SPELD), gave a presentation on the importance of goal setting for
students with dyslexia and also provided some explicit strategies that teachers could implement to
support those students. Ms Sandy Russo, a teacher at SPELD, presented information about assistive
learning technologies that were available to assist students with dyslexia to access and participate
successfully at school and also in the home environment. She talked about the use of MP3 players,
digital recording devices, computers, software, etc., which actually help students learn.
The local Barossa regional director for education, Kathryn Bruggemann, talked about the need
for teachers to have an understanding of dyslexia and the impact of the condition on their selfesteem
and learning outcomes for young people diagnosed with dyslexia. She spoke from personal
experience. She has a child who actually suffers from dyslexia, so she has quite a passion to address
this issue. Julie Aschberger, who works in the department, talked about some new initiatives that
the department was introducing to roll out a greater awareness of dyslexia in the classroom and also
how teachers can actually support students and how they can just change their teaching style, which
not only helps students with dyslexia but the mainstream class as well because those styles are
adaptable for both.
lngrid Alderton, again another person from the department, spoke about dyslexia-friendly
school packs, which is a UK initiative to support students with dyslexia in the classroom. The point
was made that education is actually managed differently in the UK, where local authorities have a lot
more say. Therefore, there is actually a different approach to students with disabilities. Mr Dave
Pisoni, the opposition spokesperson, also attended the meeting. He provided, if you like, a Liberal
Party’s opinion on where education is in this state, and I will let him talk about that more. I do not
need to use my time to discuss it here.
At the end of the meeting, as chair of the session, I was asked to have a discussion with the .
people present and talk about what sort of things they wanted at future meetings. The people who
attended indicated they wanted more information about other learning difficulties, ways of
supporting students with dyslexia and special provisions particularly around the SACE program to
ensure that their children have the best opportunities through not only education but also training.
There were suggestions about some smaller specific interest groups being formed to explore and
address issues and to build the knowledge of attendees. There were a number of parents who would
like to know what they can do to support their child in the home.
There was a really positive mood in the forum; in other words, a focus on what we can do to
help our young children, particularly with early intervention, how to support them and how to help
them maintain their self-esteem so they do not actually lose interest in their education, which has
been a problem in the past. Kids who have not coped with the mainstream program have actually
opted out, which is unfortunate because, obviously, those children would have had a lot of potential
which has not been realised.
The students also talked about how we actually help with transition because, in private
schools, children often have one teacher and, in secondary education, they might have multiple
teachers. A whole range of issues was raised but it was a very well-attended forum. I also indicate
the government’s support to help these children.

Posted on

The ‘Raising Children Network’ – A Great On-line Resource for Parents

This award winning website is targeted at providing assistance to parents of all children and contains some very useful information on how to help parents support children with learning difficulties. With interactive tutorials, discussion forums and an extraordinary amount of information this website will help any parent, not just those of children with learning difficulties, with the many challenges of raising children. has already supported many parents, to see if it can help you please follow a relevant link below;

Learning disabilities: supporting your child

Helping your child build resilience and self-esteem

Learning disabilities in adolescence: FAQs