Open Letter to the Australian Minister for Education.

If you would like to be added to this Open Letter please contact us.

12 October 2017

Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Education
PO Box 6100
Senate
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Via email: senator.birmingham@aph.gov.au

Dear Minister

Open Letter: Concerns regarding Leading Learning 4 All resource

We write to highlight serious flaws in the Leading Learning 4 All (LL4All) resource, which was funded by the Commonwealth Government and launched in February this year.

The resource is intended to support schools, school leaders and teachers in promoting inclusive education and meeting Commonwealth legislation and policy, namely the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and particularly the Disability Standards for Education 2005.

We are concerned that this resource, while seeking to improve practitioner understanding, implementation and compliance, is of poor quality and provides contradictory information.

Signatories to this letter emphasise that these flaws need to be addressed prior to roll-out (scheduled for 16 October 2017). These concerns have been raised more than once with the developers and each time this feedback has been ignored.

For example, concerns relating to an audit tool were first raised during the website’s development phase; however, the tool was not corrected until after the launch and only following strong public criticism of inherent bias in an attitudinal scale that did not include the option of ‘always’ in relation to the inclusion of students with disability in regular classrooms.

Further concerns were raised by three experts in inclusive education via the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) EduResearch Matters blog on 15 May 2017.

This expert critique noted four main issues:

  • poor modelling of inclusive practice;
  • inadequate provisions to enable accessibility;
  • disrespectful representation of students with disability; and
  • inaccurate interpretation of the DSE.

Their criticism of the resource resulted in a response by the Director of Leading Learning for All on 16 May 2017:

“LL4All will continue to evolve and in so doing will take account of the accessibility issues raised in the blog in our next version of the website. Our ‘Practitioner in Action point videos’ for schools will be refreshed and added to with additional accessibility features. Where possible we will add transcripts to existing videos.”

However, almost five months later, there have been no changes to address any of the concerns raised.

We are calling on the Commonwealth government to suspend distribution of the resource pending an independent review and the rectification of flaws, as these have the potential to reinforce poor practice in Australian schools. Some of the more noticeable flaws include:

  • Accessibility. There are several instances where the website fails to meet the mandated WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards. One of the most obvious instances being the videos lacking closed captions or at least a transcript. Only auto-generated captions are provided and these are inaccurate. Some videos do not have captions at all, and two are in Dutch. Audio quality is poor and no transcripts are provided. Text-based material is not accessible to users with vision impairments.
  • Representation of students with disability. Videos do not model appropriate use of language when referring to students with disability. The videos of students do not represent inclusive learning environments or arrangements but illustrate students learning in isolation, away from their classes. This is not consistent with evidence of effective practice in inclusive education.
  • Consultation with students and their parents/carers. There is very limited information about the process of consulting with students and no in-text definition. This runs counter to the obligation of education providers under the DSE to consult with students with disability and their parents/carers as principal stakeholders in their own education.
  • Lack of engagement with parents/carers of students with disability and their representative organisations. Parents/carers have not been involved in the creation of this resource and there is very limited information about their role or that of representative disability organisations in supporting inclusion.
  • Inconsistencies in the information presented about the Disability Standards for Education 2005. There are instances where videos indicate that it is acceptable for students with disability to have access to some activities (but not all). Indicative quotes from videos are: “We try to include him on the same basis on most activities” (Video: Adjustment in the organisation of the whole school); “Liam is only here two-three days a week. So I often like to save the jobs on those days that Liam can participate in” (Video: Adjustment in student-teacher interactions). These statements are inconsistent with the obligation of education providers to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that students with disability can participate on the same basis as other students and could normalise partial enrolment, itself a form of exclusion recognised in numerous inquiries.
  • Factual errors and poor evidence base. There are a number of factual errors that are inconsistent with the quality expected from a government-endorsed website. In one of the videos a principal says that “I looked at the disability standards that came out in 1992 [sic]” (video: Adjustment in the organisation of the whole school) and the Infographic refers to “United Nations Convention [sic] rights of persons with disabilities 1998 [sic]”. This lack of attention to detail undermines the seriousness and professionalism with which teachers should regard their obligations towards students with disability. The resource is not well supported by evidence, with the references to “evidence-based reading material” indicating a reliance on weak studies and sources.
  • Discussion of safe spaces. One proposed strategy promoted by the resource for mainstream schools to respond to potential lunch-time bullying and victimisation is the creation of ‘safe spaces’, with the question posed “what are the advantages and disadvantages of ‘safe spaces’ as part of a school’s approach to harassment and victimisation?” Given the extensive criticism of the use of withdrawal spaces to isolate students with disability, and the fact that this video places no focus on perpetrators, this video does not comply with the DSE and the obligations schools have to address victimisation and harassment.

We the undersigned respectfully request that the planned roll-out of the resource is suspended and the Leading Learning 4 All website undergoes rigorous independent review prior to any further development or action.

Yours faithfully,

All Means All – The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education
http://www.allmeansall.org.au

Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE)
http://www.are.edu.au

Australian Association of Special Education (AASE) (NSW Chapter)
http://www.aase.edu.au/chapters/nsw

Autistic Families International
http://www.autisticfamilies.org

Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (UK)
http://www.csie.org.uk

Cerebral Palsy Education Centre
http://www.cpec.org.au

Children and Young People with Disability Australia
http://www.cyda.org.au

Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH)
http://www.cdah.org.au

Disability Advocacy Network Australia
http://www.dana.org.au

Disabled People’s Organisations Australia
http://www.dpoa.org.au/

Down Syndrome Australia
http://www.downsyndrome.org.au/

Family Advocacy
http://www.family-advocacy.com/

First Peoples Disability Network
http://www.fpdn.org.au

Imagine More
http://www.imaginemore.org.au

JFA Purple Orange
http://www.purpleorange.org.au/

National Ethnic Disability Alliance
http://www.neda.org.au

Neurodiversity Connect
http://www.neurodiversityconnect.org.au/

People With Disabilities WA
http://www.pwdwa.org/

People With Disability Australia
http://www.pwd.org.au/

Queensland Advocacy Incorporated
http://www.qai.org.au

Starting With Julius
http://www.startingwithjulius.org.au

Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby
http://www.tasmaniandisabilityeducationreformlobby.com

The Growing Space
http://www.thegrowingspace.com.au

Women with Disabilities Australia
http://www.wwda.org.au

World of Inclusion (UK)
http://worldofinclusion.com

Youth Disability Advocacy Network
http://www.ydan.com.au

Professor Linda Graham
Student Engagement, Learning & Behaviour (SELB) Research Group Leader
School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Ilektra Spandagou
Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education
Sydney School of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney

Dr Kate de Bruin
Lecturer in Inclusive Education
Faculty of Education, Monash University

Dr Megan Adams
Lecturer Inclusive Education
Monash University

Associate Professor Joseph Seyram Agbenyega
Associate Professor in Inclusive Education
Monash University

Ms Fiona Anderson
Parent of tertiary student with disability

Dr Ann Cheryl Armstrong
Associate Professor
University of the South Pacific (Fiji)

Dr David Armstrong
Lecturer in Special Education
School of Education, Flinders University

Professor Michael Arthur-Kelly
School of Education
University of Newcastle

Ms Janice Atkin
Education Consultant, Inclusive Schools Australia

Ms Sophia Atwood
Teacher

Mr Glen Auld
Course Design Lead and Lecturer in Inclusive Education
Division of Learning and Teaching, Charles Sturt University

Mr Thomas Bevitt
Occupational Therapist

Dr Michelle L Bonati
Associate Lecturer in Special and Inclusive Education
Sydney School of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney

Mrs Lindie Brengman
Parent and advocate
Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education

Dr Lisa Bridle
Parent advocate and disability consultant

Mrs Jo-Anne Britt
PhD Student, Inclusive Education, Deakin University

Ms Renee Brown
Parent and advocate

Dr Rachel Buchanan
Senior Lecturer in Education
University of Newcastle

Associate Professor Roseanna Bourke
Institute of Education
Massey University, New Zealand

Ms Brenna Carrigy
Individual Needs Teacher

Professor Suzanne Carrington
Assistant Dean (Research)
School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Ms Kate Casley
Avalon Jade’s Journey

Ms Jodie Castle
Parent and advocate
Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education

Ms Kristie Chambers
Parent and advocate

Mr Robert Colla
School Principal (retired)
Assistant Lecturer Monash University

Dr Kathy Cologon
Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education
Department of Educational Studies, Macquarie University

Mrs Vanessa Comiskey
Parent and advocate

Mr Ken Connell
Parent of a student with disability

Dr Tim Corcoran
Senior Lecturer in Education (Curriculum and Pedagogy)
Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University

Dr Therese Cumming
Associate Professor in Special Education
School of Education, University of New South Wales Sydney

Ms Jenny Cush
Advocate
Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH) 

Ms Meritta Dalla-Vecchia
Special Education Teacher

Dr Leon de Bruin
Teacher

Ms Lia de Sousa
Head of Senior Library

Dr Scot Danforth Ph.D.
Professor of Disability Studies and Inclusive Education
Chapman University (USA)

Ms Kristen Desmond
Disability advocate; Founder Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby

Ms Catherine Devanny
Parent of a student with disability

Mr Danny Dickson
Tertiary student with disability

Mr Matthew Dimmock
Parent of a student with disability

Dr Roselyn Dixon
School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Wollongong

Dr Jenny Duke
Independent Consultant – Inclusive Education
On the Same Page Consultancy

Moya Elvey
Sessional Academic
Federation University Australia

Dr Elke Emerald
Senior Lecturer
School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University

Associate Professor David Evans
Associate Professor of Special Education
Sydney School of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney

Ms Heike Fabig
Parent of a student with disability and Law student

Dr Rhonda Faragher
Senior Lecturer in Special Education and Inclusive Education
School of Education, The University of Queensland

Professor Lani Florian
Bell Chair of Education
University of Edinburgh

Mr Greg Franklin
Parent and advocate

Professor Rhonda Galbally AO
Patron
All Means All – The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education

Ms Jeanine Gallagher
Postgraduate student; educator
School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Ms Bianca Gamble
Parent and advocate
Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education

Ms Jacqui Gately
PhD Researcher 
Faculty of Education, Monash University

Dr Jenna Gillett
Senior Lecturer in Children’s Rights
School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Ms Amanda Girodat
Teacher

Professor Gerard Goggin
ARC Future Fellow
Department of Media & Communications, University of Sydney

Ms Stephanie Gotlib
Chief Executive Officer
Children and Young People with Disability Australia

Professor Lorraine Graham
Professor in Learning Intervention
Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne

Mrs Geraldine Gray
State Coordinator Special Learning Needs
Catholic Education Commission

Ms Shalee Gregson-Quinn
Parent and advocate
Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education

Dr Christine Grima-Farrell
Lecturer in Special Education
School of Education, University of New South Wales

Dr Christine Grove
Lecturer Inclusive Education
Monash University

Ms Deb Haller
Parent and advocate
Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education

Dr Sally Howell
Principal MUSEC School
Macquarie University

Dr Toni Hopper
Macquarie University

Ms Meagan Hull
2016 Victorian Early Childhood Teacher of the Year

Ms Sarah Humphreys
Education Consultant, Inclusive Schools Australia

Professor Teresa Iacono
Rural and Regional Allied Health
La Trobe Rural and Health School, La Trobe University

Professor Dario Ianes
Faculty of Education
Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy

Dr Robert Jackson
Adjunct Associate Professor
Curtin University

Mrs Deborah Jeffrey
Parent and advocate

Ms Samantha Jenkinson
Disabled advocate; Executive Director 
People With Disabilities WA Inc

Ms Marlena May Katene
Journalist and disabled activist

Ms Peta Kennedy
Parent of a person with disability; Early Childhoold Teacher and Early Childhood TAFE Teacher

Dr Farzana Khan
Teaching Associate Inclusive Education
Monash University

Ms Sharon Klieve
Lecturer in Learning Intervention
Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne

Professor Julian Knowles
Parent of child with a disability

Dr Julie Kos
Senior Research Fellow
Australian Council for Educational Research

Mrs Jan Kruger
Parent of a student with disability; Executive Director, Imagine More

Ms Gillian Lampacher
Parent of a student with disability

Dr Carly Lassig
Lecturer in Inclusive Education
School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Ms Danielle Lawless
Parent carer

Ms Kate Leigh
Lecturer in Learning Intervention
Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne

Ms Pippa Lidgett
Teacher

Dr Cathy Little
Lecturer in Special Education
Sydney School of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney

Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn
Professor of Family and Disability Studies
The University of Sydney

Ms Hazel Lloyd
Parent and advocate
Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education

Ms Jemima MacDonald
Education, Development and Research Officer
Centre for Disability Studies, affiliate of the Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney

Ms Lara Maia-Pike
PhD Student in Inclusive Education, parent of children with disability
School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Ms Catia Malaquias
Lawyer and Founder
Starting With Julius

Ms Tricia Malowney OAM
Consultant

Dr Glenys Mann
Lecturer in Inclusive Education
School of Education, University of Queensland

Ms Abby March
Education Support

Ms Rebecca Marland
Phd Student 
Victoria University

Dr Sofia Mavropoulou
Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education
School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Loraine Mckay
Lecturer
Griffith University

Dr Lisa Mckay-Brown
Senior Lecturer in Learning Intervention
Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne

Ms Madeleine McCabe
M.Phil (Research) Candidate & Research Assistant
School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Mrs Catherine McDonald
Parent of a student with disability

Dr Samantha McMahon
Early Career Development Fellow (Education Foundation Studies)
Sydney School of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney

Mrs Delvene Mercer
Parent of a student with disability

Dr Amanda Mergler
Senior Lecturer in Educational Psychology
School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Jozef Miskolci
Researcher and Lecturer
Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia

Associate Professor Nicole Mockler
Associate Professor of Education
Sydney School of Education, The University of Sydney

Professor Julianne Moss
Pedagogy and Curriculum
Deakin University

Ms Fiona Murrie
Parent of a child with disability

Ms Anne Newton
Teaching Associate – Inclusive Education
Monash University

Mr Peter O’Brian
Consultant – Inclusive Education and Professional Development for School Staff
Art & Life Learning

Ms Michelle O’Flynn
Director, Queensland Advocacy Incorporated

Dr Sue O’Neill
Lecturer in Special Education & Behaviour Management
School of Education, University of New South Wales Sydney

Ms Lisa Ogle
Parent of a child with disability

Ms Georgie Osborne
Parent of a child with disability and advocate

Ms Sam Paior
Parent and advocate; Director
The Growing Space

Mr Ben Paior-Smith
High School student with disability

Ms Tracy Pate
Parent of a student with disability

Ms Kate Patterson
Parent of a student with disability

Mr Damian Perry
Catholic school teacher

Ms Julie Phillips
Manager
Disability Discrimination Legal Service

Ms Victoria Pirolo
Parent of a student with disability

Ms Louise Piva
Teacher and Monash University Teaching Associate, Inclusive Education
Parent of children with disabilities

Dr Shiralee Poed
Senior Lecturer in Learning Intervention
Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne

Mrs Jennifer Prior
Parent of a student with disability

Associate Professor Helen Proctor
ARC Future Fellow
Sydney School of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney

Ms Shannon Quinn
Educator

Dr Shaun Rawolle
Senior Lecturer in Education (Curriculum and Pedagogy)
Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University

Ms Bronwyn Reguson
Inclusion Coach

Mr Richard Rieser
Expert disabled international inclusive education consultant and teacher; Member of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee (est. by General Assembly resolution 56/168) that negotiated Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities

Ms Lorraine Rodrigues
Teacher, Education Support Programs
RMIT University

Dr David Roy
Lecturer in Education
University of Newcastle

Mrs Michelle Rowe
Parent and advocate

Professor Sue Saltmarsh
Professor in Early Childhood
University of Southern Queensland

Ms Dianne Samuels
Parent of and advocate for a student with disability

Ms Jane Scarborough
Parent of a student with disability
South Australia

Mrs Alex Sencek
Parent of a student with disability

Dr Tracey Sempowicz
Lecturer in Education
School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Professor Roger Slee
Research Professor
School of Education, University of South Australia

Ms Doreen Smider
Teacher, Department of Education and Training

Ms Anne Smith
Carer of a child with disability

Professor Pamela Snow
Professor and Head
La Trobe Rural Health School, La Trobe University

Mrs Jackie Softly
Parent of a person with a disability and education consultant

Ms Rachel Sowden
Parent of students with disability; Owner and director
Family Focus Consultancy

Associate Professor Jennifer Stephenson
Associate Professor in Special Education
Department of Educational Studies, Macquarie University

Ms Carly Stewart
Parent of a student with disability

Ms Melinda Stone
Teacher

Associate Professor Iva Strnadová
Associate Professor in Special Education
School of Education, University of New South Wales 

Bishop Peter Stuart
Anglican Diocese of NewcastleNew South Wales 

Associate Professor Anna Sullivan
Associate Professor of Education
School of Education, University of South Australia

Ms Cecile Sullivan-Elder
Executive Officer
Family Advocacy

Ms Michelle Sutton
Autistic Disability Rights Advocate

Mrs Loren Swancutt
Teacher 

Ms Monica Sweeney
Sibling; Advocacy and Leadership Coordinator, 
Family Advocacy

Dr Simoni Symeonidou
Assistant Professor 
Department of Education, University of Cyprus

Ms Haley Tancredi
M.Phil (Research) Candidate
School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Ms Sue Tape
Parent and advocate
Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education

A/Professor Morten Timmermann Korsgaard
Assistant Professor
Malmö University, Sweden

Mrs Karen Tippet
Manager Advocacy and Leadership Development
Family Advocacy

Emeritus Professor Sally Tomlinson
Goldsmiths College, University of London
Honorary Fellow, Department of 
Education, Oxford University

Mr John Tregaskis
Parent of a student with disability

Ms Marie Turner
Student 
Victoria University

Dr Michelle Villeneuve
Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney

The Hon. Kelly Vincent MLC
Leader of the Dignity Party, Legislative Council, Parliament of South Australia 

Dr Anastasia Vlachou
Professor of Inclusive Education, University of Thessaly, Greece

Mr Peter Walker
Lecturer in Special Education
School of Education, Flinders University

Professor Sue Walker
Professor of Early Childhood Education
School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

Associate Professor Tamara Walsh
TC Beirne School of Law
The University of Queensland

Associate Professor Elizabeth Walton
University of Witwatersrand 

Ms Jessica Walton
Disability Rights Activist, Author and secondary Teacher

Ms Karen Watson
Lecturer, Early Childhood
University of Newcastle

Ms Chedyn Webster
Sibling of a person with disability; Student Teacher; Disability Support Worker

Mrs Julie Webster
Parent of a person with disability

Ms Jen Williams
Educator; Parent of a student with disability

Dr Jill Willis
Senior Lecturer in Educational Leadership and Assessment
School of Teacher Education and Leadership, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Ben Whitburn
Lecturer in Inclusive Education
Deakin University

Ms Alison Wilson
Parent and disability advocate

Mrs Gina Wilson-Burns
Parent of a student with disability

Dr Satine Winter
Lecturer in Inclusive Education
School of Education & Professional Studies, Griffith University

Professor Annette Woods
President, Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE)
School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education
Queensland University of Technology

Dr Kerry Woods
Lecturer Assessment for Instructional Planning
University of Melbourne

Dr David Zyngier
Senior Lecturer in Education
Faculty of Education, Monash University