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Muted Voices

Executive Summary

The aim of this project is to explore the differential perspectives of families of students with disabilities (SWD) regarding their children in Australian special schools, and to highlight measures by which such voices might be heard by significant stakeholders.

At the outset, the project was conceptualised to achieve the following outcomes:

  • to establish a credible body of evidence from families regarding their experiences of special settings;
  • to provide information from families on curriculum and other school practices that add value to the learning experiences of SWD;
  • to illustrate those mechanisms which enable families of SWD to be included in dialogues regarding the educational and social progress of their children
  • to offer suggestions regarding the ways that families of SWDs in special schools can positively contribute to advancing the inclusive practice agenda in all Australian schools.

The study was specifically designed to capture the perspectives of families regarding the opportunities to consult and engage with teachers on the education of their child or children with disabilities across special schools in Australia. The methodology provided a framework of investigation critical to the research in this study.

The Australian Special Education Principals’ Association (ASEPA) funded the study. The scope of this research was ambitious in its targeting families of SWD in Australian special schools across all educational jurisdictions in each State and Territory in Australia. To our knowledge, this project is the first to specifically survey this group of parents, guardians, and carers of SWD in special schools across the whole of Australia.

Further, a significant body of parental voices have been manifested through this study providing a rich bank of perspectives regarding their preferred delivery models of education for their families and children with disabilities. Parents, guardians, and carers of SWD in special schools across Australia were invited to participate in the anonymous online survey hosted in Qualtrics. The number of completed responses resulted in a sample size for the final set of analysed data of 390 out of a possible 500 responses.

The study adopted an established survey instrument, a slightly adapted version of the ‘Special Education Parent Satisfaction Survey’ designed by the Northeastern Catholic District Board [NCDSB] in Canada, to address the project objectives and the Australian context (Northeastern Catholic District School Board, n.d.).

The aggregated survey results remain anonymous and there is no comparative analysis of the data across sectors or jurisdictions. This agreement is in keeping with the ethic clearance granted to the research team at the outset of the study.

The voice of parents and caregivers for SWD in special education schools around Australia is as important as the voice of the children themselves in providing learning opportunities for them to thrive. With this statement as the heart of our study the following recommendations are forwarded for policy and practice.

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We would like to invite you to attend the Joint Australian Special Education Principals Association (ASEPA) National Conference and the NSW Special Education Principals’ and Leaders’ Association Conference SEPLA-CON 2021. The Conference will be held at International Convention Centre Sydney from Monday, 12th July to Wednesday, 14th July 2021.

Our theme for the Joint ASEPA National Conference and SEPLA-CON 2021 is:

 'VOICE !' 

Share your Voice!Listen to and reflect on objects, desires and innovative practices! Great things happen in schools when we give them 'Voice'.

Register on the link above.

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Matthew Johnson - ASEPA
matthew.johnson@det.nsw.edu.au