Disabled pupils set to swamp schools
Date: September 4 2002

By Gerard Noonan

The state's high schools face an explosion of students with disabilities moving through from primary classes over the next three or four years, according to a major inquiry into public education.

The number of students with varying degrees of disability has risen sharply in primary schools to reach more than 1600 in each year of primary school this year.

Just three years ago, there were typically 300 to 400 fewer such students enrolled in mainstream classes in primary schools.

In all, 16,600 disabled students are enrolled in mainstream classes in NSW government primary and high schools, while 18,600 more are in special classes in ordinary schools or in schools built for dealing with students with severe disabilities.

The inquiry, chaired by Tony Vinson from the University of NSW, has recommended that the NSW Department of Education employ at least 100 support teachers for learning difficulties over the next two years to cope with the problem.

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maree O'Halloran, said yesterday: "When this flow-through hits the secondary system, it will be explosive."

The cost of extra teachers and an increase in funding for in-school facilities for disabled students is expected to be $17 million by 2004.

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