For $350 one can undertake the ‘Champion Training‘ course and become part of a select group of school leaders qualified to roll out the Leading Learning 4 All website resource funded by the Commonwealth government and launched by Federal Education Minister Senator Simon Birmingham early this year. This select group is “charged” with creating many “Promoters” of Leading Learning 4 All. In particular, this select group will have access to the ‘Champions’ section of the website to “continue to grow the resource”.
First, the concepts of “Champions” and “Promoters” of a resource that is intended to advance the inclusive education of students with disability must be seen against the fact that students have a right – not a privilege – to access a genuinely inclusive education in their local school and the education system and schools within it have an obligation to deliver that genuinely inclusive education. It should not be presented as an ideal above and beyond the standard for “heroes” within the education system – it is and should be the standard required to be achieved by all staff within the education system.
Secondly, “growing” any resource intended to better guide the implementation of an inclusive education system must be consistent with the right to inclusive education, based on best inclusive practice and objective evidence and subject to rigorous scrutiny. Qualifying as a “Champion” is manifestly inadequate to justify participation in “growing” any inclusive education resource particularly given widespread poor practices and fundamental lack of understanding of what is inclusive education, but particularly in the context of a resource that has been identified as flawed from the beginning and that does not from the outset provide a sound framework for delivering inclusive education in our schools.
The Leading Learning 4 All website resource has caused significant concerns and prominent disability advocates, academics and organisations including All Means All and the peak disability representative organisations have written an Open Letter to federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham outlining a range of concerns relating to appropriate language, the promotion of approaches that do not represent best practices in inclusive education, representation of students with disability including inappropriate language, the application of the Disability Standards for Education and the alleged lack of consultation with representative organisations of people with disability and families. The concern has also been raised from overseas, with some UK organisations and experts from as far away as Sweden adding their names to the letter.
The New South Wales Teachers Federation has now joined calls for rigorous, independent review of the resource and questions have also been raised by Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek as well as South Australian Parliament MP and Leader of the Dignity Party Kelly Vincent MLC who has signed the letter.
We understand that to date there has been no response to the Open Letter either from Leading Learning 4 All or Senator Birmingham’s Office. This is a matter of great significance as students and teachers both deserve a quality resource that supports quality inclusive education in our schools and implements anti-discrimination obligations of education providers.
As an example, the following was shared with us by a concerned parent who was on call-waiting and decided to switch off the volume and watch the videos on the website using the close-captioning option instead; “professional learning demeaning moment” … “I’m going to attack their growth and development” and “those painful face to face meetings” were unexpected to say the least, but if you don’t take the time to subtitle properly and ensure quality across the resource you run the risk of detracting from and undermining the outcomes that are being sought to be achieved.