Despite assurances from the Department of Education that school staff would not be impacted to meet State Budget targets, shocking revelations have emerged that over 80 specialised teachers from the decades-long Visiting Teacher Service, have been made redundant.
Visiting Teachers (VTs), highly experienced and adept in supporting students with specific disabilities and impairments, have been providing invaluable one-on-one support to vulnerable students since the 1970s.
The Nationals Member for Shepparton District, Kim O’Keeffe has called the decision an absolute disgrace, asserting that the cuts directly jeopardise students in desperate need of specialised support.
“Visiting Teachers are important supporters and advocates for children with hearing, visual, physical and mental impairments, and support students with life threatening illnesses like childhood cancers,” explained Ms O’Keeffe.
“Without VTs, our most vulnerable children will miss out on crucial support and inclusive education while mainstream teachers will have their workloads increase.
“We already have a teacher shortage across the state, and to lose the support of VTs in public schools is outrageous,” she said, adding that, “The reduction of VTs from 117 to a mere 32 statewide leaves over 4,000 students with significantly diminished support.”
“My office was contacted by a local teacher of the deaf, who shared her deep concerns about the proposed staff cuts. She said that deaf students require specialised support and cutting 73 per cent of the VT workforce will have a huge negative impact on their learning. We must advocate for these children and ensure they have appropriate access to education.
“Parents and carers of students with disabilities in regional areas often face significant disadvantages in finding support. VTs have been a lifeline for these families, and their removal is seen as a detrimental and devastating setback to providing inclusive education.”
The changes are being rolled out as part of the Andrews Labor Government’s $1.6 billion Disability Inclusion Program, which is set to be introduced in the Shepparton District electorate in 2024.
Ms O’Keeffe said that in Parliament on Thursday, the Education Minister Natalie Hutchins tried to defend this decision stating the Disability Inclusion Program would be a positive change.
“Increasing demands on our teachers and removing Visiting Teachers is not a positive change.
“The Andrews Government said before being elected last November that Labor would stand with parents and carers of children with disability, and yet they are removing a crucial link to providing inclusive education.
“I call on the Education Minister to stop putting extra pressure off teachers who are already struggling and to keep the Visiting Teacher Service alive with experienced teachers that are trained in their specialist fields, to ensure that all students in Victoria can receive the educational support they need,” said Ms O’Keeffe.