What can Australia learn from Canada about closing special schools? - Education Matters Magazine

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What can Australia learn from Canada about closing special schools?

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Researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) investigating the Canadian experience of closing special schools argue leadership is a key driver for inclusive educational change.

A new paper, published in Australian Educational Researcher, recommends a framework to achieve desegregation of schools, based on the Canadian experience.

The findings are organised within societal, systemic, school and community levels with proposals to inform future policy.

Lead author Dr Glenys Mann said there were many dynamics that influenced special school closure and the paper contributes to how it might take place.

The recent Disability Royal Commission recommended phasing out special schools, but three of the six commissioners did not support a deadline for this to happen.

Australia ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008 and as a result tensions between commitments to inclusive reform and closure of special schools remain ongoing.

Dr Mann said work will have to happen on many levels to successfully transition to a unified education system.

“It will not be enough to just change policy,” Dr Mann said.

“The challenge is not only how to make mainstream classrooms more inclusive but also how to dismantle existing dual pathways and close segregated schools.”

Researchers found provinces in Canada were considered leaders in the movement away from segregated education for students with disability.

“There is much discussion on building inclusive capacity in schools however the requirements for ending segregated schooling are less explored,” Dr Mann said.

Future research from QUT’s Centre for Inclusive Education will investigate this.

“Special school closure under the guidance of committed, courageous and ethical leadership will drive and demand the creative and skilful educational innovation required for future inclusive schools,” Dr Mann said.

The researchers also concluded that moves toward a unified system would require support and funding for parent and community advocacy.

Researchers involved in the review of the Canadian system included Dr Glenys Mann, Professor Suzanne Carrington, Dr Carly Lassig, Associate Professor Sofia Mavropoulou, Professor Beth Saggers and Dr Callula Killingly and University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Shiralee Poed.

A PDF of the journal article is available upon request.

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