The Opposition would take Western Australia back to the dark ages with its segregationist policies on students with disabilities or learning difficulties, Education Minister Kay Hallahan said today.
Mrs Hallahan said parents would be outraged at Opposition plans to force disabled children into special schools where they would lose the education and social benefits of attending regular school education.
"As a community, we have come a long way in breaking down stereotypes and outdated attitudes towards people with disabilities and accepting their right to play a full part in society, including enjoying the benefits of education and training," she said.
"What happens to a student with a disability at a country school who is segregated under Liberal policy? Do they get sent to a special boarding school?"
Mrs Hallahan said the Opposition's policy on students with disabilities was ill-conceived, poorly costed and blatantly disregarded the views of parents.
"The Opposition estimates its policy will cost $25 million, but the cost of extra teachers alone would be at least $25 million," she said.
The Minister said the Government favoured giving students with disabilities opportunities to attend regular classes with back up support for teachers.
"The Government has in place a 120-strong team of disability specialists and therapists who provide assistance to teachers of students with disabilities," she said.
"In addition, rather than providing special education training to a select few teachers as is Liberal policy, the Government wants all teachers to be equipped with the skills to teach students with disabilities or learning difficulties."
The Minister said she had appointed an 11-member team - headed by Cerebral Palsy Association chief Dr Ruth Shean - to develop an action plan to implement new Government initiatives, including:
· a requirement that graduate teachers employed by the State Government be qualified to deal with students with disabilities or learning difficulties;
· training in special education for the State's existing teachers;
· a parent advisory service in each school district to involve parents in decisions about their child's education;
· a complete review of existing programs to assess their effectiveness and improve co-ordination; and the -
· introduction of a comprehensive assessment program to detect student problems at an early age.