The NCCD and needs-based funding:An evaluation of disability resource allocation in Australian education

Year: 2018

Author: de Bruin, Kate

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In Australia, students with disabilities are entitled to reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) to ensure that they receive an education on the same basis as their peers. Some adjustments require funds to provide appropriate educational supports, and historically this has been supplied through a mix of Commonwealth and State or Territory government contributions. The allocation of these funds has varied between different systems and jurisdictions but in general has used a categorical model, driven by definitions of disability and diagnostic criteria. This model of resource allocation has been strongly critiqued for its deficit approach (Triano, 2000), its inconsistency in application (Reschly, 1996), as well as a tendency to produce perverse outcomes (Greene & Forster, 2002), and to hamper inclusion (Meijer, 1999).
An alternative organisational model for resource allocation that rejects the categorical approach is that of the multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), a framework derived from a well-established model of public health provision (Leavell and Clark, 1965). MTSS have increasingly commanded respect in education as a means of creating school and system-wide cultures of supporting all students with well-established models for behavioural support, academic support, and integrated models working across systems (Bruns et al., 2017). Core components of MTSS include: knowledge mobilised from prevention and implementation science; a culture of professional collaboration, a foundation of universal supports offered to all students, and tiers of increasingly intensive and individualised supplementary supports for those identified as in need.
In 2017, two new Commonwealth policies combined to create a new resource allocation framework for students with disabilities. These policies include the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data for Students with Disabilities (NCCD) and needs-based funding. Together they represent a shift in how schools and Governments support the education of students with disabilities. The new policy framework conceptualises reasonable adjustments through four tiers representing increasingly intensive and individualised supports, with increasing levels of resources allocated accordingly. It remains unclear, however, whether this sufficiently aligns with the inclusive and effective model of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) to claim the evidence supporting its use.
In this presentation, I offer an analysis of the new Commonwealth support and resource allocation system and consider the degree to which it shares core elements of a MTSS. Through this analysis, I consider the potential for this new system of support and resource allocation to enhance inclusion and effective supports for students with disabilities in Australia.