Senior Schooling

QASEL POSITION PAPER – SENIOR SCHOOLING

BACKGROUND

The last ten years has seen significant changes in what is considered relevant, challenging and meaningful curriculum for students with disabilities. Change has occurred because of:-

  • new research,
  • change in community expectations,
  • new technologies,
  • schools and teachers exploring options and challenging their own assumptions about students with disabilities and their learning.

Curriculum authorities such as the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA) and employing authorities such as the Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE) have responded at different times and in different ways to assist schools in this journey.

The focus of much of the change has been with the Early Years Curriculum guidelines and the Essential Learnings. There are now questions being asked about Senior Schooling. Schools that have engaged successfully with these systemic curriculum documents are now looking for the equivalent materials for Senior Schooling.

There is a need within the senior schooling age group for the curriculum materials to be differentiated at the systemic level, rather than only relying on individual teachers adjusting the existing curriculum documents.

As students get older, the gap between curriculum engagement for Students with Intellectual Impairment and their chronological aged peers gets wider and the adjusting of the curriculum can be meaningless and tokenistic.

There are essentially four (4) cohorts of students whose needs differ within the senior schooling context. They include:

  1.  Students with Hearing Impairment, Vision Impairment, Physical Impairment, Speech-Language Impairment or Autism Spectrum Disorder (eg Asperger’s Syndrome) who do not have any Intellectual Impairment or any learning difficulties for whom modifications and conditional changes are necessary for access and engagement in the regular curriculum.
  2.  Students with mild or moderate Intellectual Impairment or Hearing Impairment, Vision Impairment, Physical Impairment, Speech-Language Impairment or Autism Spectrum Disorder with mild or moderate Intellectual Impairment or learning difficulties. Many of these students will have up to a three to five (3 – 5) years difference in curriculum engagement to their chronological aged peers. These students are literate, can engage with knowledge about the world and have a wide range of skills. These students with Intellectual Impairment need to engage in a wide range of learning.
  3.  Students with severe Intellectual / Multiple Impairment (who may have other disabilities but for whom Intellectual Impairment is the major impairment area that impacts on their learning needs) and who may need symbol support for most learning and communication.       These students have a wide range of interests, but may have limited capacity to share their interests.
  4.  Students who have profound Intellectual Impairment and/or profound Multiple Impairment who also have learning needs associated with sensory, communication and movement.. These students need a curriculum similar to the Progressing to Foundation documents that ACARA provided at the end of 2011 for consultation, that contain young adult contexts.

THE WAY FORWARD

  1.  For Students with Hearing Impairment, Vision Impairment, Physical Impairment, Speech-Language Impairment or Autism Spectrum Disorder (eg Asperger’s Syndrome) who do not have any Intellectual Impairment or any learning difficulties, there is already a range of options within the current curriculum offerings.       These options should continue to be provided and expanded as the Australian Curriculum and the Queensland Studies Authority curriculum offerings/endorsed subjects are implemented.
  2.  Students with mild or moderate Intellectual Impairment or Hearing Impairment, Vision Impairment, Physical Impairment, Speech-Language Impairment or Autism Spectrum Disorder with mild or moderate Intellectual Impairment or learning difficulties, there should be a suite of curriculum materials that covers a wide range of learning areas. This should include the Learning Areas from both the Australian and the Queensland Curriculum.. Some subjects should to be core and others electives similar to the offerings that are available for other Senior Secondary Students. This group of students also need access to Vocational Education at the Certificate Level 1-4
  3.  For Students with severe Intellectual / Multiple Impairment (who may have other disabilities but for whom Intellectual Impairment is the major impairment area that impacts on their learning needs) and who may need symbol support for most learning and communication, there should also be a suite of curriculum offerings.       Those designing these curriculum offerings need to be cognisant of the students’ need to use symbols and other alternate forms of communication to engage with their learning. This group of students also need access to some Vocational Education, but it may not be at the Certificate Level or may not be all of the modules of a Certificate. Curriculum Authorities should develop some courses at a level prior to Certificate 1, but with a work and future lifestyle focus. The courses/subjects for these students with a more significant Intellectual Impairment who need symbol support for most learning and communication must align with their move to post school life.
  4.  For Students who have profound Intellectual Impairment and/or profound Multiple Impairment there should be a curriculum similar to that offered within the Towards Level 1 of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards and its accompanying Ability Based Learning and Educational Support (ABLES) materials and/or additional materials provided by ACARA that expand and revise the previously provided Progressing to Foundation documents with embedded young adult contexts.       The QSA and DETE should then provide additional support to schools in a similar manner as occurs with Curriculum to the Classroom (C2C) for all other Australian Curriculum provisions.