Review of the School Education Act 1999

Review of the School Education Act 1999

On 4 December 2023, the Minister for Education, Hon Dr Tony Buti MLA announced a review of the School Education Act 1999 to identify opportunities to strengthen access and inclusion for students with disability.

The review has commenced and will be completed by the end of the year.  

If you want a simpler way to understand this content, try our Easy Read version – The plan for making a better School Education Act 1999.

Background

Schools strive to provide each student with a quality education that will be their stepping stone to a full life where they can maximise their potential as individuals and as contributing citizens.

Recent commissions, inquiries and reviews show us that we need to make changes so that those living with disability are fully included in all parts of society. Schools have a key role in this change. Schools that teach and value respect, diversity and differences, are key to creating for a society where everyone can participate and feel included.

The School Education Act 1999 was written more than 25 years ago and may not fully meet today’s understanding and community expectations for students with disability.

The WA Government considers it is time to review the School Education Act 1999 to find ways to improve access and inclusion for students with disability.

Purpose

The purpose of the review is to identify any barriers to access and inclusion within the School Education Act 1999 and make recommendations for change.

The review aims to make recommendations to:

  • improve the inclusion of students with disability within school settings
  • improve the school experience of children with disability
  • make clearer the rights of children and families
  • help schools better understand their responsibilities
  • make sure the language, terms and definitions match modern expectations and understandings of disability
  • better match the Act with other laws and policies.
Scope
In scope

The review will examine every section of the School Education Act 1999 to find barriers to, or opportunities to improve, access and inclusion for students with disability. This includes identifying any gaps in the legislation where it could be useful to introduce a position.

The review has already identified 7 relevant areas. We expect that more will arise during the review:

  • right to enrol
  • definition of disability
  • right to teaching and learning adjustment
  • requirements for schools to consult with children and families
  • the role and function of Disability Advisory Panels
  • restrictive practices
  • better alignment to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.

The review will also:

  • look at how the Act relates to other state, national and international policies and instruments
  • look at what we can learn from research on the best ways to improve access and inclusion
  • look at what we can learn from other Australian states and territories as well as other countries
  • identify if there are any policies or regulations which may be impacted by any of the recommendations
  • acknowledge and learn from the reflections and advice that people have already shared, including the many perspectives already shared through the submissions to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
Out of scope

The review is the first step in the legislative change process. The review will result in recommendations to the Minister to consider for amendment to the School Education Act 1999.

The review will not include a detailed examination of regulations or policies. However, any policies or regulations which are relevant to a particular recommendation will be noted in the final report. This will assist with the development and implementation of any future changes in response to the review.

The review will not amend the Act. Instead, it will result in a final report with recommendations for changes to the Act for the Minister for Education to consider. As with any legislative reform, changes to the School Education Act 1999 will require Cabinet approval before any amendments can be drafted and introduced.

The review will not consider:

  • funding structures or models
  • teacher training and professional development. 
Governance

The review will be directed by an expert panel with skills and experience in disability, human rights and education. Telethon Kids Institute autism researcher Professor Andrew Whitehouse is the chair of the expert panel.

Alongside the expert panel, the review will be guided and informed by people with intellectual disability through the advisory council of Developmental Disability WA. The advisory council will provide advice directly to the chair of the expert panel.

The Department of Education will coordinate the review and will support the expert panel and advisory council to develop all project deliverables.

You can find the details of all expert panel and advisory council members in the following sections.

Deliverables

The review will deliver 3 key papers:

  • discussion paper – to support engagement and consultation, outlining the initially identified barriers and opportunities for changes to the Act
  • interim report – provided to the Minister for Education during the consultation period of the review, identifying and summarising emerging themes
  • final report – provided to the Minister for Education at the conclusion of the review, outlining final findings and recommendations.
Engagement

The expert panel will engage with relevant stakeholders including schools, families and other identified persons and organisations. 

This will include face-to-face consultation, invitation for submissions (accessible options will be included) and other modes to be determined by the expert panel and advisory council.

Contact us

To contact us, email SEA.Review.Secretariat@education.wa.edu.au

Professor Andrew Whitehouse (Chair)

Professor Andrew Whitehouse (he/his) is the Angela Wright Bennett Professor of Autism Research at the Telethon Kids Institute. He is also the Research Strategy Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC).

Andrew has acted as an advisor to state and commonwealth governments on policies relating to children with disabilities. He chaired the committee that generated Australia’s first national guideline for autism diagnosis and co-chaired the committee that developed Australia’s first national guideline for early therapies and supports for autistic children.

Andrew has published over 300 peer-reviewed journal articles, 2 books and many clinical assessments. In 2023, he was a Western Australian of the Year award winner.

Kane Blackman

Mr Kane Blackman (he/his) leads Good Sammy, a Western Australian charity that operates social enterprises to create employment opportunities for people with disability. His previous executive roles have been in the Western Australian Government, in private equity and in the resource sector.

Kane’s passion is seeking improved outcomes for vulnerable people, which is informed by his experience as a father of a child with a rare disease. He also holds the following roles including:

  • Chair, Ministerial Advisory Council on Disability
  • Advisory Committee Member, Pathways to Post-School Success Review
  • Member, Future Health Research and Innovation Advisory Council
  • President, Leederville Sporting Club.
Dr Sarah Bernard

Dr Sarah Bernard (she/her) is an autistic, ADHD Geriatrician at Sir Charles Gairdner Osborne Park Healthcare Group (SCGOPHCG) and a clinical research associate at Curtin University.

Sarah serves as a disability inclusion advisor for SCGOPHCG as well as for the Department of Education Disability and Inclusion Advisory Group, representing Square Peg Round Whole WA (an organisation for parents of neurodivergent school students). She is the founder of WA Health Neurokin, a peer support group dedicated to advocacy and inclusion for neurodivergent and disabled healthcare workers.

Charmaine Ford

Ms Charmaine Ford (she/her) brings 29 years of experience as a principal, associate principal, program coordinator, curriculum leader and classroom teacher across multiple contexts in the public and catholic education systems and is currently the principal of Newman Senior High School.

Charmaine has been acknowledged throughout her career in education for providing an inclusive culture that makes families feel confident that their child will be supported, nurtured and included throughout their education.  

Cátia Malaquias

Ms Cátia Malaquias (she/her) is a senior government lawyer, who has worked for the State Solicitor's Office for almost 2 decades, and prior to that, at leading national law firms. She is an experienced board director and has co-founded several not-for-profit organisations.

Her expertise in human rights has been recognised nationally and internationally and she has participated in United Nations processes in relation to the rights and inclusion of people with disability, including the development of guidance instruments for inclusive education.

Cátia is the Chair of the Board of Bob Hawke College and serves on the Department of Education's Disability and Inclusion Advisory Group. She has 3 teenagers, one of whom has an intellectual disability.

Maria Mansour

Ms Maria Mansour (she/her) is driven to inspire through lived experience and use her skills to effect change for vulnerable cohorts. Although not practicing as a lawyer, Maria worked in private practice before moving to the Disability Services Commission to work in disability related policy roles.

Maria has worked in various public service roles over the last decade. Currently, as Principal Policy Officer at the Department of Communities, her portfolio includes the project to reform Western Australia’s disability services legislation. Maria sees her involvement on the review’s expert panel as an opportunity and privilege to influence positive change for students with disability.

Anna Steele

Ms Anna Steele (she/her) is the current principal of Mount Hawthorn Education Support Centre and brings 23 years of experience as a principal, associate principal, program coordinator, consultant, and classroom teacher across multiple contexts in the public education system.

Anna is recognised for leading quality evidence-based teaching and assessment to achieve optimal outcomes for students with additional needs. She has deep capability in coordinating learning support strategies and managing positive behaviour initiatives. Additionally, in prioritising the development of teachers and education assistants, she cultivates the conditions to provide the best opportunities for students.

The advisory council has 8 members. All members have lived experience of disability, providing essential insight to identify barriers, and opportunities for change, within the School Education Act 1999.

The advisory council members are:

  • Michelle Silver
  • Peter Bluett
  • Kyal Fairbairn
  • Kristy Marsiglia
  • Shariq Sharma
  • Justin Storen
  • James McNulty
  • Liam Flynn.