Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) People with disability in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 11 August 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). People with disability in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
People with disability in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 05 July 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. People with disability in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Aug. 11]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, People with disability in Australia, viewed 11 August 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
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to children with disability by education providers fell from 56% to 12% during COVID-19
with disability undertook formal or informal study or training in 2020
(28% without disability)
with disability who studied in 2020 did all of their studies online
(59% without disability)
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COVID-19 led to significant and long-lasting disruptions to the traditional classroom-based education. In 2020, 1.5 billion students in 188 countries were locked out of their schools (OECD 2021). As the pandemic continued to disrupt education well into 2021, many education systems struggled with adapting to new online modes of learning and maintaining learning continuity and student supports. For students with disability, this may result in added challenges related to reduced individual supports and social interactions, increased reliance on parental supports, and problems with technology.
This section looks at some of the changes in education processes experienced by children, young people and adult students in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The data used in this section are largely from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. This survey was designed to provide a quick snapshot of the changing social and economic situation for Australian households with particular focus on how they were faring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey was initially conducted between April 2020 and June 2021. From 1 April to 10 July 2020, the survey was conducted fortnightly with the same panel of respondents. From August 2020, the survey was conducted monthly with a new panel. Panel members have rotated, with new members added in November 2020 and March 2021. At the time of writing, the June 2021 survey was the last in the series; the survey was subsequently reinstated for 3 months from February to April 2022.
Each cycle of the survey collected information on different topics. Some topics have been repeated in both fortnightly and monthly surveys. The topics included:
self-assessed physical and mental health
emotional and mental wellbeing
use of health services (including telehealth)
job situation (including access to leave, job search and working from home arrangements)
training and development of skills
household finances (including income, saving, spending and financial stress)
receipt of government assistance payments and supports
care and assistance provided to vulnerable people inside and outside of household
caring for children and child care and schooling arrangements during COVID-19
social contacts and participation in activities
personal and household stressors
COVID-19 vaccination attitudes and experiences
behaviours around COVID-19 testing
precautions taken due to COVID-19
life after COVID-19.
Disability status was captured in the survey using a subset of questions from the ABS Short Disability Module. While this module provides useful information about the characteristics of people with disability relative to those without, it is not recommended for use in measuring disability prevalence.
In the survey, a person is considered to have disability if they have one or more conditions (including long-term health conditions) which have lasted, or are likely to last, for at least 6 months and restrict everyday activities.
The survey collected data from people aged 18 and over in private dwellings across Australia (excluding very remote areas). It did not include people living in institutional settings, such as aged care facilities.
Due to constant and rapid changes in the COVID-19 situation, the numbers reported in this section should be viewed in the context of the situation at the time of data collection. Therefore, throughout this section, references are made to the month in which the data were collected. A brief timeline of COVID-19 in Australia between January 2020 and October 2021 is provided below for reference.
Source: COVID-19 in Australia
March–April 2020 – first wave
May–June 2020 – gradual easing of restrictions
July–October 2020 – second wave
November 2020–June 2021
July–October 2021 – third wave
Many children and young people with disability experienced a change in the operation of their school or education facility during COVID-19. In the CYDA Education Survey 2020, 2 in 3 respondents (67%) reported that their school or education facility moved to remote learning (Dickinson et al. 2020). For some respondents, the changes went beyond that:
Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA), a national representative organisation for children and young people (aged 0–25) with disability, ran an online survey between 28 April and 14 June 2020 about education-specific issues experienced by young people with disability during COVID-19. The survey covered the periods when schools were mostly closed to students, and when the majority of students transitioned back to face-to-face teaching (Dickinson et al. 2020). The survey was promoted among CYDA members (more than 5,000 people) and via social media by other disability advocacy organisations. Respondents self-selected to participate.
Of 719 respondents, 95% were family members of students with disability, and 5% were young people with disability (Dickinson et al. 2020).
Of the young people with disability who responded (or on whose behalf information was provided):
During this time the responsibility for education shifted away from teachers and schools to parents:
For some students with disability, the shift to remote learning could be problematic due to difficulties with accessibility of online platforms or learning materials:
Supports provided by education facilities had drastically decreased during the pandemic. The proportions of respondents receiving supports before and during the pandemic had decreased for all types of supports covered by the survey:
The CYDA survey further highlighted how COVID-19 affected the experience of education for children and young people with disability and their families:
The survey found that students who received support had better outcomes in maintaining their engagement and reducing social isolation. Support was most effective when more than one type was provided. Those who received 2 or more types of support were:
Of the different types of support, social support (which typically involves helping to connect children and young people to their peers in meaningful ways) was most strongly associated with students feeling supported, part of a learning community, engaged in learning and feeling less isolated. This support type saw one of the largest decreases during the pandemic (from 43% to 9%) (Dickinson et al. 2020).
In January, February and June 2021, the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey asked Australians aged 18 and over about their education and training activities.
The proportion studying for a qualification during 2020 was broadly consistent with the 2018 findings in the Education and skills section of this report, when 9.1% of people aged 15–64 with disability were studying for a non-school qualification at the time of the 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) (15% without disability) (ABS 2019).
For those who undertook training or study in 2020, adults with disability were:
In January 2021, people with disability (20%) were less likely to report an intention to study in the next 6 months than those without disability (27%) (ABS 2021a).
In June 2021, people with and without disability were asked about the study they had done in 2021. Both groups were similarly likely to:
Of people with and without disability who had done study or training in 2021 or intended to but had not started, 9.2% and 2.7% reported that one of the reasons was that they had more time available during COVID-19 restrictions (ABS 2021c).
Data tables for this report.
ABS Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2019) Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2018, ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002, AIHW analysis of TableBuilder data, accessed 13 October 2020.
ABS (2021a) Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, January 2021, ABS, accessed 26 November 2021.
ABS (2021b) Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, February 2021, ABS, accessed 26 November 2021.
ABS (2021c) Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, June 2021, ABS, accessed 10 May 2022.
Dickinson H, Smith C, Yates S and Bertuol M (2020) Not even remotely fair: experiences of students with disability during COVID-19, report prepared for Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA), CYDA, Melbourne, accessed 21 January 2022.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) (2021) The state of school education: one year into the COVID pandemic, OECD Publishing, Paris, accessed 21 January 2022.
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