School (primary and secondary)

An estimated 1 in 10 (9%) school students in Australia have disability, and almost 1 in 20 (4%) have severe or profound disability. Eleven per cent of male students have disability, compared with 7% of female students.

Almost all (90%) school-age children with disability go to school (Table 1).

Overall, school-age children with disability (90%) go to school at similar rates to those without disability (90%). And there is no difference between boys and girls (both 90%), or by severity (90% of those with severe or profound disability go to school, as do 90% of those with other disability). There has been little change in this in the last decade.

Table 1: Whether school-age children attend school, by disability status, 2003, 2009, 2012 and 2015 (%)

 

2003

2009

2012

2015

With disability

90.1

90.7

87.3

90.0

With disability—severe or profound

93.5

93.3

88.6

89.7

With disability—other disability status

93.8

88.2

86.1

89.7

Without disability

88.3

88.6

88.2

90.4

Source: ABS 2004, 2010, 2013, and 2016; see also Table S1.

Type of school or class

School students with disability generally either attend:

  • special schools, which enrol only students with special needs
  • special classes within a mainstream school, which operate to support students with special needs
  • regular classes within a mainstream school, where students with disability may or may not receive additional assistance.

Most (86%) school students with disability go to a mainstream school:

  • 67% attend regular classes in a mainstream school only
  • 19% attend special classes within a mainstream school (Table 2).

The rest (14%) go to a special school (Table 2).

Table 2: Type of school or class attended by school students with disability, 2015 (%)

Type of school or class

With disability—severe or profound

With disability—other disability status

All with disability

Special school

26.2

3.6

14.1

Mainstream school(a)

74.3

96.9

86.0

Special classes in a mainstream school

22.9

16.4

19.1

Regular classes in a mainstream school only (b)

52.8

80.1

66.9

Total

100.0

100.0

100.0

Notes

(a) Does not attend special school.

(b) Does not attend special classes in a mainstream school.

Source: ABS 2016; see also tables S3 and S4.

School students with severe or profound disability are less likely than other students with disability to go to a mainstream school and far more likely to go to a special school:

  • 53% attend regular classes in a mainstream school only, compared with 80% with other disability
  • 23% attend special classes within a mainstream school, compared with 16%
  • 26% attend a special school, compared with 3.6%.

Recent years have seen a shift towards students with disability attending special schools rather than mainstream schools (Figure 1).

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2004. Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2003. ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of TableBuilder.

ABS 2010. Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2009. ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of TableBuilder.

ABS 2013. Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2012. ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of TableBuilder.

ABS 2016. Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2015. ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of TableBuilder.

Education Council 2018. 2017 data on students in Australian schools receiving adjustments for disability. Education Council. http://scseec.edu.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/Reports%20and%20publications/Publications/Glossy%202017%20NCCD%20Public%20Report%20FINAL.pdf