Victorian Education Department job cuts will slash classroom support for vulnerable children

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

More than 80 teachers who offer vital classroom support to an estimated 4000 Victorian school students with disabilities will be made redundant.

The proposed move has been labelled as a “slaughter” by one education sector professional, with thousands of disabled and ill public school students in the state impacted by the job cuts.

The news follows assurances from the department that last week’s announcement of job losses affecting 325 full time workers would not impact school staff.

The redundancies have been made to the Visiting Teacher Service – a program supporting children with visual, hearing, mental and physical impairments.

The visiting teachers are employed by regional offices and offer classroom support for vulnerable state school students, including pupils with autism, type 1 diabetes and cancer.

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Victorian Department of Education sources say as many as 100 jobs may be lost.

Extra responsibilities for already overworked state school teachers

The cuts will leave just 32 visiting teachers left to service Victorian public schools, down from 117.

Visiting teachers works with both students and classroom teachers to ensure that pupils with special needs and disabilities are properly supported. Without specialist visiting teachers – including those working with students who are hearing or vision-impaired – many families fear their children risk falling through the cracks as mainstream teachers struggle to meet their unique needs.

For some families, utilising visits from private therapists through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) may be the only option to support their children’s needs – but at a much greater cost.

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There are fears kids with disabilities ‘will fall through the cracks’ due to the job cuts. Picture: iStock

Australian Education Union Victorian Branch president Meredith Peace said the union was “deeply concerned” about the impact the proposed job cuts will have on Victorian school students and their families.

“We are disappointed to see that despite assurances to the contrary, the cuts proposed by the Department will have an impact on public school teachers, students and school staff,” Ms Peace said.

“While not being directly employed by schools, the role these Visiting Teachers play in public schools is critical. The Department’s decision to cut these roles will have a direct impact on these students, their learning and wellbeing.”

A statement from the National Association of Teachers of the Deaf (NAATD), said the role trained Teachers of the Deaf (ToD) play in supporting deaf or hard of hearing students (DHH) should not be underestimated.

“The NAATD calls on the Department of Education to reconsider the cuts to Visiting Teachers, so that DHH students in Victoria receive the educational supports they require.”

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A Department of Education spokesman said the state government’s commitment to a $1.6bn investment had significantly increased the assistance for disability inclusion, and includes the deployment of 82 Inclusion Outreach Coaches by 2025 to ‘ensure continued support to teachers and schools working with students with additional needs”.

“The 32 specialised vision and hearing-impaired Visiting Teacher roles will be maintained to support students in these specialised areas of expertise,” the spokesperson said. “To avoid duplication of services, as part of meeting savings and efficiency targets set in the state budget, the current Visiting Teacher program based in the department’s regional offices will be scaled back, with teachers in those roles supported to take up school-based positions.”

But for parents who say they feel blindsided by the proposal and worry about how their children’s educational, physical and emotional needs will be met in an already stretched state school system, the proposed job cuts are concerning.

The department’s new figure equates to eight visiting teachers across each of the program’s four regions, servicing hundreds of vision and hearing-impaired students across Victoria.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]