17 April 2015
Guest Blogger: Scarlett Finney
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a primary school in western Sydney that displayed a beautifully open and welcoming attitude towards students with disability. Apart from being fully equipped with a dedicated Support Unit for students who needed extra care, this school did everything possible to support students with disability who did not require as much support to be fully integrated into mainstream classes.
I fell into this category, and was encouraged and nurtured to the point of playing an active role in several of the school’s extra-curricular activities. Not only was this so important during my young, formative years, but it was crucial to my recovery from a bad experience with another school which at the time, displayed the exact opposite attitude. This bad experience had caused my own attitude to shift for a while, where I became overly concerned that I was always going to be judged based on my disability and would therefore need to be able to prove my worth and usefulness to be able to get anywhere in life.
Apart from enjoying close friendships with many of my peers, I formed great relationships with each of my teachers whom I loved and are memorable in their own ways, and of course, the teacher’s aides who spent some time with me each week in class, as well as often accompanying me on school excursions. I can vividly remember meeting some of the school’s more senior students while I was in Kindergarten – I even got to watch from the audience as some of them got presented with special coloured ribbons, awards of various sizes and colours indicating their level of importance, and a few of them even were given special badges to wear on their collar, letting everyone else know what groups they were involved in. I quickly decided that I liked the look of these badges, and made it my goal to collect as many of them as possible during my time in Primary school.
Apart from excelling in English, I earned ribbons for my participation and success in swimming and wheelchair racing, and was actively involved in the school’s Arbors program which had a focus on the environment and conservation (which earned me a pretty cool badge). Arguably however, my biggest achievement which I was most proud of was being chosen by my peers to represent the school as one of a handful of school captains. In my mind, this role which I took very seriously, solidified the fact that I really belonged, was valued and in fact had an important job to do, which really cemented my place in the school and motivated me to always display a good attitude and set the example for the rest of the school.
Despite being selected by my peers, I am in no doubt that I was only able to enjoy this special privilege due to the tone set by the staff at this school who really led their students by example in having a positive attitude towards all of their students, displaying tolerance and promoting inclusion, regardless of disability or any other factor.
We thank Scarlett for sharing her story with our Attitude supporters and encourage you to check out her passionate fight for inclusion below.
As a 7 year old girl, Scarlett's complaint about the 'school in the bush' went all the way to the Federal Court. She not only won, but it set a precedent for other students with disability.