Meet your Rep on NESA Special Education Committee

Fred Patchell, new IEU representative on the NESA Special Education Committee, brings decades of experience working for diversity and inclusion in schools.

IEU members appointed or nominated to education and professional committees and councils, or who attend meetings and forums on behalf of the Union, accept these positions with the understanding that they represent the voice of practicing teachers, that they will be consultative, and responsive to the wide views of IEU members.

This is the mantle Fred Patchell accepted as IEU representative on the NESA Special Education Committee – one of four advisory committees that provide advice directly to the NESA Board, and to its regulatory committees.

In particular, the Special Education Committee provides advice on broad policy issues relating to students with disability, and on issues relating to curriculum, assessment, teaching and school regulation.

As the union's member representative, Fred’s role is to reflect upon and respond to committee documentation regarding subject content/assessment/pedagogy, teacher workload, resource implications, practicality of proposals, and timelines for the introduction of the revised or new syllabuses.

In 1984, fresh out of Sydney University with an honours degree in science and a graduate diploma of teaching, Fred started his career at O’Connor Catholic College Armidale.

It was a decade before the Federal Disability Discrimination Act legislated educational provision for students with disability and only a few years after the ACTU had endorsed the Disabled Workers Charter.

But, according to Fred, O’Connor Catholic College was light years ahead of its time when it came to its culture of inclusion – enhancing curricular and social access for students of all abilities and backgrounds was a central tenet of the school’s philosophy.

There Fred first learnt that “inclusion is not just about disability, it’s about school communities positively responding to any group at risk of marginalisation”.

Fred has since taught at other schools and TAFE colleges including a “richly exciting” time as Head of Science at St Joseph’s Tenaru in the Solomon Islands before, driven by his interests in equity, science, linguistics and teaching, he qualified as a speech pathologist.

While working at Parramatta Catholic Education Office, mostly in leadership/advisory positions with a diversity and inclusion focus, Fred gained a PhD in Communication and Inclusion from the University of Sydney – research partly supported by an IEU Col Aitken Study Grant.

In 2013, Fred moved to Sydney Catholic Schools, initially as educator researcher in the Vanier Inclusive Technology Program then in 2015 to his current education officer role with the SCS Inner Western Regional Diverse Learning Team, working with schools to support the learning and wellbeing of students with disability (K-12).

Fred’s work includes identification of, and intervention for, speech, language and communication needs, plus developing and delivering professional learning/coaching/consultancy to schools around inclusive teaching practice, especially as it pertains to NCCD/CSNSW Personal Planning.

Asked for his greatest professional influence, Fred named Tony Shaddock (professor, teacher and disability advocate).

“Thanks largely to Tony’s research across school systems, the move from diagnostic to needs based funding (NCCD), growing acceptance of universally designed curricula, developments in inclusive technologies such as cloud based learning support, and increased availability of quality NESA accredited professional learning, Australian schools have never been better placed to respond to student diversity.”

However, working daily in schools means Fred is also acutely aware of how changes in teaching practice often translate into increased demands on staff.

Fred welcomes contact from members: