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Development of special education 1948-1957

The establishment of a Research and Guidance Branch in 1948 was a major step forward in the development of special education in Queensland, if only because it enabled more effective supervision and control over admissions to opportunity classes. Because its main initial function was to provide a guidance service, much of its attention in the first few years was devoted to the development of suitable tests.

A 1950 report described what was left of the special classes as 'the worst in Australia'. Another report, prepared in 1952 by W. Wood, with the help of an English psychologist Miss E. Rodwell, outlines a plan for an extensive reorganisation of education for the intellectually handicapped. This report was endorsed by James Lumsden, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, who said, 'In no Australian State have I seen as comprehensive and able a report'. Lumsden favoured the formation of opportunity schools, rather than the attachment of opportunity classes to existing schools. He agreed with the plan not to admit children to opportunity schools if their IQ was below 60. The implementation of the Wood-Rodwell Report led to parents forming the Sub-Normal Children's Welfare Association to cater for the education of children with IQs below 55. The Department of Education thus absolved itself of this responsibility, for though it did investigate the possibility of establishing a residential school for subnormal children, it did not proceed with this plan.

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While these attempts were made to cater for mildly intellectually handicapped children, efforts were also made to provide for children with other handicaps. In 1934, as a result of activity by the Brisbane Rotary Club, the Montrose Home for Crippled Children was established, and in 1949 the Queensland Spastic Welfare League was formed, following action by the Valley Rotary Club and the Council of Social Services. In these cases, however, the Department of Education did take responsibility for the children's education by establishing schools in these institutions. Sick children were not forgotten, a school being established at Royal Brisbane Hospital for children who had to spend an extended time in its wards. During the polio epidemic of the 1950s several other hospital schools were established to cater for the affected children.

Another type of school was that for migrant children, established in several of the migrant hostels following the post-war immigration boom. Meanwhile, from the early 1950s, a beginning was made in the training and appointment of specialist teachers. In 1952, selected teachers of the deaf were sent to Victoria for a year's training, and three speech correctionists attached to the Schools for the Deaf and Blind were brought under direct Departmental supervision. These speech correctionists formed a nucleus of a staff which, in accord with the trend in special education, provided remedial support within regular schools.

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Last reviewed
10 January 2013
Last updated
10 January 2013