Secondary school options for children with disability or chronic conditions
There are different secondary school options in Australia. They include:
- government schools, also called public or state schools
- private schools, which include religious and independent schools
- home-schooling and distance learning.
There are also some schools that cater specifically for children and teenagers with additional needs like intellectual disability, physical disability, deafness and vision impairment. These schools might be government schools or private schools.
These schools often have specialists like speech therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists on the staff. They also usually have an accessible environment and curriculum.
To enrol in a specialist school, your child must meet the school’s diagnosis criteria. Some schools also have enrolment zones. This means your family must live within a certain area for your child to go to that school.
All children have the right to a place in their designated government neighbourhood secondary school. The Disability Standards for Education in the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 set out the rights of students with disability. The Standards say how education providers, like schools, must support these students.
When to start thinking about secondary school options
It’s a good idea to start thinking about secondary schools when your child is in Year 5.
You can gather information about schools you’re interested in from their websites, other parents and your child’s primary school teacher. Going along to school information evenings or open days will give you a general feel for schools and some idea of their facilities.
Many schools hold open days, information evenings and tours in April or May each year. This is a good time to visit and meet the principal, year coordinator and special education officer. You can also make private appointments at any time to visit schools and meet key staff.
By the end of Year 5, you could aim to have a short list of schools. And when your child is in Year 6, take him to visit the schools on your short list and listen to his feedback.
Involving your child in decisions about schools will help you make a choice that both you and your child are comfortable with.
Choosing secondary schools for children with disability: what to consider
When you’re choosing a secondary school for your child, many of the things you need to think about are the same for all children. They include:
- school facilities
- your child’s strengths and interests
- your child’s preferences
- your family’s broader needs.
As the parent of a child with disability or a chronic condition, you might also want to find out about the specific resources, support and programs that schools can offer your child.
Finding out about secondary school support for students with disability
By visiting secondary schools and speaking with the principal and key staff about their experiences with students with disability and chronic conditions, you can get a feel for how the school might include and support your child.
You might need to ask for a meeting with the principal or other staff, if schools don’t offer this as part of their standard open days.
Here are some questions you can ask when you meet with staff.
Complex care needs
- Who would manage my child’s medical or personal care needs?
- How many staff would be trained in managing my child’s needs? Will there always be someone available?
- How would you adjust things so that all areas of the school are accessible for my child?
- How long will the adjustments take?
- How would my child with mobility needs be included in physical education lessons?
- How would my child be included on school excursions and camps?
- Is there a supervised room open at lunchtime for children to have some quiet time?
- What does the school do to help build social connections among students?
- How many children with disability or chronic conditions does the school have?
- What adjustments can you make to the curriculum to accommodate my child’s needs?
- What vocational education and training do you provide?
- How do you communicate with parents?
Schools might not have all the answers to start with. But schools should be able to find ways to include your child in all activities, including extracurricular activities like camps and excursions.
The school you choose should meet the needs of your child and your family and be committed to educating children with additional needs. If your circumstances change over time, you can explore other school options.