Should my child attend a special school?

Choosing the right school is about what’s best for your child and their needs

Every child has the right to attend a mainstream school, whatever their abilities. Sometimes, however, a mainstream school may not be the right choice for your child. It’s about what’s best for your child and their circumstances.

So, what are your options? Public schools, independent schools, special schools, and homeschooling are all a possibility. Government funding and support programs are available to help you pursue whichever path you choose. In fact, you can choose a mix of different options, if that’s best for your child.

All schools support children with disabilities

All Australian schools are obliged to take reasonable steps to provide an inclusive environment for all students. This includes providing students of all abilities with the opportunity to learn, socialise, play, and feel welcome.

For students with a disability or additional needs, schools work with students and their families to provide a program that best meets their individual needs.

This includes ensuring classrooms and other school facilities are accessible for all students. It may include providing assistive technology to support participation, such as specialised seating, literacy aids, and mobility equipment. Activities may be modified to enable all students to participate and students may receive additional learning support from an integration aide.

In some circumstances, additional training is undertaken by teachers and support staff to best support the student’s needs and some mainstream schools offer specialist units and classrooms for students with specific needs.

Students may be eligible for personal learning and support as provided by each local state and territory. In Victoria, these include the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) and the Language and Learning Disabilities Support Program. There are also targeted initiatives such as the Equipment Boost for Schools and the Inclusive Schools Fund to provide accessibility for all students.

When to consider special schools?

Depending on your child’s needs, they may feel safer or more comfortable at a special school. Each state and territory in Australia has a range of inclusive education options that cater to different types of intellectual and physical disabilities.

Sending your child to a special school does come with its benefits:

  • They are designed to meet the specific needs of particular groups of children
  • They have smaller size classes, which means teachers can pay special attention to your child
  • Teachers and support staff are specially trained to teach kids with a disability
  • They are equipped with the right facilities and resources.

Doing your research

Remember, your child’s needs matter most when choosing a school. As a parent, you know best where they will feel most comfortable and what’s best for them.

To help you make a decision, you can:

  • Visit all the schools that you’re considering
  • Book interviews with school principals to discuss their programs and how they can meet the individual needs of your child
  • Join a tour of the school grounds
  • Chat to other parents if you can.

If you’re looking at mainstream schools, find out whether building modifications are needed and how they will be funded. Also ask about professional development of teachers – find out whether they will get the training needed to be able to support your child.

Don’t forget to work out the practicalities of getting your child to and from school. Some schools have specialist transport services to help get your child to school each day.