Another potential option is dual enrolment, where your child is enrolled in both a mainstream and a specialist school at the same time, and divides their week between the two settings.
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Families sometimes choose dual enrolment so that their child can benefit from the different experiences and resources that mainstream and specialist schools can offer. The time spent in each setting can range from students who spend just half a day each week in a mainstream classroom, for example, to those who divide their week more evenly between the two settings.
Some mainstream schools also have specialist (or ‘sattelite’) education programs or units incorporated in them, enabling students to spend some of their time in mainstream classrooms and some in programs delivered by specialist educators.
- Contact your regional DET office for location and enrolment information for specialist units in mainstream schools.
“I’ve found what I believe is a good way to attempt to meet Anwar’s complex needs. For three days a week he attends a specialist school for students with complex physical and medical needs where they have a high ratio of teachers, aides and therapists compared to a regular specialist school .The school has its own hydrotherapy pool, a full time school nurse and many of the teachers have experience and qualifications teaching children with severe disabilities.
Due to the number of students with severe communication difficulties, social interactions between peers are less than what would be seen in a regular specialist school. When I told people that I thought my son would benefit from attending a mainstream high school on a part time basis, there were many raised eyebrows.
There are some communication issues because there are so many people involved but it’s not insurmountable. I have found a secondary school with an excellent attitude to inclusion and where the teachers have had previous experience educating children with a variety of needs.” – Parent of a student with dual enrolment
Issues to consider
Dual enrolment can be very beneficial for students. Some schools are willing to engage in real and ongoing partnership to help meet your child’s needs. For example, some specialist settings are able to offer their specialist education expertise to help your child’s mainstream teachers better understand your child’s particular learning needs.
If you are interested in exploring dual enrolment, you will need to negotiate it with the principals of both schools. Issues to discuss include:
- that you are interested in dual enrolment, and how this can best be managed
- whether they have experience supporting a dual enrolment, and how they made it work
- how the two schools will communicate with each other, and with you, to ensure that things go smoothly
- whether a suitable timetable can be arranged for your child at both schools.
It is also important to consider issues including:
- the impact on your child and family of a routine involving two schools: transport, building relationships with staff, students and the school community in both settings
- equipment, care and support your child might require on a daily basis, and whether these needs can be met in both settings, depending on the level of funding and support available.
Types of schools and funding issues
Any targeted supplementary funding provided through the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) or its equivalent in the Catholic or independent schools settings, will be divided between the schools on a pro rata basis, depending on how much time the student spends in each school.
You can negotiate dual enrolments with two government schools, two non-government schools or a government school and a non-government school. However, non-government schools access funding based on different eligibility criteria from government schools. These issues will need to be part of your discussions.
Depending on your child’s needs, and negotiation with the relevant schools, it might be possible to have a dual enrolment with a distance education provider and some other type of school. For a registered home-schooled child, too, you might be able to negotiate a type of dual enrolment where your child is partially enrolled at a school, and spends part of their week at school and the remainder at home. This must be negotiated with the school principal.
No government-funded resources are available to support home-schooling, although some children might of course be engaged with therapists or other professionals in early childhood or disability support services, funded through early intervention or Individual Support Package funding through the Department of Health and Human Services (which does not fund support in schools), the NDIS (in trial areas) or federal Helping Children with Autism or Better Start funding. If your child is unable to attend school, you might be eligible for financial help through the Centrelink Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme. You can find details on the Centrelink website.
There are also community-based networks, classes, groups and resources available to home-schooled children. These are sometimes free, or are self-funded.