Key terms explained: Schools

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The language used by schools and support services can be confusing to many parents and carers.

This page explains some of the main terms that are to do with schools.

On other pages we explain:

Terms to do with schools

Aide or education assistant – Someone who works in the classroom to help a child with special needs.

Alternative educational pathways program – Programs offered toward the end of secondary school, which can lead to TAFE or other training programs. Sometimes these are offered in school, sometimes in community agencies.

Alternative schools or programs – Schools or programs based on a way of thinking about how to help children learn that is different from most other schools. Some alternative schools or programs are especially for children who have learning difficulties, or emotional or behavioural problems.

Career officer – School staff member that can give advice on different education pathways for your child.

Curriculum – What children are taught at school, including the work are asked they do in class and their homework.

Department of Education and Training, DET or the education department – Victorian government department that looks after schools, including services in schools that help children with special needs.

Individual Learning and Support Plan  – A plan that school makes for a child with special needs about what they will learn, and the help they will get at school. The school should discuss your child’s plan with you early in the year, and in every Student Support Group meeting.

Koorie Education Learning Plan or KELP – A plan that schools make for every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child, about how the school, child and family will work together to help the child achieve their best at school.

Mainstream school – A school where all children can go, including children with special needs, if their parents or carers choose. There are mainstream schools that are state schools, Catholic schools and independent schools.

Reasonable adjustments, or ‘adjustments’ – Changes to how the school works, or the environment, that help your child learn and be included at school. They are seen as ‘reasonable’ if they don’t affect the school or other students too much. The law and government policy state your child’s right to ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Respite, or respite care – Care for a child, young person or adult child with a disability, to give the main carer a break. Respite might be offered by different kinds of organisations, including some Cooperatives, disability services and others. Sometimes you can get funding for respite care.

Specialist school ­– school or unit designed especially to educate children with special needs. There are specialist schools for children who are Deaf and/or Blind, for children with physical disabilities, for children with autism and for children with an intellectual disability. There are ‘special schools’, for children whose score on an IQ test is above 50, and ‘special development schools’ for children whose score is below 50. There are also some schools and alternative programs for children with behavioural issues, and for children who are having a lot of difficulties with learning.

Student Engagement Policy – Government policy that says schools must help children who miss a lot of school, are suspended, or who might drop out. It says the school must talk with you to plan how to help your child at school.

Student Support Group – Regular meetings that the school should have with you, to discuss how your child is going, what help they need at school, how you can help their learning at home, and any concerns that come up.

Transition – This is when a child moves from kindergarten to primary school, from primary school to secondary school, or from secondary school into other education or training. Children and families need a lot of help at these times, to sort out the right path and get the support for the next stepping stone in the child’s learning journey.

Transition report – A report written by your child’s kindergarten before they go to school, or by your child’s primary school before they go to secondary school. It has information about: what your child is good at, what they are interested in, what they need help with, tips for helping them learn, and what help they need at school.

Zone, or school zone – The school you are ‘zoned for’ is the school nearest your home. Your child has the right to go to the mainstream school nearest your home. Depending on your child’s disability, they might also have the right to go to their nearest specialist school. If they are zoned for a specialist school and it is the right place for their special needs, then they can catch a special bus to school, with a staff member on board to help the children.