There are many students with a disability in Catholic mainstream and specialist schools.
On this page:
Adjustment and planning
Like all education providers, Victorian Catholic schools must comply with the requirements of the Commonwealth Disability Standards for Education and other anti-discrimination laws. This includes an obligation to adjust their educational programs to ensure that students with a disability can access learning on the same basis as those without a disability.
Catholic specialist schools include a number of alternative education and re-engagement programs for students with complex needs, and those at risk of disengaging from school.
- Read more about education and your child’s rights.
- Read about school choices available in the Victorian Catholic school system.
As in government schools, the key to effective adjustment of school programs to meet your child’s needs is regular planning; in the Catholic system, this mainly takes place through meetings – once per term or more often if needed – of your child’s Program Support Group (or PSG – equivalent to a Student Support Group in government schools). This group comprises you as parent or carer, the principal, your child’s class teacher (in primary school) and/or Education Support Coordinator (equivalent to an integration coordinator) and any other professionals that might be needed.
According to the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV) – which administers targeted funding for students with disabilities (see below) – your child’s PSG is responsible for your child’s ‘spiritual, social and academic development’. This includes discussion of your child’s needs, communication of these to other staff, planning for your child’s educational and support needs, and recommending any resources these might require. As in government schools, the PSG makes recommendations about your child’s needs, but the principal has final responsibility for making decisions related to funding.
You have the right to an interpreter if you need one at all important meetings with your child’s school. All students with additional needs have the right to PSG meetings and a plan to meet their support needs, not only students who are eligible for additional funding (see below).
“We got a new principal [at the mainstream Catholic primary school] and he came to me and said, ‘Why isn’t Todd having speech therapy? He’s got the funding.’
I said, ‘I know, but he wouldn’t speak to his speech therapist’. So he said, ‘Well, we’ll just get him one that suits him’ – totally different attitude.
He got a wonderful woman. She got him playing pokemon cards – what 10 year old boy nine years ago wouldn’t play pokemon cards? She came with these games. Before she even met Todd, she said, ‘What’s he interested in? Who does he barrack for?’ They would go through the newspaper, cut out pictures – he’s mad about St Kilda – [and as a result] he had all these sentences.” – Lee
Support and funding
Catholic schools have access to a range of funding and resources to support their students with a disability or additional needs. This includes student services employed by the Catholic Education Office, including education officers, school advisers, visiting teachers, speech pathologist and psychologists.
- For students whose disability means that they require more than ‘remedial education or support’, there is also the Literacy, Numeracy and Special Learning Needs (LNSLN) Program, equivalent to the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) in government schools. The LNSLN aims to improve learning outcomes for ‘educationally disadvantaged’ students, particularly in literacy and numeracy, by providing supplementary funding for additional teaching and learning assistance for schools with identified students who meet the eligibility criteria. These criteria are different from the PSD, and are briefly outlined below.
Many Catholic schools use their LNSLN funding to support a school-wide integration program. In this way they aim to most effectively meet the needs of all students with disabilities – including those not eligible for the LNSLN – for example by employing specialist and education support staff (aides), providing staff training in diverse learning needs, and funding modifications to the classroom or school facilities. The funding cannot be used for capital works.
Depending on your child’s needs, a range of specific resources can also be funded under the LNSLN, including therapy (provided through Scope or Yooralla) and specialist equipment for educational support or personal care. When applying for LNSLN Program funding, your child’s school must submit a ‘Student Program’, explaining whether and how the school curriculum will be adapted for your child, and how the resources applied for will improve your child’s access to the curriculum, participation and learning outcomes.
Eligibility for the LNSLN
Under the LNSLN program’s Commonwealth funding requirement, to be eligible, a student must have ‘an intellectual, sensory, physical, social or emotional impairment or more than one of those impairments to a degree that satisfies the criteria for eligibility to access special education services or programs’ in Victoria.
There are seven eligibility categories. Evidence for your child meeting one or more of these is provided by an assessment from a relevant professional, generally within the past 12 months (or within 2 years for intellectual disability, social/emotional disorder and severe language disorder):
- Chronic health impairment
- Hearing impairment (bilateral – moderate, severe or profound)
- Intellectual disability (meeting the eligibility for a government specialist school)
- Physical disability (severe with significant implications for accessing schooling, meeting the eligibility criteria for a specialist school)
- Vision impairment (indicating the student is legally blind)
- Social/emotional disorder (confirmed following consideration of statements or reports from a multi-disciplinary team, which might include a paediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist; for these students, ongoing psychological or psychiatric treatment is required, and an alternative or flexible education option or re-engagement program might be advised).
- Severe language disorder (confirmed following assessments by a speech pathologist and a psychologist; these students might be eligible to attend a special assistance unit (language).
An application for funding through the LNSLN must be completed every year, supported by your child’s Student Program for the coming year. Applications are either ‘new’ (for students entering the school or applying to the LNSLN for the first time), ‘ongoing’ (for students whose needs have not changed significantly) or ‘review’ applications. The needs of all students eligible for the funding will need to be reviewed at some point; the year for review will be indicated on the funding outcome notification.
Review applications are for students whose needs have significantly changed (requiring new assessments) or who are changing schools. Review assessments must be undertaken by the school that the student is attending in the year prior; the review application must be submitted by the new school.
If an application for funding is deemed ineligible, the school can contact the relevant officer in their diocese to discuss it further, and can submit another application in the following round.
For more information
Support for students with disability in the Catholic school system is funded by the Victorian and Commonwealth governments, administered by the CECV, and managed at a regional level by the diocese for your child’s school.
For more information, including application dates, application checklists, eligibility criteria and services, talk to your school principal or Education Support Coordinator, visit the CECV website, or contact your local diocese office (Melbourne, Ballarat, Sandhurst or Sale) – contacts are available on the CECV website.
- Download an annually updated directory of all Catholic schools and programs, including those for students with a disability or additional needs, from the CECV website.