The Fighting for Students with Disability and their Families package provides $203 million to better support students living with disability, their carers and families.
This package ensures that students and children with disability continue to get the support they need to access their learning on the same basis as their peers, while also setting them up for the best possible future.
The initiatives under this package build on the government’s vision of excellence, equity and inclusion for all students regardless of their circumstances.
Outlined below are elements of the package that are being delivered by the Department of Education.
High Intensity Outside School Hours Care
High Intensity Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) services provide dedicated after school and vacation care programs that cater to children who attend specialist schools, where OSHC services have traditionally not operated. The services are fully funded by the Victorian Government with no cost to families, so they provide vital support to families who have the most difficulty accessing and affording this care. The services operate with high educator to child ratios and offer programs and activities that are specifically tailored to the needs of children with disability.
High Intensity OSHC is currently offered at 5 specialist schools. From 2024, these services will be offered at an additional 15 schools so that more families can access quality after school and vacation care for children with disability. There will be a further expansion in 2025 and 2026, with 5 services commencing in each year for a total of 30 services.
Visit High Intensity Outside School Hours Care Initiative for students with disabilities for more information.
Families often turn to schools for support to access a range of services for students in addition to education. This includes services such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Under this initiative, specialist schools are being given funding to employ a dedicated staff member to provide direct support to families and carers to help them to navigate and understand the NDIS, enabling them to get the most out of the supports available. They will also provide support for schools, families and carers to understand the NDIS education interface. These positions will also allow school staff to focus on their core education focused roles.
Under this initiative, specialist schools can apply for a grant to fund the installation of a therapy pool at their school. Access to a therapy pool extends the range of supports available to students, while minimising the need for students to take time away from school to access them.
Hydrotherapy can offer a host of benefits for students with disability and complex needs, including improving physical health and wellbeing, which can assist with communication, engagement and learning outcomes.
Specialist school activity boost
Specialist schools can find it difficult to deliver activities that are tailored to the additional needs of children with disability given some of the additional costs involved. This initiative helps specialist schools to provide a greater range of inclusive, safe and accessible activities to their students, so they can participate in valuable arts, sports, cultural and social programs or experiences.
Read more about the Specialist School Activity Boost Program.
Alternative or augmentative communication software
Schools will have greater access alternative or augmentative communications software, including Proloquo2Go, to assist students with complex communication needs.
Review into current eligibility processes for specialist schools
The department is reviewing whether current eligibility criteria and processes for specialist schools and settings are practical and based on contemporary best practice. The aim is to identify and make recommendations to address any unintended obstacles in eligibility requirements and processes so that eligible students do not face barriers to enrolling in their chosen school.
The review is being supported by an external consultancy and guided by an expert advisory group including:
- people with lived experience of disability
- specialist school principals
- independent disability experts.
Animal therapy training
Under this initiative, more therapy animals will be trained and integrated into government school communities to help support students with additional needs to engage at school.