Applying for government specialist schools or units

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If you are considering a specialist school, begin your research and application process at least by the first few months of the year before your child would start at the school.

On this page:

Eligibility

There is a range of different specialist government schools and units in Victoria. To be eligible for enrolment, your child must be eligible for the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD), and also meet that specialist school’s particular enrolment criteria.

You can find out about a school’s entry criteria from its listing on the Australian Schools Directory and the school’s own website, or from your local DET regional office. However, it is a good idea to also contact schools directly to discuss your potential interest in a place for your child, as schools can sometimes be more flexible than their official entry criteria indicate, depending on student numbers and the school’s approach to enrolment.

If your child meets a school’s entry criteria and is zoned for that school, they must be offered a place. Most specialist government schools provide supported transport (usually a school bus) for families zoned for the school.

You can apply for a place in any specialist school outside your zone, if your child meets the entry criteria. The principal will decide whether to offer your child a place, but you will need to make your own transport arrangements if you live outside the school’s zone.

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For students with an intellectual disability

There are many specialist schools that support students with an intellectual disability. To be considered for a place, your child must first be assessed as eligible under the Intellectual Disability category of the PSD.

  • Students with a mild intellectual disability who score an IQ between 50 and 70 on psychological testing are eligible for what is generally referred to as a ‘special school’
  • Students with a moderate to profound intellectual disability who score an IQ below 50 on psychological testing are eligible for what is generally called a ‘special developmental school’, or SDS.

There are also some schools that take a range of students with an IQ score of 70 or below, including those with an IQ score below 50. In some regions these schools are referred to as specialist schools, and in other regions as special development schools, dual mode or multi-mode schools.

  • If you have queries about enrolment criteria of a particular school, speak to the school principal or the Regional Disabilities Co-ordinator in your local DET regional office.

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Application and assessment

Whether your child is already on the PSD or not, their application for a place in a specialist school is likely to take some time. Start talking with the principal about your child’s enrolment as early as possible (by early in the year prior to them starting, or earlier). It is worth ensuring that you have a good understanding of the PSD application process before you begin. It will determine the level of resources available to support your child at school, and might also determine their school options.

  • If needed get support and advice from an advocacy service, to help you through the process.

New PSD applications must be submitted by July of the preceding year. The principal is responsible for completing your child’s application, but will require your input at various points. You will be asked to collect reports to support the application, for example from a psychologist, paediatrician or speech pathologist. You might already have reports from relevant professionals, but they must have been written less than two years ago.

Your child might need to undergo further assessment to support their application. If they are applying under the categories of intellectual disability and/or severe language disorder with critical educational needs, and further assessment is required, your child should be assessed by the DET assessment service. This is provided at no cost to schools or families. The school should ensure they are referred for this well before the July PSD application date.

The school will then organise a meeting with you called an Application Student Support Group meeting, to look at the documentation collected and complete the Educational Needs Questionnaire, or ENQ. This is used to assess the support your child will need in various areas. All of this information is brought together into your child’s application, which the school submits to DET. If the application is unsuccessful, the school can appeal.

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If your child is already on the PSD

If your child is going from primary to secondary school, their primary school might (depending on their funding level) be required to conduct a ‘Year 6–7 review’. It is very important that you provide whatever information is required for this review, including taking your child to appointments as needed, as this process might well affect their school options.

If your child was previously receiving funding in the Catholic or independent school systems, they will still need to apply for the PSD, as the eligibility requirements for these programs are different.

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