Dual enrolment: issues to consider

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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.

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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.

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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.

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