The language used by school staff and other professionals can be confusing for parents and carers.
Following are plain language explanations of some of the most common terms to do with schools and supports for students with disabilities.
School staff and other professionals can sometimes forget what it is like to come in from outside the system, and try to understand what is going on. As your child’s parent or carer, you have a key role to play. If you don’t understand what is being said in a meeting or document, it’s very reasonable to ask person concerned to explain.
You can download this information as a Word document here:
Key terms explained – The language of the school support system (DOC 39KB)
- Alternative educational pathways program
- Alternative schools or programs
- Career officer
- Department of Education and Training, DET or the education department
- Individual Learning Plan or ILP
- Mainstream school
- Reasonable adjustments, or ‘adjustments’
- Respite, or respite care
- Specialist school
- Student Engagement Policy
- Student Support Group
- Transition report or Transition statement
- Zone, or school zone
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. Previously called the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, or DEECD.
Individual Learning Plan or ILP – A plan about what your child 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.
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’ – Something the school does to make sure your child has the same opportunity to learn and join in at school as a student without a disability. To be ‘reasonable’, the adjustment has to balance everyone’s needs: your child’s, the other students’ needs, the staff’s and the school’s.
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. All student must be eligible for the Program for Students with Disabilities to enrol in a specialist school. They must also meet that school’s enrolment criteria.
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 or Transition statement – 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.