The Program for Students with Disabilities provides supplementary funding to help schools meet the needs of students with an identified moderate to severe disability.
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Approximately one in four students with a disability in mainstream government schools is eligible for the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD). To enrol in a specialist school, your child must be eligible for the PSD.
To be eligible for the PSD, your child must meet the criteria for one of seven categories:
- physical disability
- visual impairment
- severe behaviour disorder
- hearing impairment
- intellectual disability
- Autism Spectrum Disorder and
- severe language disorder with critical educational needs.
- The Victorian and Commonwealth governments also fund Catholic and independent schools to help them meet the needs of their students with disabilities.
“The physio offered – didn’t insist in a rude way – but offered to come to the orthopaedic surgeon’s appointment. That was just gold, because she can talk about the program that she wants to do with my son at school, and what they can expect.
We had two private physios from one group we were going to. Both were concerned about the flexion in his knee, and the way he was walking. He can hardly walk without the support of the moon boot. But then the moon boot is too big and cumbersome, and is making him rotate his hips too much.
I can repeat that in layman’s terms, but I don’t know the specifics of anatomy. So that was really amazing for her to come [to the appointment with the surgeon]. So she can then go back to the school.
And it was also good because I didn’t have to pay a physiotherapist, because we’re there in the end for another two years. That would be $240 on top of the surgeon’s fees. But she offered to do it on her school work time. [And she said] ‘I want to do more for him at school because I understand how hard it is for families to fit in extra physio at home’. I could have kissed her!” – Megan
How schools can use PSD funding
Schools use PSD funding allocated to them in a variety of ways, including:
- To fund training for school staff to build their skills in meeting the needs of students with a disability, including in specific skills to support your child, such as training to use alternative communication methods, or to carry out your child’s care procedures.
- To employ a special needs coordinator or other specialist staff (including therapists in most specialist schools)
- To employ education support staff (previously known as integration aides) to work in classrooms
- To purchase specialist services and advice, such as occupational therapy
- To purchase specialist equipment or materials
- To modify the classroom, building, grounds or facilities
Different schools approach the allocation of student support resources in different ways. Often, schools pool their resources to more effectively assist a number of students with similar needs, for example by arranging for students to share time with an education support staff member. Similarly, they might use their resources in part to fund training for a number of staff, to build the whole school’s capacity to support students with a disability.
The funds allocated to the school to support your child through the PSD are not restricted to funding education support staff hours. This is just one of the options available. Discussion and planning at your child’s Student Support Group (SSG) are key to determining what mix of supports will best meet your child’s needs – with input from you, and perhaps from therapists or other specialists if needed. If your child’s SSG recommends support from education support staff, it should also consider when and for what activities that support would be most effective. Your child’s SSG makes recommendations to the principal on resources needed to support your child’s needs; the principal makes the final decision, as they do for all issues involving school funding.
- Read more about partnership and planning with families
- If you are concerned about the support your child is receiving, or about how the funding allocated to their school to support them is being used, you have the right to raise a concern with the school.
To find out if your child is eligible
If you think your child might be eligible for the PSD, talk to the principal. You might be aware of your child’s disability before applying to a school, whether they are starting prep or year 7 or transferring schools. Some children are diagnosed with a disability or additional needs during the process of enrolling at school. Or your child’s needs might emerge or change while they are in school. Principals can sometimes help to identify students who might be eligible for the PSD. You can approach your child’s school about their support and learning needs at any time.
If the principal believes that your child might be eligible, they will organise a special Student Support Group meeting – called an Application Student Support Group – to support the process. This should involve you, your child, the principal or their nominee, a DET regional representative, and any educational specialist that might be helpful. You can also bring a support person to this meeting.
- Read more about the process of applying for the PSD, including application dates.
- For detailed information about eligibility criteria and the application process, download the Program for Students with Disabilities Guidelines from the DET website – search on ‘PSD Guidelines’.