SPECIAL SCHOOLS CLEAR TERRITORY WINNERS
Special Education in the NT has been boosted by the opening of the new Henbury Avenue School. This upgraded facility adds to educational and developmental opportunities for students with special learning needs.
Henbury Avenue began its life as ‘Coconut Grove Special School’ in the 1970’s. It was a school of two or three transportable rooms. There was a photo in the NT news of that time showing then Principal Charlie Carter pulling a wheelchair bound student up flagged concrete steps into one of the buildings. Henbury Avenue in particularly and special education in general has come a long way since that time.
NT Governments of both political persuasions and the Department of Education have placed a high priority on special educational needs. Darwin students are excellently supported by both Nemarluk and Henbury Special Schools. Both are new, upgraded schools. Students with enrolment eligibility are provided for in terms of their primary and secondary education. Integration of students into mainstream programs offered by nearby schools has overcome segregation for special school students. This allows them the opportunity to develop educational and social links with peers outside the parameters of their main school.
Palmerston has a special education unit incorporated into Rosebery Middle School. A special unit to meet primary students need operates as an annex to Woodroffe Primary. Integration into mainstream classes is an organisational focus.
Students with learning challenges who do not qualify for entry into Special Schools are supported in primary and secondary schools. Qualified staff support classroom teachers. Special Education Support Assistants are employed as budgets allow, to offer extra assistance to children experiencing learning difficulties in mainstream classes. Individualised educational plan are developed to identify both learning needs and specific teaching strategies for these pupils. Regular in-school reviews involving parents, support staff and teachers take place. This helps keep awareness of student needs and progress to the fore.
There is a belief that to enrol children in other than mainstream schools is belittling. That is not true. Parents whose children are eligible to enrol at Nemarluk, Henbury, Acacia Hills in Alice Springs (where $6.5 million is being spent on upgrades) or special schools in regional centres, should arrange a visit. As parents generally discover, the benefits children gain from enrolment in special schools, far outweigh any negatives.
The issue of enrolment should not be coloured by misconceptions. Our special education schools, their annexes and our support programs for children with special needs are the best in Australia.