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Choosing the right high school

Looking for a high school

A teenage girl smiling and holding schoolbooks.It can be stressful to look for a school that will welcome your young person and work with you to provide the best possible environment to support them.

The transition to high school is also often a stressful period for the young person. The change in environment, daily routine, academic structure and expectations is challenging for many students with a disability.

Start planning and preparing early. It can take some time to find the right school, and many schools have limited places and long waitlists.

Schools cannot discriminate against children with disability and the Disability Discrimination Act and Disability Standards for Education mean children cannot be refused enrolment in a school because of their disability.

Government schools may have ‘zones’ or ‘designated local school areas.’ These define the physical area the school will accept enrolments from. Schools can let you know about the zones that apply to their school. Children with disability have the right to go to their local government school.

When you are choosing a high school with your young person:

  • Start early – Look into the different options available well ahead of time. Many city-based schools have “school expos,” where prospective families can consider a wide range of schools. Most schools have web sites and offer school tours on a periodic basis.
  • Waitlist – Put your name down on the waitlist of every school you are interested in.
  • Do they want you? – Enrolling your child at school should not be a fight. Choose a school that wants to include your child and your family. It may not always be smooth sailing, but the school should want to have your child as part of their community.
  • Culture – Make sure you meet the principal and other key players (e.g., the head of learning support), take a tour of the school and get a sense of what the school culture and environment is like.
  • Respect – Choose schools who will value and respect your child, their abilities and their differences.
  • Input – Consider schools who are willing to welcome your input when it comes to the best interests of your child.
  • Be positive – Be proactive and informed, but still positive and polite. People will always be more responsive if they are respected.
  • Your child’s rights – know your child’s rights and where to turn for help. This toolkit from the Australian Centre for Disability Law can help you get started.

Be upfront about your child’s needs

The aim is to choose a school that will work for your child, hopefully over many years. It’s important to be open and upfront with the principal or other staff about your child’s needs, and what you are looking for in a school.

Encourage them to give you open, detailed responses that will help you to make the right decision with your child and family. If the school seems to be a good match for your child, this discussion will also enable the principal to begin planning supports and applying for any additional funding.

Helpful resources