Special schools (SSPs)

Special schools provide specialist and intensive support in a dedicated setting for students with moderate to high learning and support needs.

Special schools (also known as schools for specific purposes or SSPs) support students with intellectual disability, mental health disorder or autism spectrum disorder, students with physical disability or sensory impairment, and students with learning difficulties or behaviour disorder.

They cater for students from kindergarten to Year 12 who meet the department's disability criteria.

Classes

Specialist support classes in special schools have fewer students than regular classes. Class sizes depend on the class type and, in some cases, the students' additional learning and support needs.

Every specialist class has a teacher and a school learning support officer. Class teachers – in consultation with parents or carers and allied health professionals, where appropriate – are responsible for planning personalised learning and support for each student.

Students also have access to:

  • itinerant support teachers (hearing or vision)
  • support teachers transition
  • specialist provisions available to students in regular classes including disability provisions from the Board of Studies NSW for practical support in examination
  • access to transport assistance under the Assisted School Travel Program.

Special schools also maintain active links with other nearby schools and their local communities. Students attending special schools may have access to support classes in regular schools or regular classes and are supported to participate in community activities and training.

Placements and review

Applications for placement are through the Access Request process. An Access Request is usually arranged by the school learning and support team at the local public school, but can also be organised through the local Educational Services team if a child is not yet enrolled. Local teams can be contacted on 131 536 and calls can be made from anywhere in NSW.

A student is offered enrolment in a special school through a placement panel process. A student's eligibility is determined through the department's disability criteria as well as the availability of a place in an appropriate special class.

Enrolment arrangements for students with disability and additional learning and support needs are the same as for all students. To get information about enrolment, parents and carers can visit the local public school. More information is available on school enrolment.

A special school reviews the placement of each student annually. Reviews consider all aspects of a student's personalised learning and support, including whether or not the current placement is best meeting their learning and support needs.

Other special schools

Other special schools support students facing particular challenges, such as disruption to their education due to ill health or injury, complex learning difficulties or emotional issues.

Hospital schools

Hospital schools provide educational services for students who are inpatients in some hospitals in NSW. Hospital schools provide an emotionally supportive environment and assist students to return to school after hospitalisation with as little disruption as possible.

Tutorial centres and programs

Tutorial centres and programs cater for students who have been identified as requiring intensive behavioural and educational support. Tutorial centres and programs generally cater for students in years 5 to 12.

Suspension centres

Suspension centres cater for students who are on long suspension (5-20 days) and have been identified by their school as likely to benefit from a structured program to assist their successful return to schooling as soon as possible.

Do you need help?

Parents or carers should contact the principal of their child's school. Parents or carers whose child is not yet enrolled in school should contact their local school or local educational services team on 131 536.

Roles and responsibilities

Many people contribute to supporting students with disability and additional learning and support needs and they have a wide range of roles and responsibilities.

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