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Choosing a school for your child

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Choosing a school where your child will be happy and have the best chances to learn and develop is very important. There are many things that you can do to help you choose a school.

You are your child’s first teacher. You know your child better than anyone and your views about the best learning environment for your child are important. You are an essential member of your child’s educational team.

What types of school can my child go to?

Deaf children go to many different types of school. Below we have listed some of the main types of school your child could go to. They may have slightly different names in each state and not all options are available in every state.

All children are different and a child may benefit more from one setting than another. The decision about which school your child can go to will depend on a number of factors including your wishes, whether you live in the school catchment area, the level of support your child requires and whether the school is able to provide the best level of support for your child.

  • Mainstream school
    Your child may go to a ‘mainstream’ school (a typical primary or secondary school). This means they go to all the usual lessons, and may or may not need extra support such as an itinerant support teacher.Public, Catholic and Independent schools all support children with a hearing loss in their regular classes. You can contact the different Education Departments and ask for a list of schools in your area.
  • Mainstream school with a specialist unit
    Your child could go to a mainstream school which has a unit specifically for deaf children. One or more classrooms may have been adapted especially for teaching deaf children. In some schools, deaf children are taught only in the unit. In others, deaf children will take part in mainstream classes, with or without support, and have some classes in the unit.

  • Schools for deaf children
    These schools usually teach Auslan as the child’s first language and English as the second language. These schools use a bilingual-bicultural approach where the goal is proficiency in both Auslan and written English and easy socialisation in both the Deaf and hearing communities.

  • Specialist schools for deaf children
    These schools exist to meet the needs of deaf children with special educational needs or disabilities. These schools will have specialist equipment, staff, support and teaching strategies to help meet the needs of the children who go there.

Whichever school you choose for your child, it is important that it will meet their needs, and is suitable for their age, skills and ability. If you would like to know about how a school meets special educational needs, ask to see their policy on educational needs.

Choosing a school

Choosing a school for your child is a big decision. It is important that your child is happy, as how they feel in school will affect how they progress with their education. There are several things that you can do to help you choose a school for your child.

The school you choose for your child should be able to meet their educational needs. Visit all the different types of school that your child could go to. This will give you a chance to find out how different schools will meet your child’s needs. It is important to plan these visits. If you like a school, plan a second visit with your child. Your child’s feelings about a school are important, so take them to the school to have a look around and meet the staff. After the visit ask your child what they like or don’t like about the school.

When you visit schools, there are many things to take account of. Our Starting School Checklist provides a list of questions that you can take with you when you visit a school. It is a good idea to ask the same questions at each school, as this will help you compare the schools when making the decision.

Before you visit a school, ask them to send you their prospectus or visit their website. Things you could find out when you visit might include the school’s policies on bullying, religion and the deaf awareness training staff receive. If you are visiting a school with a unit for deaf children, or a special school for deaf children, it would also be useful to find out about their communication policy. Other things to think about would be how many children there are in the school, whether there are any other deaf children, what communication between the school and parents is like, what support your child would receive in the classroom, and what transport can be arranged, and support provided for activities outside school hours.

It would also be useful to find out about the classroom’s facilities and acoustics (that is, how sounds travel and are heard in the classroom). Find out if they have soft furnishings like carpet and curtains, and whether any large hard surfaces are covered with material as these can improve classroom acoustics. Check whether there is good lighting, and what technology the school has for children to use (for example, how many computers there are and whether there is a soundfield system for use in class or assemblies).

If your child wears hearing aids or a cochlear implant, ask what training staff will receive on technology for deaf children, and what technology the school will provide (for example, teletext television or a fire alarm with visual warning).
It is important to think about your child’s social and emotional well-being. Find out of the school will make sure your child will be welcomed and have access to social activities within the school. Ask if the school will give pupils who can hear information about deaf-awareness. You could also ask about playtime – find out if playground staff have any deaf-awareness training or can use sign language, if appropriate.

Support at school

Every child is different, and so may need different types of support at school. The school your child goes to will bring in specialist support, if necessary, that is appropriate to your child’s needs. This should help them to take a part in school life. If your child’s needs change, the support they receive should also change.

The Disability Standards for Education (2005) require schools to take reasonable steps to ensure that students with disabilities are provided with opportunities to realise their individual potential through their participation in education on the same basis as students without disabilities. The support provided should allow your child to access the curriculum and learn effectively.

Remember that you are the expert when it comes to your child. Help school staff to understand your child’s needs, and work with the staff to help them provide a high standard of support and make sure your child has a fulfilling and productive time at school. Your knowledge about your child can help others to help your child.

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Additional reading:

Information supplied by the National Deaf Children’s Society. Reproduced with permission.

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