Warringa Park School: New learnings

Warringa Park School is a specialist P-12 school in Hoppers Crossing, whose students have intellectual disabilities ranging from mild to profound. It has almost 500 students, nearly 40 per cent of whom have a language background other than English. As part of its 2017 involvement with the Refugee Education Support Program (RESP) the school discovered that students of refugee backgrounds were more likely than others to have literacy challenges.

As in all special schools, students at Warringa Park School receive individual needs-based funding. This means the school hadn’t sought EAL funding, a process that can identify whether or students of refugee backgrounds are part of a school’s population.

For the first time, the school was able to assess to what degree language barriers were affecting some students’ educational outcomes and, with the RESP team, identified its senior VCAL students as the most disengaged.

The school employed a current staff member, who spoke students’ main language, as a multicultural education aide (MEA). The MEA’s work revealed that many students were articulate in their first language and able to participate effectively in decision-making regarding their transition to employment or further training.

Post-school pathways for children with special needs can be complex, and even more so for students of refugee backgrounds. The employment of the MEA meant the school was able to more effectively engage parents in this process, which led to better outcomes for their children.