The Archdiocese of Sydney will open the first Catholic secondary school for students with moderate intellectual disabilities and complex learning needs in Lewisham next year.
The special school will initially cater for about 20 students in Years 7 and 8 and it is expected enrolments will grow to include about 90 students from Years 7 to 12. The Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP outlined a new vision for the provision of support services when he spoke of plans for the school in December at his first education announcement since being appointed as Archbishop of Sydney.
Archbishop Fisher said as the oldest and biggest education provider in the world, the Catholic Church has a strong track record of caring for those in need and the roughly 700,000 school students in Australia alone.
“We can always do more, and one area that we have been particularly aware of is the education and support of young people living with various disabilities,” Archbishop Fisher said. “I would like to see us at least as present in this space as governments and other charities.
“The Archdiocese of Sydney and its Catholic Education Office and individual schools are committed to providing high-quality learning for all students, regardless of the challenges they experience in their life or learning. We want to make concrete and real the rhetoric of Church and state about the right of every child to a first class education.”
There are also plans to establish a Special School for primary students in kindergarten to Year 6 with moderate intellectual disabilities and complex learning needs and networks of regional primary and secondary school satellite classes.
The decision to build the Special School followed extensive research and consultation, in which most principals and Special Education staff said that they believed a school of this type would provide effective support options for students with complex learning needs and more choice for families.
It is envisaged that the Lewisham site will also become a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by providing professional development and training for teachers supporting students with disabilities.
Dr Dan White, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, said he was thrilled that the school will open its doors to students in 2016. “That will be a day that we will all celebrate,” he said.