A new chapter began today for Sydney’s first pioneering special needs Catholic school – Eileen O’Connor Catholic College (EOCC).
Nineteen families were delighted to enrol their children on the first day of the grand opening of the new purpose built education specialist College designed to support children with complex learning needs and moderate intellectual disabilities.
Parent Ainsley Poulos was thrilled that Sydney’s first Catholic secondary special needs school opened in Lewisham.
“As a parent I can’t begin to tell you how encouraged and comforted I am to know my son Archie has such a school to go to,” she said.
“Every child, no matter what their level of need is, deserves the chance to reach their own full potential.”
My hope is that Archie will be equipped for a life beyond school
Mrs Poulos’ son, Archie, was born with a rare genetic condition restricting him from communicating his thoughts using clear speech.
“Archie requires a lot more repetition and instruction than children in mainstream learning settings to close the gap between his skills and those of his peers,” Mrs Poulos said.
“Like many parents of children with a disability, my hope is that Archie will be equipped for a life beyond school, make friends and contribute meaningfully to his community in adulthood.”
Mrs Poulos said that she was moved at EOCC’s information night when principal Dr Jackson told parents “we have high aspirations for your children”.
“What a wonderful thing for any parent to hear,” said Mrs Poulos. “The new college offers all the things we were looking for to develop Archie’s skills for life after school, foster genuine friendships with his peers, small student teacher ratios and a Christian ethos underpinning his academic learning.”
While mainstream schooling worked well for Archie at the primary school level, it has become much harder to adapt the secondary curriculum to his ability within broader classroom activities.
Mrs Poulos said that EOCC recognises that a tailored environment of children with similar strengths and challenges as Archie’s can result in much better learning outcomes.
“It is amazing that the school will also have ‘in house’ input from Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists. This a common in the UK and rare in Australia, but results in better prospects,” Mrs Poulos added.
Principal Dr Ian Jackson said that parents had the option to keep their child in mainstream schooling or transfer them to EOCC.
“By providing a specialist setting we can provide specialist, holistic support and choice to parents wanting to continue a Catholic education for their children,” he said.
“At the moment, some of our parents don’t have a wide range of options in how and where they support their children, so many choose to send their children to Government special schools and support units.
“We believe that Catholic education needs to be in this space as well.”
While Religious Education will be taught at the school, students will also have access to a wide range of expert support programs including speech therapy, occupational therapy, counselling and targeted transition and vocational education.
All students will follow the Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) Stage 4 Life Skills curriculum of English, Maths, Science and TAS over seven periods each week supported by three classroom teachers and two teacher’s aides.
Dr Jackson, who has a doctorate in special education and has worked in the education sector for 30 years as a principal, teacher and psychologist, said that EOCC is committed to developing the students’ into young adults, “true to who they are and supporting them to grow in their skills, confidence and social capacity so that they can contribute to society.”
“It’s not just about learning. It’s about living – learning to develop relationships, form friendships, catch a taxi, buy a cinema ticket and contribute to the local community,” he added.
“When students leave our College they will be equipped to not only participate in the workplace but ready to face the outside world and live as independently as possible.”
With 19 students currently enrolled, the new college will grow to include 80 students across Years 7 to 12, eventually enrolling primary students from 2018 and becoming a fully operational K-12 school.
To enrol, call 9568 8150 or visit https://eocclewisham.wordpress.com.