New push for dedicated special school

A support group is involved in talks that may lead to the creation of a dedicated specialist school at Kyneton.

Macedon Ranges Central Victorian Autism Network is working on plans for a P-12 school catering for children with disabilities.

As reported by Star Weekly, the network has previously floated the idea of an autism centre in the new Kyneton education precinct, amid reports that local schools had told parents they could guarantee a pupil’s safety for only three hours a day.

Network spokeswoman Fiona Le Nepveu said their vision had been expanded to include children with other disabilities, in response to frustrations about the area’s lack of education options.

‘‘If you live in Woodend and to the south, you can go to Sunbury [and Macedon Ranges Specialist School], but if you live anywhere north of that, you have to go all the way to Bendigo,’’ she said.

‘‘We’re sending kids out of our community so then mum doesn’t get to do school pick-ups and meet other mums. Then, when the kids do work experience in secondary school, they don’t get to do it in their communities. We’ve got kids doing all these long trips on buses, which only adds to the pressure they face.’’

Ms Le Nepveu said Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist School, which has a secondary campus at Bullengarook, was also nearing capacity.

The proposed new school may follow the model of Port Phillip Specialist School in South Melbourne, which integrates therapists into its programs.

‘‘We think we’ve got the numbers to make it feasible,’’ Ms Le Nepveu said. ‘‘With the Kyneton education hub going ahead and a new primary school being built, it’s the right time to get it done.’’

Ms Le Nepveu has met with Macedon MP Mary-Anne Thomas’s office and acknowledges it is ‘‘early days’’, but she says supporters hope the school will not be far away.

‘‘We understand funding is difficult, but we’re also very prepared to fundraise and are looking into philanthropic and grant options.’’