$4m upgrade for specialist school

Daniel Andrews chats to staff and students at the school Sunbury & Macedon Ranges Specialist School. (Supplied)

Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist School will receive $4 million in this week’s state budget as part of a $155.8 million package to upgrade Victorian schools and improve support for pupils with special needs.

Premier Daniel Andrews, Education Minister James Merlino and Macedon MP Mary-Anne Thomas made the announcement during a visit to the school’s Bullengarook senior campus last week.

Twenty specialist schools will be upgraded, while mainstream schools will receive extra money to meet the learning requirements of students with special needs.

Almost $50 million will support an extra 1750 Victorian students expected to be eligible for the program for students with disabilities in 2017.

A total of $22 million will go towards helping students with autism and dyslexia, with increases to the number of speech pathologists, reading intervention programs and teacher training in schools.

Another $15.6 million will be spent on replacing older buses and helping children with disabilities travel between home and school.

Specialist school senior campus principal, Brendan Nolan, said the school community would determine how the money, available for both campuses, was spent.

The school has about 200 students across its junior and senior facilities.

‘Exciting day’

Mr Nolan said that while he wouldn’t go as far as to say the specialist sector had been the ‘‘forgotten cousin’’, every bit of funding was welcome.

‘‘Certainly, the minister and premier have made it very clear that they believe it’s time that specialist schools were treated as equal,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a very exciting day.’’

Mr Andrews said children with disabilities were entitled to the same opportunities as every other student.

‘‘I want to say to every parent of a child with special needs, your kids are not out of sight and out of mind,’’ he said.

“We want to make sure they have every chance to fulfil their potential.’’

Ms Thomas said the package provided support that had been missing for too long.

“I’ve spoken to many parents of kids with special needs who face challenges getting help for their kids in mainstream education,” she said. “Today’s announcement will be very welcome news for these families.’’

The government previously announced $4.5 million for the second stage of renovations at Sunbury College, which has some buildings that are more than 50 years old. Kismet Park Primary School will receive $700,000 towards upgrades.

Treasurer Tim Pallas will hand down the budget on Wednesday.