Special Needs Plan

As part of the government Special Needs Plan, teachers are now required to build their capacity to teach learners with disability.

This will be part of the 20 hours of PD you are required to undertake to meet annual renewal requirements, and is not an additional requirement.

Teachers must be able to identify the new learning they have gained from their PD and have evidence of attendance or engagement. 

Special needs FAQs 

Who are learners with special needs? 

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 provides a definition of learners with a disability. 

This is quite broad and includes:
  • total or partial loss of the person's bodily or mental functions;
  • total or partial loss of a part of the body;
  • the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness;
  • the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness;
  • the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person's body;
  • a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or
  • a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour.

The definition of disability includes those learners with disability who are supported by general resources available within the school or service, as well as learners who are receiving targeted specialist education services and supports.

The impact of the learner’s disability should result in the school or service actively addressing the learner’s specific individual education needs arising from their disability. This should be done within quality differentiated teaching practice and / or by monitoring the learner, or providing a ‘supplementary’ / higher level of support.

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What type of PD can I do?

When you select PD activities that relate to learners with disability, you should consider your teaching context, your learners’ characteristics and needs, and your own level of learning; a ‘one size fits all’ approach cannot be taken, and activities will differ from teacher to teacher and from workplace to workplace.

The best learning will involve activities that can be developed and integrated into teaching practice over time. Learning is most effective when it is shared with colleagues and results in greater levels of practical application of new knowledge.

PD about learners with a disability can be accessed face-to-face or online and in formal or informal settings. It can include:

  • PD delivered by expert colleagues or experts in your workplace
  • curriculum days
  • seminars, workshops, online modules, webinars or programs
  • conferences
  • PD program leading to a credential
  • professional reading - if you are learning something and applying it to your teaching
  • online research (website / podcast / 'ted talk') when you apply the learning to your teaching
  • coaching and mentoring
  • action or inquiry-based research
  • engagement with a professional learning team or community of practice
  • instructional rounds
  • short courses, VET courses or other postgraduate study

You must be able to identify the new learning you have gained, and have evidence of attendance or engagement.

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Where can I find PD options?

You should assess the PD to determine what will meet your professional learning needs in relation to learners with a disability. 

Victorian government PD options for teachers

PD activities designed for teachers are provided by the Victorian government. Many of these are freely available.

The following options are available for teachers in government, Catholic and independent schools  

Disability Standards for Education (DSE) eLearning

Disability Standards for Education Website Resource

Seven free interactive, scenario-based eLearning modules about the Disability Standards for Education, catering for different school stages. Each module takes about 2 hours to complete and are accessed via a registration key. The website has information about getting a registration key - CRTs can access the registration key by contacting the appropriate Victorian authority.

Free website resources providing practical guidance for individuals, families and communities about Disability Standards for Education. This is a general resource about the rights of learners with disability and how schools can work with learners and their families to support them.

Victorian Deaf Education Institute (VDEI) Professional Learning Program 

A range of professional learning activities catering to all Victorian education professionals supporting deaf and hard of hearing children and young people aged 0-18 years, across a range of educational settings.

Managing Challenging Behaviour 

Online course to support teachers to limit the incidence and impact of complex behaviours in the classroom.This site is only accessible to users with an email address ending in @edumail.vic.gov.au, @yourschool.catholic.edu.au or @yourschool.vic.edu.au

The following options are only available for teachers in government and Catholic schools 

ABLES Online Professional Learning 

Free online professional learning portal on using the ABLES assessment tools to personalise learning for students who have a disability. 

Inclusion Online

Free blended professional learning focusing on understanding, assessment and classroom support of students with disabilities and learning difficulties in four courses:

  • Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders;
  • Inclusion of Students with Speech, Language and Communication needs;
  • Understanding Dyslexia and Significant Difficulties in Reading; and
  • Understanding Hearing Loss.

Each of the four courses is delivered each term through a combination of online and face-to-face delivery as part of a small network of participants. Access to the courses is through an expression of interest process advertised in the School Update newsletter.

The following option is only available for teachers in government schools 

Functional Assessment and Positive Support 

One day face-to-face workshop about how to functionally assess a student’s behaviour and develop, implement and monitor a behaviour support plan.

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Other government PD options for teachers

The Positive Partnerships initiative, delivered by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training through the Helping Children with Autism Package.

The following options are available for teachers in government, Catholic and independent schools

 PL concurrent program 

Parents and school staff participate in joint sessions during a one-day workshop to focus on shared discussion, planning and working together. 

This 12 hour PD activity has two components: 

1. Pre-workshop online learning 

  • Introduction to autism
  • Introduction to the Planning Matrix

2. Pre-workshop online learning 

  • Autism – characteristics, impacts and strategies
  • Family perspectives
  • Working together
  • Understanding behaviour
  • Understanding student mental health and wellbeing

Participation in the program is negotiated through your education sector. Contact professionallearning@autismspectrum.org.au for more information.

PL co-located program

This program incorporates formation of a school team, identification of school priorities through completion of a whole school survey and supporting participants to embed learning in their school context. 

This five-day program has several components:   

1. Two pre-workshop online learning activities  

  • Introduction to autism
  • Introduction to the Planning Matrix

2. Two-day workshop

  • Where are you now?
  • Autism – characteristics, impacts and strategies
  • Understanding sensory processing
  • Understanding behaviour
  • Understanding student mental health and wellbeing
  • Making adjustments
  • Working together
  • Where are you heading?

3. Four post-workshop online learning activities

  • To embed workshop learning in the school context 

4. Implementation of whole school action learning task


Participation in the program is negotiated through your education sector. Please contact professionallearning@autismspectrum.org.au for more information.

Introduction to autism

An online learning interactive module that totals 2 hours and covers: 

  • The origins and history of the autism spectrum
  • Key definitions, facts and figures
  • Approaches to supporting individuals on the autism spectrum
  • Characteristics of autism
  • Diagnosis of autism and the diversity of the spectrum

Visit www.autismtraining.com.au to register your details and complete the modules.


You'll find other useful resources at www.positivepartnerships.com.au.

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Victorian government PD options for early childhood teachers

PD activities designed for early childhood teachers are provided by the Victorian government. Many of these are freely available. 

Disability Standards for Education eLearning Interactive, scenario-based eLearning modules about the Disability Standards for Education including an early childhood module. They are free for early childhood teachers working in a funded kindergarten and each module takes about 2 hours to complete. The website has information about getting a registration key – ECTs and CRT ECTs can access the registration key by contacting the appropriate Victorian authority.
Early ABLES Online Professional Learning  Free online professional learning portal on using the ABLES assessment tools to personalise learning for students who have a disability. 
Victorian Deaf Education Institute (VDEI) Professional Learning Program A range of professional learning activities catering to all Victorian education professionals supporting deaf and hard of hearing children and young people aged 0-18 years, across a range of educational settings.
Early Childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA)  Provides professional development programs in partnership with the Department focused on improving the quality of early childhood intervention.

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PD offered by other PD providers

All activities listed address standard descriptor 1.6 about teaching learners with special needs. VIT doesn’t endorse any PD activities or providers. Teachers are encouraged to make their own decision about which activities to undertake based upon provider information and their particular learning needs. Alternatively, teachers may wish to engage in activities that they source independently.

Other options for PD 

PD providers who will come to you

Providers who will to come to your venue and deliver Special Needs PD to a group of registered teachers are listed below.

While we don’t endorse any PD providers or the activities they offer, the list gives schools and services an opportunity to tailor Special Needs PD to their own context and priorities. Alternatively, schools and services may wish to engage in activities that they source independently or undertake in-house.

PD providers who will come to you

Relevant standards

The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) describe the knowledge and practice of teachers. This should be your starting point to identify what PD will work for your circumstances.

Consider your level of expertise in the following aspects of your practice:

  • Design and implement teaching activities that support the learning and participation of learners with disability, and address relevant policy and legislative requirements. (Standard descriptor 1.6)
  • Develop teaching activities that incorporate differentiated strategies to meet the specific learning needs of learners across the full range of abilities. (Standard descriptor 1.5)
  • Establish and implement inclusive and positive interactions to engage and support all learners in learning activities. (Standard descriptor 4.1)

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How to select the best PD for my learners 

This guide identifies seven principles of effective professional learning that relate to quality PD.

PD should be:

  • focused on improving outcomes for learners
  • relevant to learning needs
  • informed by the best available research
  • collaborative and provides opportunities for reflection and feedback
  • embedded in practice
  • including ways to measure the impact of the new learning
  • ongoing, integrated with other strategies supported and shared

 When assessing PD on offer, use these principles to evaluate the quality of the PD.     

PRINCIPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK




The PD is focused on improving outcomes for learners
  • Who are the learners I teach with disabilities?
  • What is their level of learning in relation to the expected educational outcomes?
  • How can I include them in learning more effectively?
  • How can I meet their individual and collective learning needs?
  • What is their most important learning need?
  • How do I substantiate improvement in learning?

             


The PD is relevant to my learning needs?
  • What do I know about teaching these learners?
  • What do I need to learn to meet their learning needs?
  • How does the PD allow me to build on my current experiences and knowledge to achieve improved outcomes for the children and young adults with disabilities I teach?
  • Can I implement the learning from the PD in my education setting with my learners?

             

The PD is informed by the best available research
  • Can I learn form my colleagues who have expert knowledge and practice?
  • Are the local specialist schools and education settings where I can access PD?
  • Does the PD reflect current research and theories? 
  • Is this research accessible, targeted and relevant to my needs, and the needs of my learners?  

             


The PD is collaborative and provides opportunities for reflection and feedback
  • What opportunities are there for me to collaborate with my colleagues in the PD or when I implement my new learning in my practice?
  • How does the PD support me to engage purposefully with others?
  • How does the PD prompt me to reflect on and examine my practice? 
  • What follow up from the PD is available to allow two-way feedback and discussion? 
  • What structures or protocols are used in the PD to support reflection on practice? 

             

The PD in embedded in practice
  • How does this PD link theory to practice?
  • Are there opportunities to act on and apply my learning to improve the outcomes for my learners with disabilities?
  • How am I encouraged to apply my new learning and adapt it to my teaching context?



The PD includes ways to measure the impact of the new learning

  • Does the PD build on what I know about the learning and the learning needs of those I teach with disabilities?
  • Does the PD help me to identify tools and measures to evaluate the impact of my new teaching practices on the achievements of my learners with disabilities?
  • Does the PD help me consider and plan for the ways I will monitor and evidence change in learning? 

             


The PD is ongoing, integrated with other strategies, supported and shared
 
  • How does the PD fit with priorities within the strategic plan of my school or sector?
  • Is my PD to improve the outcomes of my learners with disabilities supported by the education leaders in my workplace?
  • How can I work collaboratively and share my learning from the PD with others in my professional community to support their learning about teaching leaners with a disability?
  • How can I apply my learning from the PD beyond my work with my learners with disabilities?

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Why is special needs PD important?

Every learner has a right to the knowledge and skills that will help shape productive and positive lives, regardless of their physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics.

Research indicates that most teachers will be teaching learners with disabilities. A recent study by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission found that 62% of classroom teachers reported they were inadequately trained to teach learners with disabilities.

The requirement for registered teachers to report on their capacity to teach learners with disability will help build professional knowledge and expertise to address this need. It will also support the development of an inclusive culture in schools and early childhood settings.

Registered teachers renewing their registration

When you renew your registration by 30 September 2016, you will be asked to identify the PD you've engaged in since 1 October 2014 to build your capacity to teach learners with disability. Activities selected should reference the relevant standards (descriptors 1.5, 1.6 and 4.1).

This will be part of the 20 hours of PD you are required to undertake to meet annual renewal requirements, and is not an additional requirement. You should keep evidence of PD you undertake for renewal, including activities related to learners with disabilities. When you renew your registration you may be selected to provide your evidence to the VIT. 

If you haven’t completed this by your renewal date in 2016, you must report on it by 30 September 2017 to renew your registration at that time.

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Provisionally registered teachers

If you apply for (full) registration after June 2016, you will be required to include a focus on learners with disabilities in your evidence of practice. This will be included in the VIT designed evidence-based process. 

Returning to teaching from non-practising registration

If you are returning to teaching, you will be asked to identify the PD you've engaged in to build your capacity to teach learners with disability. Activities selected by you should reference the standards descriptors 1.6, 1.5 or 4.1.

This will be part of the 20 hours of PD required to return to teaching, and is not an additional requirement

How does this apply to the next generation of teachers?

Higher education providers seeking accreditation of their initial teacher education (ITE) programs must now ensure there is specific focus on standards descriptors 1.6, 1.5 and 4.1 at the Graduate Teacher level.

Higher education providers will report to VIT about their ITE programs in the first half of 2016, and this will include information about the component of their programs which address the teaching of learners with disabilities.