Key elements for planning

Key elements for planning

1. Information for families about school options

  • Talking with professionals who know your child well
  • Information booklets
  • Websites
  • Transition to school workshops
  • Other parents who live in your local area and/or who have a child with a disability


2. Identify key people

  • Early childhood intervention (ECI) practitioners (e.g. special educator, speech) pathologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist
  • Early childhood education and care (ECEC) educator
  • School principal
  • Classroom teacher (if known)
  • Learning and support or special education teacher employed by or connected with the school


3. Identify key information about your child to share with the new school

  • How does your child communicate?
  • How do you think your child is feeling about starting school?
  • How has your child responded to transitions in the past?
  • How does your child move around?
  • How does your child manage self-care e.g. eating, drinking and using the toilet?
  • How does your child interact with other children and adults?
  • How will we communicate regularly with the teacher?

Click here to download "a snapshot of my child" template which you can complete and share.

4. Plot out a timeline for transition planning

It can help to ask the questions below and include this information in your timeline:

  • When do any application forms need to be submitted?
  • When can you expect to hear from schools about the offer of a place for your child?
  • When do any building works applications need to be lodged?
  • When do any assessments need to be completed?
  • When will orientation begin?
  • When will visual supports and or social stories™ be developed?


5. Information for families about the school system

  • What do you want and need to know about the school?
  • Are there any information sessions arranged for new parents?
  • Is there any written material about the school to familiarise parents with routines, rules, equipment and uniforms etc?


6. Ongoing evaluation

  • What are two or three initial goals for the transition plan?
  • How will your child’s team keep track of how the plan is progressing?
  • How will your child’s team know if things are going smoothly?

    • e.g. feedback from school staff, feedback from visiting ECI practitioners, your child’s response, your relationship with the school


  • How will we identify strategies to respond to any concerns? Will all members of your team have a way of communicating about this?


Downloadable checklist of things to do in the lead up to school

I don't know which school my child will attend

I know which school my child will attend

Thinking about school options

Thinking about school options

“I wanted him to go to a regular school and his older siblings were already at this school. We were happy with this school already.”

Ying , mother of Alan


When you have considered your child’s personality, learning styles, learning needs and interests, think about your whole family’s needs:

  • Do you have other children? If you would like all your children to attend the same school, consider siblings and the suitability of the school for them
  • How closely is the school linked with your local community?
  • Are there opportunities for parent and family involvement with the school?
  • What is the availability of before, after school or vacation care if needed?
  • How easy is it to travel between home, school and your workplace (if appropriate)?
  • Do you have a preference for public or private education?
  • Do you need access to before and or after school care and/or vacation care? If so, click here to go to the Child Care Service Directory to find out where out of school hours (OOSH) care services are located in your area or call the Child Care Access Hotline on 1800 670 305

What are the options?

There are three different education systems:

  • Public or government schools
  • Catholic schools
  • Independent or private schools


Each system differs in the way they provide support to students with developmental delay or disability.

In general, Catholic and independent schools support children with developmental delay or disability in regular mainstream classes. There are also Catholic special schools and support classes in some areas.

Public schools may offer a number of different options for supporting children with disabilities. For more information about mainstream public schools, support classes, and special schools, in NSW click here.

Start locally

The professionals who work with your child will know your child and family and may know of schools which you might like to consider within your local area. It may also be helpful to talk to friends and neighbours.

“Our Early Childhood Intervention Service were great on a personal level (when we were looking at school options) … I attended a seminar about school options with reps from each education sector and a parent representative. Hearing from a parent was the most valuable thing in terms of hearing that I needed to really look at my own child’s needs.”

Mattie, mother of Justin


Public Schools

It is every child’s right to attend their local public school.

There are many advantages to attending your local school. There will be children within your local community who attend the same school and if you have other children they can also attend that school. The first point of contact for all types of public school options is your local public school.

Public School Locator for all

States and Territories

Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia


It may possible to apply for a school for which is not in your local area. This can be done after you have made contact with your local school. The principal of your local school can help you to do this.

Click here. for more information about enrolling your child in a NSW public school.

Catholic Schools
If you are interested in your child attending a Catholic School, your first point of contact should be the principal of your local Parish school. It is possible to apply for a Catholic School outside your local area, however, the first place to start is with your local Parish school.

Catholic school locator for all states and territories
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia


There are also Catholic special schools and support classes in some areas.

Click here for a list of Catholic special schools in NSW.

Independent Schools

If you are interested in your child attending an independent school, you will need to contact the individual school directly. Ask for a prospectus to be sent to you with information about the school and if you are interested in applying for the school, make an appointment to meet with the principal.

Independent school locator for all states and territories
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia


There are also a number of independent special schools and support classes in NSW. Click here for more information. 

Distance education
Distance education is for students who are geographically isolated or whose special circumstances prevent them from attending school on a regular

Click here for more information on distance education in NSW.

Home schooling

Parents or guardians who choose home schooling for their child must be registered by their state or territory teaching and education authority e.g. Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) in NSW. Parents must accept responsibility for developing, implementing and evaluating their child's learning program.

Click here for more information on home schooling in NSW.

See also Approaching a school for the first time.

Approaching a school for the first time

Approaching a school for the first time

“We did a lot of research and went to workshops. We also had friends who had mainstreamed their child. We already had our older daughter in the school and they were very welcoming to us.”

Khalilah, mother of Ahmed


When making a decision about which school might best suit your child and family, visiting some schools is an important step in the process.

Allow plenty of time for making decisions, completing any applications and planning.

As a general rule: schools should be approached 2 years prior to when your child would start if the child has a physical disability and 12 months prior for children with developmental delay and all other disabilities.

How to approach a school

When you have decided on a school or schools you may like to send your child to:

  1. Contact the schools you’re interested in and make an appointment with the school principal. Remember the first point of contact for public or Catholic schools is your local school. Read more...

    Usually the principal will arrange a time to meet you and have an initial discussion about the school and your child and for you to have a tour of the school

  2. Be prepared and know what you want

your first visit to a school you may like to:

Here are some things you may like to talk about on your first visit to a school:

  • what is most important for your child and family in terms of a school for your child e.g. open communication between the staff and you, being alongside typically developing children of the same age, being with siblings, or within your own community?
  • your child’s main strengths and needs. There will also be other opportunities to share this information in more detail at a transition planning meeting
  • any specific questions you might have about the school

The Raising Children Network website has some useful questions you could ask.

Click here to read more.

Take along a note pad and pen to record any notes or things you may like to discuss with your team afterwards. The school may also ask for a copy of recent assessment reports

When you visit the school, consider the school’s readiness to work with you and your child:

  • how welcoming is the school principal and staff when you meet them?
  • how do key staff members at the school interact with your child?
  • can you see yourself working in partnership with the principal and key staff members you meet?
  • does the school seem open to learning from you about your child?
  • does the school seem open to working collaboratively with professionals who already work with your child and know him or her well?

After your first meeting at a school, what next?

Class types in public schools

Class types in public schools

Every child has the right to attend their local public school. Most children with additional needs attend mainstream schools.

Other school options:

Public schools offer a number of different options for supporting children with disability.

Click here for more information.

There are specific eligibility criteria for support classes and special schools. Placement is based on an application process. It is important to note that there are a limited number of positions available in support classes.

Parents know their child best and are aware of their goals for their child.

Each family makes a choice that is right for their own child and family at that point in time. Any decision made about schooling options, can be reviewed with school staff and members of your team each year, to make sure that the school or type of class continues to be the most suitable one for your child.

After your first meeting at a school, what next?

After your first meeting at a school, what next?

Once you have visited a school and met the principal, think about:

  • things your family likes about the school (strengths, opportunities)
  • potential challenges (weaknesses, threats)

You may then have some new questions to discuss with the principal at each school that you are considering.









How to discuss your questions with the principal


You may have thought of some potential challenges. Before you make a time to discuss these issues, think about:

  • how you are going to raise your concerns
  • whether you have any ideas or solutions
  • whether the school might have some ideas or solutions
  • whether you want to talk through your thoughts with others who know your child

Some examples of conversation starters

“I think _______________ might be a potential challenge for Jamie. Is there any way we might be able to manage this?”


“I just wanted to come to you with an idea. I am wondering whether it could help with (describe the challenge)______________________. Do you think that could be possible? Do you have any other ideas on how we might be able to do this?”


“I am a bit concerned about how Samir will go in the playground interacting with other children. I am wondering whether it would be helpful for the new kindergarten teacher to have an opportunity to speak with her preschool teacher about things that have helped Samir socially?”


“As Jai doesn’t talk much, we appreciate hearing about what is happening during the day in other ways. I understand how busy teachers are, so I’m wondering what might work best for his new teacher in terms of regular communication with us?”


Remember it is important:

  • to build a good relationship with the school right from the beginning. This is so that everyone is able to talk about their concerns, challenges and ideas. Acknowledge the school’s perspective and be realistic about your expectations when raising questions or ideas
  • to listen to the school’s views, be flexible and willing to try new things
  • that the partnership works for both parties

Click here for more information about developing positive relationships with the school.

Conversations with the principal provide an opportunity to see how you and the school can work in partnership to find strategies and solutions.

This chart may help you think about how you can talk to the principal about your child’s needs.

 Things I like and strengths of the school

Any potential challenges? 

How could I discuss my questions with the principal? 


  • close to home
  • welcoming
  • approachable principal
  • community feel in school
  • friendly parents and children
  • my child already knows other children going to this school
  • well-resourced
  • smaller class sizes


  • small classrooms
  • open classrooms
  • social play in large playground
  • stairs to classrooms
  • physical layout of Kindy class
  • participating in Assembly


  • Do you have possible solutions or questions that can be raised with the principal?
  • Might it be possible to adapt or adjust the layout of the classroom e.g. partitions, re-arranging seating?
  • Is there any flexibility around location of your child's class?
  • Would it be possible to take photos to make a social story for times such as Assembly to prepare your child?


Click here for a copy of this table you can write on.

Transition to School Resource

Starting school is an important milestone in any child and family’s life. For families of children with developmental delay or disability, transition to school requires additional thought, time, planning and support to make the process as smooth and as positive as possible.