At St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar we are constantly reflecting on the role of the physical, neurological and socio-emotional wellbeing of the students on their day-to-day lives. At a recent Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD) meeting I attended some sobering data was shared. The NCCD identifies four broad categories of disability: physical, cognitive, sensory, and social/emotional.

In 2017 in the independent school sector in Australia approximately 4,000 students were identified as requiring classification. Subsequently the definition was broadened considerably and in 2019, the figure is over 34,000: approximately 24% of all students at independent schools.

Though that statistic is a lot lower at St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar School, we still have students impacted by conditions such as anxiety, depression as well as other learning conditions. Not only does this mean that independent schools do support a range of families, it also means that each school must make every effort to know the students as learners and as people. That communication between families and the school is absolutely crucial and families are encouraged to work with the school to share any concerns regarding physical, cognitive, sensory, and social/emotional challenges their child may have. The vast majority of the students do not get funding; however, a proportion do.

At our school we value the input of staff in this area and the community may have noticed increased involvement of the Diversity staff in the lives of their children in all parts of the school. Our school was audited in this area in 2019 and I am pleased to say that due to the exceptional work by our Diversity staff, led by Mrs Glenda Clarke, we came out with very positive reviews. That does not mean, however, that we do not continue to work in this area. Indeed the opposite is true. As the lives of families and young people become more complex, we need to respond accordingly. As always, school and families will work together for the benefit of the young people in our care.

Ms Annette Rome