Autistic boy told to seek 'alternative education' after axing of program

Carla Hildebrandt

An angry Mandurah mother has lashed out at the state government after being told a specialised education program at Halls Head College has been axed.

Late last year, Wannanup resident Sally Finlay said she was told her autistic son who had attended the Halls Head College Targeted Learning program, would have to find alternative education because the program would not be offered in 2018.

Mandurah mum Sally Finlay is angry at the axing of a specialist program which helped her son Shaun, who is pictured ...

Mandurah mum Sally Finlay is angry at the axing of a specialist program which helped her son Shaun, who is pictured along with older brother James Photo: Supplied.

The program for year one to nine students offered support for autistic children that included smaller classes and customised learning plans.

Ms Finlay said her 13-year-old son Shaun was bullied when in mainstream education and the thought of him going back to it was "horrifying".

"When I was told, the first thing I did was contact the Education Department to get information on home schooling," she said.

"He has been physically bullied before. It was horrifying to think he would have to go back and learn in the regular school."

Ms Finlay said the Targeted Learning Program had allowed students to feel safe and flourish in a relaxed learning environment. 

"It gave them the capacity to learn at their own pace," she said.


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"Shaun didn't qualify for the special-needs program, because he doesn't have a mental or physical disability. But he doesn't learn at the same speed as other students.

"This program provided an aid to help him with his autism, anxiety, ADHD and other disorders."

After raising these issues with the school, Ms Finlay said Shaun and one other year nine student were put into the specialised program for year ten to twelve students.

She said this was a win, but worried about the other students who had to go back to mainstream education.

"It's not a problem with Halls Head College, it is a government decision," Ms Finlay said.

"They don't think about the consequences when they cut funding for these kids. Their priorities aren't in the right area."

Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup said he was concerned about education cuts at Halls Head College.

In December he criticised changes to the state government's education funding model which saw the school lose $164,880.

"The state government is ripping money out of schools in Mandurah," Mr Kirkup said.

"It is having a very real impact on our community.

"These students need this specialised support and I think incumbent on our government to provide that."

A spokeswoman for education minister Sue Ellery said the axing of the program "may have been a decision made at the school level" and could not confirm how many students would be affected.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education referred requests for comment to Ms Ellery's office.