By bobb |

Laura Armitage

A MUM’S dream to get a better education for her son, who has autism, could see a new independent school set up in Lilydale.

Melissa Handbury has been working to open Lyrebird College for two years, and the idea grew after planning for the future of nine-year-old son Logan.

Ms Handbury said the process highlighted to her the need for more tailored teaching and therapy-based learning for children with autism, particularly at secondary-school level.

She said children with autism often learned from watching their peers but as they got older, it became more difficult.

Ms Handbury said mainstream schools were good for children with autism who didn’t need as much support.

“But kids who need more support can’t function in that environment,” she said.

“There are very few options available for these children outside the public sector and in general there are limited schools in Victoria specialising in the care and education of children with an autism spectrum disorder.

“Currently there is only one autism-specific independent school (Giant Steps Melbourne in Kew) in Victoria providing a secondary education for its students.”

Ms Handbury wants the school based in Lilydale to capture students from regional Victoria, as well as from the outer-eastern suburbs.

She said the school would teach primary and secondary school-aged children with small class sizes of about six students.

“Each child will have an individual learning plan for each day as needed,” she said.

Ms Hardbury wants to find a property to move into or a site to build on. Picture: Daniel Pockett

Ms Handbury said there had been “overwhelming” interest in the school and expressions of interest would be taken from April next year.

The school has a board of directors and Ms Handbury hopes to open in January 2019.

She said while funding to start the school had been committed by a philanthropic foundation, the board planned to apply for Federal and State government funding, with the remainder funded by student fees, fundraising, corporate sponsorship and philanthropic donations.

She said the next step was to find a property to move into or a site to build on.

“Ideally we’d like somewhere we can move in and make our own,” Ms Handbury said.

“We’re appealing to someone who is sitting on land they may not have a use for, or a random acre or more of land.”

She said she would lodge an application with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority next year.

An Education Department spokesman, who did not want to be named, said all schools Victoria must be registered with the authority, which assesses on minimum standards and other requirements for registration.

“These standards cover governance, financial sustainability, staffing, curriculum, facilities and infrastructure and child safety,” the spokesman said.