Victorian school systems

There are three different school systems operating in Victoria. Your child can attend:

A state (government) school under the auspices of the Department of Education and Training (DET). This includes all Special Schools (SS) and Special Developmental Schools (SDS).

An independent (non-government) Catholic school under the auspices of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV).

An independent (non-government) school under the auspices of the Association of Independent Schools Victoria (AISV).

Choosing a school

For information on questions to ask and factors which may influence your decision please consult our Choosing a School document available on our resources page. Once you have chosen a school you approach the Principal and begin the funding process with that school.

Australian residency

If you are not an Australian citizen you will have to establish your residence status before an application can be made for funding to assist your child at school. There are various categories of residential visas and for further information please contact the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

You are likely to incur significantly higher schooling costs in an independent school than in a government school and will need to obtain information regarding this from individual schools.

Student assessment

Any child, regardless of their IQ score, is eligible to attend a mainstream school. Testing of your child is mandatory. It serves two purposes:

  • To establish eligibility to receive funding to assist with your child’s education.
  • To establish whether your child is eligible to attend a state Special School (SS) or state Special Developmental School (SDS) if such is your wish. To enrol at a SS your child’s IQ must fall between 50 and 70. Below 50 the child is eligible to attend an SDS.

Assessment tools:

  • An IQ test, which must be administered by a registered psychologist, and which is valid for two years and can not be re-administered during that time. The tests vary according to the child’s age but may be the WISC - 111, WISC - 1V, WPPSI - 3, WPPSI – R or Stanford – Binet.
  • The Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales. This is a checklist of the child’s independence, social and self-help skills such as the ability to dress themselves use a knife and fork etc.
  • You may also be required to submit language assessments performed by a speech pathologist.
  • There can be no training for such testing. Families can use a psychologist nominated by the school or can engage one privately.
Victorian Government
Program for Students with Disabilities 
Assessment Service

Any child regardless of their IQ is eligible to attend mainstream school

Mainstream settings | Special settings | Zoning

  • It is the parent’s choice whether your child will attend a mainstream school or a special education setting. No matter whether you choose mainstream or a special setting you need to have your child tested to apply for funding.
  • Your child has a right to a place at your local state mainstream or special setting school. You may reach agreement to attend a school other than the local one. Some mainstream secondary state schools have become so popular that they have been granted zoning rights.
  • If you opt to attend a special setting in most instances that school will have a dedicated bus service. However you will only be able to use their bus if you live within that school’s zone. If outside that zone and therefore, within another special setting’s zone, you are responsible for taking your child to your chosen school.


In all three systems the application must be accompanied by a current psychological assessment as discussed above.

State schools

The principal will arrange a meeting at which an Educational Needs Questionnaire (ENQ) will be completed to assess your child’s abilities in various areas:

Mobility | Fine motor skills | Cognitive skills | Behaviour
Hearing | Vision | Expressive language | Receptive language
Safety | Self-Care | Medical

The submission includes an individual learning plan. It helps greatly if you have relevant reports available such as Speech Pathology, Audiology, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Medical reports and of course psychological testing results. Children with Down syndrome establish eligibility under the area of cognition. A summary of this questionnaire is then forwarded to the DET and results in your child’s school receiving funding to support your child. Check the closing dates for the submission of the ENQ with the DET or your local school. Should you arrive mid year there is provision for you to apply on arrival. If you and/or the school are not happy with the level of funding offered there are official channels for appeal.

Use of funding

The school Principal determines how the funding will be used, but a prudent Principal would do so in consultation with parents. The majority of funding is usually used for employment of an Education Support (Integration Aide) to support your child’s program in the classroom. Other uses may include paying for outside consultancy such as the Down Syndrome Education Support Service or outsourcing speech pathology, occupational therapy and so on. Schools also have to make allowances for replacement support staff in case of sickness and other overheads. The degree to which this affects your child’s funding or the central school budget depends on the school.

Most children with Down syndrome receive either level 2 or 3 funding – unless they have exceptional needs in areas such as safety, medical or behavioural. If they receive higher levels of funding it may be offered with the attached clause that it be reviewed after 12 months. Otherwise the funding level remains constant until Year 6 when there is a mandatory review ahead of enrolment into a secondary setting.

Scource of funding

Victorian State Government


2017 Funding Levels

Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV) schools

A similar process of interview, assessment, reports, writing of individual learning plans and submission to obtain funding is followed by Catholic schools.

Use of funding
  • The Catholic system differs from the State system in that funding is not linked directly to your child but rather the CECV considers all the submissions from a particular school and then makes an inclusive funding grant to that school for their integration program. The Principal and other relevant school personnel decide how best to use these funds to support the program in conjunction with other resources and staffing within their school.
  • The CECV submissions cover much the same areas of ability assessment as the State schools.
Levels of funding

As stated above, your child is not individually funded by the CECV, but as a guide Catholic schools receive approximately one third to one half of the state government schools level of funding.

  • There are two rounds for new applicants, and on-going submissions are usually due prior to these. Check the closing dates with your Archdiocese.
  • An application has to be completed annually. For more information on the Student with Disabilities program click here to find your local Diocese.
Source of funding

Commonwealth government, supplemented by the CECV

Independent (AISV) schools

Independent schools may include schools under the auspices of religious organisations other than CECV or schools that follow a particular educational philosophy e.g. Steiner. It should be noted that in 2014, funding arrangements for independent schools changed and funding previously received as part of the Commonwealth Targetted Funding Program has been replaced by increased recurrent funding to each school which includes a loading for students with disabilities. This means the school is no longer funded according to student funding submissions.

Many children with Down syndrome experience success despite lower levels of funding

If a child receives less funding in a non-government system this does not necessarily mean that your child will not experience success outside a state school. Successful inclusion is more dependent on aspects such as a positive school attitude, inclusive school culture and appropriate pastoral support.