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Traditional high school isn’t for everyone

Secondary College

Year 10
Shayne Frost

Shayne Frost discovered a better secondary school option for her daughter.

My daughter Alex commenced traditional high school in year 7, but it did not offer the best learning environment for her. She had a diagnosis of autism, and the alternating weekly timetable, along with different rooms, teachers and students made for a stressful day.

Alex behaved well at school, but the prospect of the day ahead could overwhelm her. Sometimes, she became anxious and tearful, and there was nobody available on arrival at school to ease her concerns. I often had to take her home. Even worse, some days, she refused to go to school at all. I felt powerless to help her. To be fair to the school, they did the best they could with the resources available to them. Sadly, they have processes to follow when a child doesn’t attend school regularly, and the official letters about her lack of attendance just added to our family’s stress.

After two and a half years, I was so worried about Alex’s mental health that I knew we needed to act. I was aware of ET Australia Secondary College, and we met the Assistant Principal for a chat and a walk around the College. Alex was keen straight away. She liked that she would be in one classroom all day with a small group of students. She would not have to stress about a uniform, forgetting books or finding a room.

The fresh start at ET Australia Secondary College has been amazing for Alex. She has a good relationship with her teachers. Being in a small group with the same students each day has given her the confidence to put up her hand and answer questions. Socially, she is more comfortable because there is no pressure to fit in with a certain peer group. Everyone is free to be their individual selves.

The College has high standards around behaviour and attendance, but they personalise their approach to get the best out of students. If Alex is having a bad day, somebody is readily available to talk to her. There is a ‘chill out’ room when she needs it. If she cannot stay for the whole day, she is praised for ‘making it this far today.’ They are very supportive, and consequently, her attendance has improved dramatically.

Previously, Alex didn’t like sport at school. During her time at the College, she has discovered that she loves the gym, achieving an ‘A’ in PDHPE. The personalised approach to teaching has made so much difference.

I also love that we pay one all-inclusive fee for the year. At traditional high school, it seemed that every week, there was a note asking for money for fundraising or an excursion.

Alex is in Year 10 now. She will stay at the College for her HSC because she knows she will be supported, which would otherwise be very stressful. She is thinking about a career in childcare, and she has some work experience lined up to explore that further.

Alex feels like she ‘belongs’ at the College. She gets acknowledged for her efforts, whereas she felt invisible in high school. As a parent, I feel like I have given her the best opportunity to thrive by enrolling her at ET Australia Secondary College.

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