No school for son, so dad plans his own

AN Altona Meadows father plans to open a registered private autism school in Melbourne’s west.

Stephen Morgan, who in November was named Annecto’s carer of the year, says his son Corey would be one of the children enrolled at Private Autism Special School (PASS).

Mr Morgan’s award recognised him for negotiating to find a suitable school site, founding Melbourne’s first special needs swim school and opening a respite centre at Werribee.

His swim school started when he hired a swimming instructor for his son three years ago. It now has 15 instructors teaching more than 150 children to swim, operating at two pools three days a week. Mr Morgan said more than 150 families had expressed interest in enrolling their children at PASS.

“There’s certainly the demand and the need,” he said. “It’s now about a process of applying for registration of a school.

“Prior to doing that, you have to have what’s called suitable premises, and that’s where we sit at the moment. I’ve been offered a small building in Hoppers Crossing, but it can only accommodate 10 children.

“The Victorian Department of Education has over 200 empty campuses today. However, they are earmarking those for sale to developers.”

Mr Morgan said psychologists and teachers had stepped forward, eager to be involved.

“The teachers have come out of the woodwork.

“They’re mostly either parents of children in this category who are career teachers who are willing to put their hand up and go for it or teachers who have come from specialist schools like these elsewhere.”

While the state government has promised to fund a prep-year 12 autism-specific school at Laverton, for Mr Morgan the government system is not an option for Corey.

He said Corey had flourished under the private IDEA program at Fawkner’s Moomba Park Primary School but had only three years of primary school left.

“There’s no high school in Victoria running the IDEA program. Corey gets 30 hours of therapy a week applied to his educational process.

“He would never get that in any government option in high school so we need to bring this forward.” 

A spokesman said the Education Department did not have a breakdown of disused schools by council area.