HORSHAM Special School has received two awards for their work running professional learning workshops for teachers of students with disabilities.
The school received the outstanding inclusive education award at the Victorian Education Excellence Awards at a ceremony in Melbourne on October 25 - which was also World Teachers' Day. It was also presented with the Principals' Association of Specialist Schools (PASS) Victoria award for most outstanding team.
Horsham Special School principal Matt Copping said it was a "big deal" to win the awards because it would help boost the school's profile and provide opportunities to extend their outreach.
"With the Victorian Inclusive (Education) Award comes $25,000 prize money," he said. "We are able to use that towards professional learning and continued community building in the work we're doing.
"So our plan with that is to continue to provide some of the professional learning workshops and expert coaching around not only this area but hopefully expand it into some of the other areas."
We're about continuing to push the disability movement and our community's understanding of what people with a disability can do and further enhance our own skills in being able to set them up for life.- Horsham Special School principal Matt Copping
The workshops have involved Mr Copping and assistant principal Rebecca Talbot using their expertise to help mainstream educators in west and south-west Victoria.
In the past 18 months, Mr Copping and Ms Talbot have delivered workshops to 1200 people from 130 schools, with workshops ranging in length from one to eight hours.
"With this award and the money with it, we will be able to hopefully head up further north towards the border - up to near Mildura and across past Bendigo and over through Gippsland," he said.
He said it was important to be able to provide the workshops cost-free to educators so there are no barriers to accessing the training.
Mr Copping said the money would also support further upskilling opportunities for himself and Ms Talbot.
"We do our own research and study - particularly in the area of neuroscience and understanding the brain and its development," he said. "So we'll be able to hopefully do more study around that."
He said he and Ms Talbot did a mixture of online research as well as attending conferences and talks through PASS in Australia and overseas.
"We're about continuing to push the disability movement and our community's understanding of what people with a disability can do and further enhance our own skills in being able to set them up for life," Mr Copping said.
Mr Copping said the PASS award recognised Horsham Special School within the special education sector.
"To be recognised as one of the best as an outstanding team within that special school sector feels pretty good, too. It's a great honour," he said. "It's a pat on the back for everyone involved in our school community, from the staff, to the family, to the students."
In terms of what makes the work of Horsham Special School stand out above other special education programs, Mr Copping credited an innovative approach to addressing the specific needs of each student.
"The fact that we can learn more and more about it everyday ... allows us to provide better and better highly specialised curriculum programs across the board every single day and individualise it for students based on their point of need at the time," he said.
One of the areas Mr Copping has seen an increased improvement in students has been in meta cognition, or higher-order thinking.
"Traditionally, students with an intellectual disability find it hard to multi-task and be flexible and creative in their thinking processes and adaptable and changeable within tasks," he said.
"Seeing more and more of our students being able to use higher-order thinking processes and critical thinking processes is really amazing to see - (especially) as someone who came into the disability sector 20 years ago and was told at the time our students would never be able to do that."
Mr Copping said students who graduated with this high-level skill would be better equipped to find employment and live independently.
"That really redefines what is a disability and what is an ability," he said.
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