Engagement Support for Students With Additional Needs

This page includes resources, strategies and supports for specific groups of students who have additional needs, or who may face particular barriers to engaging with school.

Team based support

Team Around the Learner (TAL) provides a framework for an individualised, holistic and team-based approach to support learners at risk of disengaging or who have disengaged from education and learning. Key people work together as a team, coordinate a plan to meet the needs of the learner and to support them to continue to engage in or re-engage in education and learning.

Team Around the Learner aims to:

  • provide effective and enhanced support to individuals who are vulnerable, have complex needs or who have experienced disengagement from their learning pathway
  • reduce duplication and fragmentation in support to vulnerable children and young people and those with complex needs
  • enable an effective and consistent model of practice within the broader departmental school-wide positive behaviour support framework
  • promote a lead professional role to provide a seamless service to children and young people with complex needs through the ages and stages of learning and development.

Team Around the Learner key principles

  • the learner and family are at the centre
  • learners experience a coordinated and seamless service
  • promotes positive engagement
  • outcomes focused
  • a collaborative and collective team effort.

Who is involved?

The team is made up of groups of people who are connected to the learner through natural, community and formal support relationships.

  • team members may include the learner, education professionals, health professionals, community members, parents/caregivers, and external agencies involved in the life of the learner and family
  • Lead Professional coordinates the efforts of the team and ensures that all team members are part of the solution
  • the team meets regularly regarding the design, implementation and review of a coordinated plan put in place by the team to meet the individual needs of the learner and family.

When to use the Team Around the Learner approach

The Team Around the Learner approach can be adopted as early as needs are identified.

Although not all issues experienced by learners are problematic initially, it is beneficial to support the learner early to prevent such issues impacting on their learning.

Support material

Team Around the Learner recognises the need to support collaborative practice by ensuring high levels of transparency and documentation as the team utilises the Team Around the Learner approach. A number of resources are provided to support the implementation of the Team Around the Learner approach.

What is provided:

A series of 12 modules that schools can work through to enhance their understanding of the Team Around the Learner approach.

The following tools and templates are available to support the Team Around the Learner approach:

Students with disabilities and additional needs

Some students with disabilities and additional needs may experience difficulty navigating the social dynamics of the classroom, coping with frustration and embarrassment, or learning to self-regulate their behaviour. This may result in poor classroom behaviour and withdrawal from learning.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Teachers need specific knowledge and strategies are required to effectively teach the curriculum in a way that also assists in managing the behaviours of the child with ADHD. Two fact sheets are available to download, see:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

Koorie Education workforces

Each departmental regional office has Koorie education coordinators (KECs) and Koorie engagement support officers (KESOs) who can provide advice in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. You can contact a KEC through your regional office.

Individual education plan (IEP) and Koorie education learning plan (KELP)

The IEP and KELP are tools for teachers, parents and students to work together to improve educational and learning outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

They focus on the need for individual learning plans to be the shared responsibility of all stakeholders to foster a culture of high expectations for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Some children who speak a language other than English as their main language at home will require additional support in learning English as a second or additional language. If they are enrolled in a government school they are eligible for English as an additional language programs (EAL).

EAL funding

EAL Levels 1-5 (Reference 26) funding is provided to schools with significant numbers of EAL students through the Student Resource Package (SRP). EAL funding is given to schools to staff EAL programs.

EAL Regional program officers

Schools have access to regional EAL program officers in each of the four Department regional offices. They provide EAL program support and advice to schools and professional learning opportunities for teachers in government schools in the region. For more information contact the Information and Referral Service for your regional office on 1800 809 834.

EAL provision for new arrivals

Children who have recently arrived in Australia may be eligible for additional support if they are enrolled in a government school, through the new arrivals Program. For more information, see: EAL provision for new arrivals.

Accessing interpreting and translating services

Interpreting and translating services are also available free (within guidelines) to government schools.

Family trauma and violence

Family violence and trauma can have a significant impact on a young person’s behaviour and their capacity to recognise and regulate their emotions.

In some cases, students experiencing family trauma and violence may transition into out-of-home-care (OOHC) arrangements which can create significant attachment issues for some children and young people.

Child development and trauma specialist practice resource

A resource developed by the Department of Human Services. It aims to assist in understanding typical developmental pathways of children and recognise indicators of trauma at different ages and stages. See: Child development and trauma specialist practice resource

Child protection - mandatory reporting

Child abuse can have a significant effect on a child’s physical or emotional health, development and wellbeing. It is important that school staff are aware of the signs of child abuse and their mandatory reporting obligations.

All staff must complete a mandatory reporting eLearning module each year to ensure training is consistent across all schools.

  • to access the training, see: ELMO Learning
    • eLearn Username: deecd
    • password: employee

Mental health

Mental health issues can significantly impact on a young person’s behaviour and capacity to recognise and regulate emotions. When supporting a student with mental health concerns schools need to consider strategies such as flexible learning timetables, regular student support group meetings and Return to School plans if there are prolonged absences.

When dealing with students experiencing mental health issues schools should consider referring the student to one of the available school or network support services such as the school welfare coordinator or a relevant student support services officer.

Child and youth mental health services

Provides a specialist child and adolescent mental health services for children and adolescents up to the age of 18 years with serious emotional disturbance, including those young people who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. See: Child and youth mental health services

Headspace School Support Program

Headspace School Support Program works closely with principals, school wellbeing staff, teachers, allied health professionals and other key stakeholders to appropriately plan for and respond to incidents of suicide or attempted suicide.

Gender and sexually diverse students

All young people have a right to feel safe at school but many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) students have negative experiences in Australian schools. LGBTI young people experience high rates of bullying and the vast majority of this abuse occurs at school.

The Safe Schools program helps schools foster a safe environment that is supportive and inclusive of LGBTI students. Safe Schools is a formal and public commitment that schools make to create an inclusive and safe environment for their school community, including for LGBTI students, families and teachers.

Students in out-of-home care

Out-of-home care is a living arrangement for children and young people who cannot live in their family home. Up to 5000 Victorian children live in OOHC at any one time. These students have often come from violent or traumatic family environments and have specific educational and support needs. See: Out-of-home care and homelessness


Guidelines for Victorian schools is a resource for Victorian schools to help improve the wellbeing, educational experiences and outcomes of children and young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. See: Out-of-home care and homelessness