When Ha Hoang asked Kingsbury Primary School principal Christine Campbell to enrol her two sons Tony and Bob, Christine's first thought was – how can I best accommodate Bob's needs?
Bob is a passionate young learner with broad interests. However, having only just arrived in Australia with his mother and brother from Vietnam, Bob's English skills were very low.
Additionally, Bob has a severe visual impairment. There was a lot of work to be done to equip the school for its newest student.
Christine galvanised her staff, adopting the motto "we can do it", and then got busy researching.
'Before Bob started school, I was not aware of what resources were available to support a student with a visual impairment,' Christine said.
So Christine embarked on a journey for information that led to her accessing support through the Department's Education Vision Assessment Clinic.
Christine was also able to access the Statewide Vision Resource Centre which provides a range of supports for eligible students.
With this support, a visiting teacher specialising in blind and vision impairment started at the school and an EAL teacher was sent from Collingwood English Language School.
The school could also provide swimming lessons, technological learning aids, inclusive toys and games, perceptual motor program equipment and more.
The school even sourced a piano so that Bob could continue his lessons.
From strength to strength
Christine says since starting at Kingsbury Primary School, Bob has shown improvement across every facet of his schooling.
'Academically, Bob continues to be strong at mathematics, as he was on arrival from Vietnam,' Christine says.
'The tutoring and other support Bob has received has seen positive development in Bob's language skills and Braille.
'The system in Vietnam was quite different so Bob had to learn new skills. He can now read and write in Braille English. His spoken language skills have improved too and he greets me every morning.'
Christine says Bob is an active participant in all school activities and also loves performing. He has featured in the school's School Concert, Art Show, and Graduation Video.
'The highlight of Bob's week is currently learning all the dances for school graduation,' Christine says.
'He loves Lego and building things that he remembers before his visual impairment – he is also passionate about planes and flying and made a model of a jumbo jet using modelling clay.'
But for Christine, the most pleasing aspect of his personal growth has been the ongoing development of his social skills.
The impact of one student
'Students love playing with Bob and he has friends across the entire school group,' Christine says.
With the help of other students, Bob quickly learnt to navigate around the school and be part of making Kingsbury Primary an inclusive and fun school.
'When Bob started at the school, his mother came in and interpreted for him, before one of our students of Vietnamese origin offered to help,' Christine says.
'[The student interpreter] was amazing at acting as a peer tutor and passing on messages to Bob.'
Today, Kingsbury Primary School is proud to call itself a leader in inclusive education across Victoria.
'My staff have learnt new skills and revitalised their careers,' Christine says. 'My students understand that we all have a place here, regardless of ability and they now think of others before themselves.'
Inclusive education requires the whole school working together – for Kingsbury Primary, it involved a cultural shift within the school itself.
A school's purpose
In Christine's mind, Bob's enrolment at Kingsbury Primary School has crystalised the purpose of an education. Put simply, every student deserves a chance to thrive and grow, to realise their potential and to broaden their horizons, regardless of background and personal circumstance.
'At our school, we have always advocated away from our responsibility and moral purpose,' says Christine.
'When Bob leaves at the end of Year 6 to return home to Vietnam, we will be left with a gaping hole, but wonderful memories of the boy who helped Kingsbury Primary School to be a wonderful example of inclusive education.'
To learn more about the Department's range of supports, resources and guidance to schools on how to meet the educational needs of students with disability, visit Inclusive Education