Since 2017, a group of special education schools, supported by Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF) and Schools Plus, have worked together to improve the lives of their students, most of which are non-verbal, have severe disabilities and learn at a pre-Kindergarten level. The learning communities recognised the need for a common language so that a child’s ability and progress could be easily communicated between schools, educators and families.

Together, educators from across NSW developed, tested and refined the Passport for Learning framework, a tool that assesses students on a seven-point colour scale. The Passport for Learning enabled teachers to tailor lessons to each student’s learning needs and more easily communicate this with parents, staff, and other support services on how the child is performing.

Data tracked along the framework shows progression for individual students and as a cohort. Students can now engage in learning for more extended periods and there has been a reduction in verbal and physical outbursts. After the initial investment from Schools Plus and VFFF, project leaders are now working with the NSW Department of Education to trial the Passport in more than 80 special schools. The findings of the trial will provide insight into assessment tools for complex learners and offer new improvement measures for young people living with disability.