Now for the good news: The ‘special lounge’ leaders making a difference

Now for the good news: The ‘special lounge’ leaders making a difference

Any teacher or principal working in a specialist school or setting will tell you that while the job is no walk in the park, the rewards are big.

Whether it's driving life-shaping outcomes for Australia's most vulnerable students or buiding their own capacity as leaders working in a critical part of the education system, educators in this space are valued, and valued highly.

Across Australia, important work is being done to ensure that specialist school leaders have the support they need to continue the extraordinary work they do.

The Australian Special Education Principals’ Association (ASEPA) is continuing to look for opportunities as their members and state and territory specialist school associations adjust to the Covid-19 crisis impacting specialist schools and settings. 

Matthew Johnson, national president and CEO of ASEPA, has been linking up with members and connecting to share ideas and resources to support students with disability continue to have equitable access to online and physical resources if they cannot attend school.

“It is vital that our students and communities have access to learning at this time, and that this can be a challenge for students who usually access physical support and assistance from staff to support their learning”, Johnson said.

ASEPA has recently organised a series of online video meetings across Australia to support principals and leaders in specialist schools and settings.

The first of these ‘special lounge’ leaders meeting was broadcast yesterday with members of the NSW Special Education Principals’ and Leaders’ Association (SEPLA).

The meeting was a chance to share ideas, challenges and resources with special school and setting leaders across NSW.

“The feedback so far is really positive and it was an opportunity for members to be able to see that they are not alone, that the challenges are shared and also a chance to do a wellbeing check for everyone, this will be something that will now be part of our ongoing way of working: Johnson said.

“Both ASEPA and SEPLA NSW have Microsoft Teams forums where staff are sharing their resource packs and ideas to be able to provide ongoing learning opportunities for our students.

The Distance Education Support Unit, at Sir Eric Woodward School (NSW) have been focussed on creating a professional learning community, also using Teams and been creating a wealth of resources for students with an intellectual disability learning via distance education.

By the end of next week, they expect there to be over 1000+ resources available through the subject folders. A link will be available soon at

ASEPA, has recently partnered with nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs UK) to collate free global resources for schools and families to support the ongoing learning of students with complex needs and special educational needs.

“A big thanks go out to Professor Adam Boddison (nasen) and Dr Fiona Forbes Board Chair (ASEPA) for linking together to make this a possibility” Johnson said.

This resources can be accessed at to access this evolving and growing resource.

“The way that all of our staff, teachers, school learning support officers and administrators are responding and adapting to the crisis is truly amazing.

People are rallying around each other to develop new systems and processes.

The innovation and spirit of comradery amongst staff is truly humbling and the lessons being learned now will serve to enhance our practices for students with special needs when we finally emerge on the other side” Johnson said.

Johnson urged other educators to join the Special Ed Team via Microsoft Teams to become part of a teacher learning community and find resources to support students with an intellectual disability. 

"The Special Ed Team has hundreds of resources created by the Distance Education Support Unit team for delivery as part of a well-planned supported program of study delivered in the home," he said, adding that anyone interested can join by heading to Microsoft Teams and clicking on 'Join or create team' then entering the code '97qn2mh'.

This article is part of an ongoing series of good news stories focused on how principals, teachers and students are showing compassion, courage and humanity during this challenging and uncertain time.