Furlong Park School for Deaf Children is situated on extensive grounds in North Sunshine and was officially opened in June 1986 by the Hon. Ian Cathie, Minister for Education. Students previously attended St Albans Deaf Unit situated within the grounds of Jackson Specialist School (previously St Albans Special School) from 1976-1985.
Furlong Park School for Deaf Children, formerly Furlong Park School and Preschool for Deaf Children, formerly St Albans Deaf Unit.
St Albans Deaf Unit was established in 1976, the result of intense lobbying by the late Val Davies for a school for deaf children in the Western suburbs. St Albans Deaf Unit was, in fact, the first of its kind in Victoria.
The Deaf Unit comprised one wing of the new St Albans Special School (now Jackson School) in Mulhall Dve, St Albans. The Unit comprised two classrooms and an Auditory Training room. It opened at the start of the school year in 1976 with the support of the Principal of the Special School, a local preschool and very involved parents.
The Principal of St Albans Special School was the late Des English. The Deaf Unit was well supported by Des and the late Colin Laity, who was the Director of Special Education at the time.
St Albans Deaf Unit began with 8 students aged 3 to 6, including one child with multiple disabilities. These children were the trail blazers for what was to become a progressive and unique education facility for Deaf students in the West.
While the mode of communication began as oral/aural, the philosophy from the outset was one of Total Communication, with Signed English soon being used consistently through the Unit. Staff held sign classes at school and within the family homes at the parent’s request.
A playgroup for Deaf children with disabilities was soon established, facilitated through the Deaf Unit. Staff and students were incorporated into the school program and students had access to all the opportunities that were available to the children in the special school. They also integrated on a weekly basis with a local preschool.
This was a time of change in the education of Deaf children. Students were traditionally allocated to schools by a panel of experts – the Ascertainment Committee. However, from the late 1970s, parents were given the right to decide where their children would attend schools and the mode of communication they would use. Parents and staff made the decision that Total Communication would be used for all students – they would be exposed to both oral and signed education.
Numbers steadily increased and it soon became apparent that the wing of the Special School could no longer house the Deaf children. Two portables, divided into four class areas, were installed and the Deaf Unit moved in to its own quarters within the Special School Grounds under the leadership of Peter Fryer (pictured left) in 1980, with 5 staff and 17 students.
Parents again lobbied for a separate school and were rewarded for their endeavours when plans for the establishment of a dedicated school for Deaf children bore fruition with the opening of Furlong Park School and Preschool for Deaf Children in 1985. Peter Fryer was Principal until 2002, followed by Sue Izard, Robyn Lawrence then Anne-Maree Crivelli in 2012.
Furlong Park celebrated 25 years of Education for Deaf Children in the Western Suburbs in 2001.
Furlong Park School for Deaf Children is situated on extensive grounds in North Sunshine. The school was purpose-built to deliver educational programs to Deaf children, including those with additional needs, from the western and northern regions of metropolitan Melbourne and the rural fringe. The school provides educational programs for both pre-school children aged 3 to 5 years of age and primary school students aged 5 to approximately 12 years of age. The communication approach, using spoken and written English and Auslan (Australian Sign Language), addresses individual student needs and is based on a bilingual/bicultural model.
Our Learning Technologies Centre was re-sited in our new Library complex in 2011. All classrooms have additional access to computers for students to use and the children also have access to tablet technology.
The school is staffed by both Deaf and Hearing qualified Teachers of the Deaf, suitably experienced support staff and speech pathologists. Audiologists from Australian Hearing provide support to students through regular visits to the school. Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists are contracted when need arises. We also access a range of Para professionals, including psychologists, who deliver specific programs and supports for staff, students and families.
Our curriculum has expanded to include specialist teaching in the areas of AUSLAN/Deaf Studies, Health and Physical Education, Library and Computer Technology and Music. We have also been fortunate to gain grants to support Art, Drama, Music and Dance Programs to integrate into our learning curriculum. School-based literacy and numeracy coaching is provided for all teaching and educational support staff.
During 2008, our basketball court was resurfaced with basketball, tennis and bike education line markings being added. Playground markings of hopscotch, four square, maths and spelling games, plus wall targets, provide students with a variety of ‘hop, skip ‘n’ learn’ activities. In 2009, Furlong Park installed a synthetic athletics track and in 2010, constructed a new Library complex, 2 full-sized classrooms and an enclosed Gallery area as part of the Building the Education Revolution program, which provided schools with new facilities and refurbishments to better meet the needs of 21st century learning.
Past students who attended Furlong Park have been successful across many areas- education, science, personal training, sport, catering and employment in a variety of commercial enterprises.
Furlong Park has recently enrolled second generation students – children of former pupils. This is a testament to the past and present staff.
Furlong Park School for Deaf Children continues to be a unique, progressive, supportive and vibrant community, catering for all Deaf children from the Western and Northern suburbs – a wonderful legacy from those families who, many years ago, wanted something more for their Deaf children.