30 January 2020
Among the chaos that comes with the start of another school year, patients in Austin Health's Paediatrics Unit who can't make it to a traditional classroom have also kicked off their studies for 2020.
The 'Austin School' provdes secialised education services to students from around Austin Health who are receiving care for emotional, physical and psychiatric conditions.
This year around 80 young patients, mainly 10, 11 and 12 years of age, will be part of the Paediatric Ward School Program while being cared for in Austin Health's Paediatrics Unit.
The Program aims to keep the students engaged with their education while they're in hospital and keep them connected with the normal school to make the transition back as smooth as possible once they're well enough to return home.
Austin Health Paediatric Ward School Program Team Leader, Jenny Richards, has been at The Austin School for 10 years and also worked as a teacher in a normal school setting.
"The students sometimes bring work from their school and if they're up to it, then they do that work. If they're not well enough, we can set up the appropriate curriculum for their level or liaise with their school to send modified activities," Jenny said.
"We're aiming for them to be able to succeed at what they do."
"There are classroom sessions in the morning and afternoon and activities, such as music and art, are also available for students," she said.
Jenny believes one of the nicest things about working in a health service is the team environment.
"You're working with a team of health professionals and you've got all the support around you, so you can provide a far more comprehensive service," she said.
"You're still working as a teacher, but we can also provide more individualised care."
"There are four teachers who will rotate and each will spend a term in the Paediatric Ward, ensuring team based continuity," Jenny said.
The team from the Austin School works with patients being cared for in the Paediatric Unit but also provides services to patients from the Austin Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and Royal Talbot.
Students suffer from a range of health problems including epilepsy, spinal problems, eating disorders or acquired brain injuries which keep them in hospital for more than a week.