Figtree special education teacher has been making do for more than 35 years

Robyn Christofides. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Robyn Christofides. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Robyn Christofides has been making do for more than 35 years.

But the special education head teacher at Figtree High School’s Flametree Campus, would welcome more resources to help their 35 students, many of whom have histories of drug and alcohol abuse and criminal behaviour.

On Friday Ms Christofides spoke at the Shellharbour hearing of the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the education of students with a disability or special needs.

She told the inquiry that Flametree received about $15,000 under RAM (Resource Allocation Model) to look after its five ED classes.

Flametree, which is about seven kilometres from Figtree HS, is the same size as a ‘’medium-sized behaviour school’’.

‘’Unfortunately, the Illawarra does not have a behaviour school and our staffing and funding are the same as on-site special education unit with five classes,’’ she said.

‘’Figtree High School has always been supportive but resources are always limited.’’

Ms Christofides said by the time students arrive at Flametree they have already experienced multiple failures in the community and school system.

‘’When you are working with the most vulnerable young people in the community I think the community needs to bring all of its resources to bare,’’ she said.

‘’And, everything that our system has to offer needs to be available for them to make it work because the cost of it to the community in later years of it not working is much greater.

‘’So putting an investment in when students lives are being shaped is the time to spend the money in my opinion. We can make a real difference in breaking the cycle of social disadvantage and disability.’’