Bright future for VMCH special school

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Villa Maria Catholic Homes
Students at VMCH’s specialist school, St Paul’s College, started the 2019 school year at its new purpose-built and modern campus in Balwyn.

Its teachers and 60 students moved from its home of 62 years in Kew. The school teaches students from prep to year 12 and welcomes children with a range of additional needs.

The new campus includes an Assistive Technology Centre, a Sensory Room, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) centre, specially-designed inclusive playgrounds, a café and kitchen garden to help senior students develop vocational skills.

The school’s principal, Tim Hemphill, said the new campus has been designed to use technology and modern design to support the learning needs of a diverse range of students.

‘The whole school community is in awe of the buildings and grounds. We are all very excited with how the new site will continue to evolve over the coming months and years,’ Tim said.

Parents and students have also given the school a big tick of approval.

Senior student, Zoe is school captain this year and her dad, Edmond, says the 17-year-old and the family love the new school.

‘It’s gorgeous. It is a beautiful new school. All the parents I speak to love it,’ Edmond said.

‘Zoe loves it. She enjoys going to this new place. She couldn’t wait to get into her new classroom and she’s up for all the new stuff.’

Zoe has been at the school for 10 years and this is her final year. One of the highlights this year was the special role she played in the official opening and blessing of the school.

Zoe assisted during the blessing of the school by Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli. She also presented him with a gift from the school, a piece of art created by students.

St Paul’s College celebrated the official opening of the new campus with a visit and blessing by Archbishop, Peter Comensoli, on February 28.

More than 200 people came along to mark the opening of the new campus. This included Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan, Victorian Member for Kew, Tim Smith and Member for Box Hill, Paul Hamer. It was a proud day for VMCH, a not-for-profit organisation that has supported people with disability for more than 100 years through a range of services.

Those attending from VMCH included its new Board Chairman Julien O’Connell, CEO Sonya Smart and several supporters of the school including many previous students and their families.

A proud history

The school was known as St Paul’s School for the Blind when it opened its doors to students on February 12, 1957. Its founding principal, Brother Patrick O’Neill, was himself blind and a passionate advocate for the school and its students. He rallied community support for the school when little government funding existed for such enterprises.

As times changed, the school’s community has responded and in the 1970s it expanded to teach children with other disabilities. Today, St Paul’s College offers a range of innovative programs for students with a range of goals and needs. The school supports students who wish to access dual enrolments through its innovative Dual School Program. These students divide their school week between St Paul’s College and a mainstream school of their choice.

The Bridging Program is another initiative that provides pre-schoolers with additional needs extra support to develop their social and academic skills during first year of school.

You can learn more about St Paul’s College and its innovative educational programs by contacting the school on 9855 7700 or email
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