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Tombolo Academy is an Independent Specialist year 7-10 school in Melbourne, Australia, that caters for twice-exceptional (2e) students performing at year levels 7 – 10.

/ˈtɒmbələʊ/

Noun

a bar of sand or shingle joining an island to the mainland. 

A tombolo is a bar of sand deposited by sea waves linking a close offshore island to the main land.  

When we were thinking of a new and original name for a school that caters for twice-exceptional students, we visualised it as being a place of safety separate from the mainstream schools yet noticeably linked to society and the world.  The idea of an island, the school, providing skill training, learning and personal growth becoming gently linked to the mainland of work and family via a tombolo, a bridge, a pathway is a crucial image to the directors of the school. Tombolo students will be equipped with the capacity to undertake the final years of schooling and beyond, on the mainland of society.

As with the depositing sand which is built up over years by waves, the link between the twice-exceptional student and the bigger world will be built consistently and gradually. The base will be vulnerable at first but as the sand stabilises the strength of the student and the sand will grow and create a genuine tombolo.

Twice-exceptional learners are students who demonstrate the potential for high achievement or creative productivity in one or more domains such as math, science, technology, the social arts, the visual, spatial, or performing arts or other areas of human productivity and who manifest one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria. These disabilities include specific learning disabilities; speech and language disorders; emotional/behavioral disorders; physical disabilities; other health impairments and/or neuodiversities. These disabilities and high abilities combine to produce a unique population of students who may not demonstrate either high academic performance or specific disabilities. The combination of ability and disability may result in either being hidden, exaggerated or neutralised by the other.

“The National Twice-Exceptional Community of Practice (2e COP) has agreed upon a definition of a twice-exceptional individual. This is a working definition which seeks to unify the field and act as a foundation for our collaborative work. This definition reflects a consensus of the 2e COP participants.

The definition of “twice-exceptional individuals” is: Twice-exceptional (2e) individuals (sic) evidence exceptional ability and disability, which results in a unique set of circumstances. Their exceptional ability may dominate, hiding their disability; their disability may dominate, hiding their exceptional ability; each may mask the other so that neither is recognized or addressed.

2e students, who may perform below, at or above grade level, require the following:

Specialized methods of identification that consider the possible interaction of the exceptionalities
Enriched/advanced educational opportunities that develop the child’s interests, gifts and talents while also meeting the child’s learning needs
Simultaneous supports that ensure the child’s academic success and social-emotional well- being, such as accommodations, therapeutic interventions, and specialized instruction.

At Tombolo Academy we acknowledge that twice exceptional students often have different cognitive, social, emotional and even physical needs to their age peers. Asynchronicity will be accepted. The student’s physical capacity to manage tasks will be scaffolded and supported. Strong emotions will be respected, and facilitation will happen to encourage a positive action developing from the emotion.

Enrolment eligibility

The eligibility criteria that follow relates to the enrolment of domestic students only. Tombolo Academy does not accept enrolments from international students.

Defining twice exceptional students is a very complex process. There are many possible variations in indicators which need to be considered. Making a check list of specific qualities is too hard to define. The opinion of suitably qualified people should be sought but there are some indicators:

  • an IQ test performed by a recognised psychologist – A Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), a Stanford-Binet, a Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI)
  • a series of awards in a field recognised by a professional registered organisation – for example Gymnastics Australia, Water Polo Australia Ltd, Australian Parkour Association, St John Ambulance Australia, Hand knitters Guild
  • certificates of achievement, above that expected for age, from external assessments – for example music, chess, writing awards
  • certificates, awards or references indicating involvement in social, charitable, voluntary ventures which imply an advanced social or entrepreneur skill 
  • recognition in newspapers or other public documents of a level of service beyond age expectations
  • medals for events won in competitions that have governing bodies 
  • pieces of art, writing, mathematical solutions that are recognised as being in advance of age by professionals who can genuinely assess such items
  • publication of a piece of work
  • the creation of a unique solution, piece of work, business, organisation in the public domain

A disability is any recognised by the Disability Standards for Education 2005. A disability is not restricted to a specific type of child. A certificate of ‘disability’ from a relevant practitioner must be provided before enrolment in the school.
The student must also show that they are able to function within the Victoria Curriculum at age level, or above, in a majority of academic areas but also at level 3 or above in their area of disability. Tombolo Academy is the first school in Australia to be focussed entirely on the comprehensive education of a broad range of twice-exceptional students.

The combination of ability and disability may result in either being hidden, exaggerated or neutralised by the other. We acknowledge that giftedness frequently enables compensation to occur. Though the success of compensation strategies can be significantly reduced when stress, tiredness or anxiety kicks in. 

Great care must be taken to ensure the gift is recognised by the interviewer before the child is offered a place in the school.

Restrictions of enrolment

    • The well-being of all students and staff is paramount. No student is to be admitted who is likely to be violent, in any manner, towards another person or themselves.
    • Students who can be satisfactorily accommodated in their local school are encouraged to attend that school.
    • Currently the Tombolo Academy building is not set up for the use of hoists, lifts or other high level supports for movement and toileting.
    • o Students for whom English is an additional language will be required to demonstrate their level of oral proficiency in English within their interview. Limited written literacy skills will not cause a student to be excluded. The length of time they have been living in Australia, any test results e.g. IELTS, TOEFL, AEAS Assessment will be considered.
    • Students are recommended to enrol for the beginning of a term.
    • The student has the right to appeal to the Board, in writing, if their application is not accepted. After investigation the decision of the Board is final for all parties.

Enrolment process

In accordance with Tombolo Academy’s Philosophy and Strategic and Business Plan, Tombolo Academy must only seek to enroll students who are have been assessed as being twice-exceptional and are in need of the flexible and tailored learning environment that Tombolo Academy provides to engage with education.

Application

Part 1
Part One consists of three steps:
Expression of Interest application

An Expression of interest form can be completed on the Tombolo Academy website. Alongside this form is information around suitable indicators of twice-exceptionality. These include the required documents to show disability and ability. The list of eligibility criteria can be found in the Enrolment eligibility section above .

Administration Fee

A non-refundable administration fee of $250 is payable at the time of submitting an expression of interest for Tombolo Academy. This payment will be collected through the website and a receipt issued.

Tour

Following submission of the expression of interest form, the family and student are invited to tour the school. If the family decides to apply an enrolment form should be requested via email to [email protected] Hard copies are also available on request from the Academy office.

Part 2

Completion of Enrolment Agreement
Following completion of Part 1. The Tombolo Academy Enrolment Agreement must be completed and submitted to the Principal for consideration.

Part 3

Invitation for interview

An invitation will be sent to the family to attend an interview with the Principal or their delegate. During this interview a student is required to show good cause as to why they should be admitted to the school. This hurdle may be modified to be a video piece, a letter or some other manner if the student has issues that would cause this situation to be discriminatory. However, the student should attend the interview even if this is uncomfortable for them.

Part 4

Admission review
Once the Enrolment Agreement and the interview has been conducted, the Principal will make a recommendation to the Academy’s Admissions Review Panel, who will then assess the capacity of the school to support the student based on:

    • Enrolment Eligibility Criteria, and Restrictions on Enrolment (as per above), including the student being assessed as twice exceptional
    • Academic needs
    • Physical and emotional support needs, and,
    • Availability of places at the target academic year  level

The Admissions Review Panel consists of the

      • A school teacher (other than the Principal)
      • Head of Wellbeing, (also referred to as the Wellbeing Officer) ; and
      • A Board member.

The Admissions Review Panel will make a recommendation to the Board, as to whether to accept or decline the application.  The Board will ultimately determine whether to accept or decline the application.

Placement decision

Placement decisions will be made by 1st November for the proceeding academic year.
Where an application is received for admission part way through an academic year, a decision will be made as soon as possible to allow the student to start school at the beginning of the next school term.

Enrolment advice

Following the placement decision, the family of successful applicants will be notified in writing that a position is available and will be informed of the start date.
Where an application is received for admission part way through an academic year, a decision will be made as soon as possible to allow the student to start school at the beginning of the next school term. Regardless of outcome, a letter will be sent informing families of the decision made by the Academy. In the situation an offer of placement is not offered, rationale for the decision will be provided.

Acceptance of placement

Parent(s)/Guardians must formally accept in writing, the offer of a student placement within 7 days of receipt of an offer. Formal written acceptance can be by letter or email to [email protected]

Facilities

The building is a traditional single story red brick primary school with interconnected classrooms. The building is situated in open grounds surrounded by open space, ovals, and tennis courts and adjacent to a council reserve. The buildings have been refurbished to meet the specific needs of Tombolo Academy. The site is secured by a fence and the grounds contain sensitive sustainable landscaping.

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