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I CAN School® program refers to I CAN Ltd’s group mentoring program in schools inclusively, and can also specifically refer to our secondary school-based Autistic identity-focused mentoring. I CAN Imagination Club® refers to the primary school variation of the I CAN School® program which, to date, has been non-Autism specific. Click here or on the image to view full pdf. document. 


I CAN Network’s school mentoring programs are strengthening participating students’ sense of belonging with peers at their school. I CAN is ready to expand its school programs within the context of achieving the Autism Education Strategy.

The 2022 independent evaluation of the I CAN Imagination Club and I CAN School programs by Australian Catholic University (ACU) indicated that 84.5% of primary students and 86.3% of secondary students were likely to recommend the program to another student. Primary and secondary students experienced statistically significant increases in their sense of belonging in the I CAN program. Autistic secondary students also experienced a statistically significant increase in their acceptance of their Autistic identity and engagement with the Autism/ Autistic community. This independent data is very similar to the internal data collected by I CAN which indicates a 91% satisfaction rate among primary students and a 19% increase in secondary students’ connectedness to Autistic peers.

ACU reported that the overwhelming majority of parent/ carer respondents (97%) said the I CAN School mentoring programs met their expectations, of whom 36.2% said it exceeded their expectations. This was the same for school teacher respondents: 90.6% said the program met their expectations, of whom 43.8% said it exceeded their expectations.

I CAN Ltd’s current partnership with the VDET from January 2020 to June 2023 is in support of DET’s investment in anti-bullying programs and the Autism Education Strategy. Our partnership is focused on involving 100 government schools and 1,000 government students in the I CAN School program and 500 government students in the I CAN Online program. As of December 2022, 80 school campuses across 75 Victorian government primary and secondary schools, and 906 students, have been involved in the school program; 711 students have been involved in the online program.

The below table demonstrates that I CAN is on track to engage 101 government schools by June 2023.

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Click on the image to view full plan pdf. document.


The idea of this proposal is that the I CAN School mentoring programs be made available to government schools across ALL 17 DET areas in Victoria. ACU’s report is testament to the impact of the program in all locations. As many schools repeat the program, I CAN Ltd forecasts that we could grow to deliver in-person and online programs across 265 government schools in all 17 regions by CY27. Our plan prioritises growth in secondary schools.

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The financial commitment we would need to achieve this reach across schools, including for the Online expansion (refer below), is $4.1M (‘scenario 3’). Below we have provided three scenarios and an indication of what each scenario would achieve in terms of the number of government schools involved, program spaces offered, and the number of unique government students engaged.

Ensuring program quality: Spotlight on Surf Coast SC

The above growth has been designed with an eye on ensuring program quality. One of our top performing programs in 2022 was at Surf Coast Secondary College in which we facilitated statistically significant increases in students’ optimism (38%) and in students’ confidence with communication (38%). Surf Coast reported that, since the I CAN program, there had been a reduction in the number of times I CAN students visited the school wellbeing office. Surf Coast also reflected that ‘the sessions worked perfectly as an adjustment for the Disability Inclusion Profile process, particularly the ‘interpersonal interactions’ domain’. We want every program to have the best chance of achieving a similar high impact on Autistic young people and their school.

Pictured: Depiction of the Surf Coast SC I CAN group by one of its members Holly. The group called themselves ‘Chaos Survival Multiplayer’ (a Minecraft reference). 

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We measure our impact through our evaluation framework: we can see where our evidence base is strong and where our program needs consolidation. We’re confident that the scenarios put forward in this paper are responsible from a program quality and organisational capacity point of view.

Our forecast is also cognisant that there will be program variations across the diversity of schools. Moving forward, our standard program will be 8 x 1-hr sessions in a school term, with our annual AWETISM Expo used as an additional lever in Term 4 to support students’ self-esteem and optimism. Based on ACU’s recommendation, our primary I CAN Imagination Club will have a stronger focus on neurodiversity. In other areas like Ovens Murray, Mallee, Inner and Outer Gippsland, we will need to deliver school mentoring online. The timing of a school’s program will also influence its content. Moving forward, schools with programs in Terms 1 and 4, will enjoy a focus on transition.

    I really looked forward to the I CAN sessions because the people were friendly. They gave me time to use my [ACC] device to communicate… Chloe [mentor] was really good because she really made me feel comfortable. I hope we have an I CAN group at our school again soon. For me I CAN has helped me think about the things I like and what I am interested in.”

~ Adon (16), I CAN Mentee, Parkdale Secondary College

Government school uptake of our program is assisted by the phased roll out of Disability Inclusion (Tier 2) and the School Mental Health Menu. Whilst I CAN is now listed on the Mental Health Menu, we’re predicting that our growth will be the most concentrated in areas which have both Disability Inclusion and Mental Health Menu funding.

The growth scenarios put forward will increase the number of spaces the I CAN School program can provide to government school students. On average government schools utilise a minimum of 10 spaces (of 16) in any I CAN program. Scenario 1 will deliver a minimum of 5,000 program spaces, scenario 2 will deliver 6,800 spaces and scenario 3 will deliver 7,850 spaces. The number of unique student participants can be distinguished from the number of program spaces as some students repeat an 8-week program at least once and some regional schools have less than 10 students in a program. Taking all three scenarios into account, the range of unique students we will have engaged will be 2,325 – 3,525: scenario 1 will be at the low point of this range, scenario 2 at the midpoint and scenario 3 at the high point.

All three growth scenarios will help the I CAN School program be available to all 17 areas across the four VDET regions. All three scenarios will help the program expand to new areas like the Central Highlands in which we estimate we will have delivered programs across 19 government schools by 2027.

Below is the 2027 picture we envision under scenario 3 (below).

  • By CY27 I CAN will be the most widespread in the Barwon area in which we estimate we will have delivered standalone government school programs across 11 primary schools, 12 secondary schools, 3 combined schools and 3 specialist schools.
  • DET areas including Bayside Peninsula, Outer Eastern Melbourne, Western Melbourne, Brimbank Melton, Hume Moreland, Inner Eastern Melbourne, North Eastern Melbourne and Southern Melbourne will fall within a mega ‘Greater Melbourne’ region in I CAN’s structure. By CY27 we estimate we will have delivered standalone, online and inter-school school programs across 127 government schools in these areas.
  • We will continue our scale up of inter-school programs to make our school program accessible to remote, rural and regional government schools. An inter-school program can involve 3-6 schools partnering together to facilitate a program for up to 16 x students. For instance, in Loddon Campaspe, we estimate that throughout 2023 – ‘27, we will have delivered inter-school programs across 3 primary, 2 secondary, 2 combined and 2 specialist schools.

Our proposal does not include the large number of schools we will engage through our professional development workshop content and how this will support the mandate of the Diverse Learners Hub.

The investment options presented will help the I CAN School® program be available to all 17 areas across the four VDET regions. By increasing our budget, our program will expand across new areas like the Central Highlands in which we estimate to have delivered 53 programs across 19 government schools by 2027.
The investment options presented will help the I CAN School® program be available to all 17 areas across the four VDET regions. By increasing our budget, our program will expand across new areas like the Central Highlands in which we estimate to have delivered 53 programs across 19 government schools by 2027.


The idea of this proposal is that Victoria make an I CAN Autistic Mentor available to every Victorian Autistic government student through the I CAN Online program. South Australia has made an Autism Teacher available to every public primary school. Victoria, through its Autism Education Strategy and Autism State Plan, can set a world-leading example, and make an I CAN Online Mentor available to every Autistic young person up to 18.

The idea is viable because I CAN Online is highly scalable. Annually I CAN Online delivers six cycles of six-weekly 1-hour online group mentoring sessions for up to nine young people in a group. Groups of nine are formed using either young people’s age, or their special interests such as Anime or Minecraft, or their stage in school (such as Year 7 Transition). Participants join via Zoom video conferencing. Parents/ carers register their young person for the online programs: the majority pay for the program using NDIS.

I CAN Online already has strong take up among government school families. Victorian government school students make up 61% of I CAN Online’s Victorian participants and 35% of participants nationally. This is why, under our current CFA with VDET, I CAN has exceeded its target of engaging 500 government students by ~42%. Specifically we have engaged 711 government students in the I CAN Online program throughout January 2020 to December 2022.

The idea is also backed by evidence. Successive independent evaluations of I CAN Online have indicated the positive impact of the program. ACU’s recent evaluation (December ‘22) indicated that 81.4% of mentees and 95.6% of parents/ carers were likely to recommend the I CAN Online program to others. ACU reported that Victorian Online participants experienced statistically significant increases in the areas of belonging, connectedness to peers, hope, and capacity to problem-solve to reach their goals. This independent data is very similar to the internal data collected by I CAN which indicates a 95% satisfaction rate and significant increases in belonging and connectedness to peers (18%).

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I CAN forecast that we will grow to offer 4,344 online spaces to Victorian government students throughout 2023 to 2027. The below table breaks this down into an average number of students engaged per Online cycle and per calendar year. In a year like 2024, 732 students will be engaged as the average per cycle (122 students) can be multiplied by six given I CAN Online’s annual six cycles.

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The unique number of government students engaged by I CAN Online will be within the range of 1,900 to 2,100. I CAN Online has a high retention rate (within the range of 44%-55% per cycle), with many students participating in several cycles. This is why the unique number of government students engaged through the 4,344 spaces will be within the range of 1,900 to 2,100.


In the 2019 State Budget $1.5M was committed to I CAN Ltd for the following:

  • $1.2M for the expansion of the I CAN Schools program to involve a total of at least 100 schools and 1,000 students (the growth model behind the 100 schools was 30% growth year-on-year from a baseline of 32 schools); and
  • $0.3M to implement online group mentoring to 500 school-aged students.

I CAN Schools and I CAN Online are for-fee programs, with two trained I CAN staff delivering each group mentoring session (at least one of the two staff being Autistic).

  • School mentoring sessions can benefit up to 16 students per session and cost a government school $417 per session. However the true cost to I CAN of one space in an I CAN School program (8-hours of mentoring) is ~$1,216.
  • Please note that many rural government schools pool their students and budgets together to resource inter-school programs for up to 16 students per program.

Online mentoring sessions cost a family $285 for 6 x 1-hour weekly online sessions. However the true cost of one space in a 6-week program is $310. 

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Whilst I CAN Ltd’s program fees cover its direct costs (mentor staff), they are not enough to cover its program management, administrative and systems development costs. To both maintain our programs and scale up our program with Victorian government schools and families we need investment in the following:

  • Program management (program delivery, quality assurance, ongoing content development, etc)
  • Evaluation and program impact measurement
  • Marketing
  • Human resources processes, staff compliance and training
  • CRM and IT administration
  • Finance and Business Analysis
  • Staff management
  • Support of CEO


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Jones, S., Lowe, J., Mizzi, S. (2022). Independent Evaluation: I CAN Network Mentoring Programs Final Report 15 December 2022, Australian Catholic University Research Impact Unit




© I CAN Network Ltd. 2024