A little extra help
- Credit: Archant © 2011
Most parents are convinced their children are – or could be – bright, talented, gifted and socially popular too. But what if they are leaps ahead, or way behind, their classmates?
Schools have to meet the needs of all pupils, from the brightest to those finding work confusing, from those being bullied to those bullying.
There’s a team at every school tasked with ensuring no-one slips through the net.
If parents, or the school, feel a child would benefit from additional help to stretch them further, help them keep up or assist with social skills, the first step is always to talk to each other.
Claire Harding, the special education needs co-ordinator (SENCO) at Magdalene House, prep school for Wisbech Grammar, explains: “These things are picked up by our teachers and classroom assistants in the initial stages. It may be that the child is not learning or starting to read like the other children in the class and the teacher comes to talk informally to me.”
She says difficulties may include reading, writing or motor control and, with agreement from the parents, the child may take a dyslexia-screening test. Depending on the result, an independent diagnostic assessment follows to see exactly the strengths and weaknesses. Children exhibiting other issues, such as fine motor control difficulties or behavioral difficulties may be assessed by outside agencies, such as occupational therapists and educational psychologists. Schools will support parents to access these assessments and help via their GP.
Claire adds that every pupil in Prep Three is tested for dyslexia. “We test everyone because until then some children will compensate for their difficulties. With dyslexia for instance, they are very bright verbally and can just about manage to get what they want down on paper.”
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She urges parents to approach schools if they have any concerns.
John Crofts, headmaster at Glebe House School in Hunstanton, agrees parents are a vital part: “One of the joys of teaching is to work with parents to ensure that lessons learned at school are reinforced at home and vice versa. In this way, independent schools, with their high teacher to pupil ratios, are best placed to pick up on children who, for whatever reason, are struggling with work or relationships and to sympathetically deal with an issues.
“Equally they are able to extend the brightest or offer support for a highly talented sports player, musician, artist, actor etc, through in-school clubs or by accompanying them to external clubs. In this way parents can be reassured that the pastoral care system has their child’s needs at its core.”
Come on, Kumon
Maths teacher, and mum, Rachael Drake was so impressed with children following the Kumon system of extra maths and English she has set up her own branch. She’s opened a Kumon centre in Wymondham, and there are others in the Norwich and King’s Lynn areas.
Kumon works with children from three to 16, with children learning and then reinforcing through repetition on a “little and often” system. They complete 10-20 minutes at home daily, and attend the Kumon class once or twice a week.
The Kumon programme runs up to university entrant level and children progress at their own pace, so 10 year olds may be doing A-Level work, or working to catch up with children of their own age.
“Kumon aims to get them above where they should be at school within a year,” adds Rachael.
The National Association for Gifted and Talented Children runs a support network; www.nagcbritain.org.uk
Competitive Edge is Norfolk County Council’s scheme for gifted and talented pupils in PE and sport; www.norfolk.gov.uk
Help along the way
The mother of John, 15, tells us how his additional education needs were identified. He is just starting year 11 in a south Norfolk high school.
“When he left playgroup his keyworker said he may need extra help later, so we knew very early on. In year three at primary school his teacher thought he would benefit from some extra help. He was assessed and we were told he was borderline dyslexic and had slight learning difficulties.
“As far as I am concerned if my children need help then let’s get it. They assessed him again a year later and a statement (of special education need) was put in place. He is assessed every year to see if his needs have changed. The reports have always said he tries really hard. At primary school he had someone one-on-one for 20 hours a week, while at high school he gets extra help from the teaching assistant in class.
“He is doing one less GCSE than some others and that time is spent one-on-one. It has been worth it. When he takes his exams he will get extra time and if he needs it someone will read the questions for him. I know it’s harder now to get a statement, but it’s been so good for John.”