I want to learn about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom
If you are keeping up to date with my blog and reading it daily, you will be familiar with my third goal for this placement quoted above. Today’s main learning focus for myself was Learning Support in my fantastic placement school. This is a part of school life I myself have had a lot to do with as a child. Readers for my previous posts will know that I went through the Gaelic curriculum in the Highlands of Scotland but may not know that I actually have severe dyslexia which was discovered at 14. I am very open and honest about it and throughout primary school struggled with reading, spelling and especially Gaelic language. After my father was ill and passed away, a lot of my work slipped further and this was put down to what was happening in my home life. Not till I was 14 did anyone spot that there might be more to it and sent me for a screening. After being diagnosed with severe dyslexia, the only support I was given by the school was extra time in exams even with me and my mother crying out for more support. The exception a was few individual teachers who were kind enough to give up their own time recording notes for me to listen back to and giving me one to one support. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The reasoning the school couldn’t support me further was down to funding and time and like so many others, my schooling may have been so different if this hadn’t been the case. So, my experience was not great, but this was 5 years ago now and times have changed since I was at school. Here is a good video explaining what Additional Support Needs in Scotland are currently recognised to be.
Today, I was able to have a chat with the Head of Learning Support for Moulsford which is where I have received the majority of the information for todays blog post. Moulsfords Learning Support is constantly busy as they have over 50 boys who need support from 4 full time and 2 part time Learning Support teachers. Their work ranges from one to one support to early morning group working interventions and it is massively supported by the other staff in the school and used well. The interventions and resources used vary from child to child but some that we discussed were for reading and maths recovery, group work and extra time in exams. At Moulsford, similar to the practice I am used to seeing in Scotland, additional support can be long and short term. It can range from the child having an additional support need (long term) to a parent being unwell (long/short term) to the child having a broken wrist and being unable to write (short term). No matter what the support is, no child is turned away and every child is catered for. Additionally, the school also have additional language and speech therapists, occupational therapists, school counselors and many other visiting support staff to support the children in any way they may need.
Learning Support at Moulsford is well catered for as it is integrated into every classroom as well as 3 individual rooms being used for one to one support. If you go to Moulsford all over the school you will see these dyslexia posters provided by TES, informing staff at the school what to look out for in students work.
But how does all this compare with the Learning Support in Scotland? For a state school in Scotland, they must have support in place for children with additional support needs after The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (and the amended 2009 version) was passed and are currently enforcing it through Getting it Right for Every Child and the Curriculum For Excellence in schools across the country. Iain Nisbet also chairs The Advisory Group for Additional Support for Learning in Scotland, who focus on eight areas related to additional support for learning over a two year period at a time.
However, some may say the Learning Support at a private school like Moulsford also has a serious drawback. Unlike in Scottish/English state schools where any support given via the school or outside support staff (i.e. NHS) is totally free, at a private school, one to one Learning Support is charged on top of the fees their parents already pay. Moreover, I personally see the benefits to this as in Scottish/English state schools and the NHS, money is drastically being withdrawn and children are being turned away constantly and therefore not receiving the support they need. See here for more. At Moulsford every child in Year 3 is screened for additional support needs and then after that teachers and parents can raise concerns where the child may be screened again. Once a child has been screened and an additional support need flagged, the child will have an Individual Educational Plan drawn up for them – similar to the ones I have seen schools use in Scotland. The whole system at Moulsford is amazing, nowhere else have I seen every child being screened for support needs at Year 3 and wonder if I had been given a screening at the same age for my dyslexia, would it have been spotted and schooling made easier for me?
I cannot change my own past and experience through the Scottish education system, but can certainly say that my point of view is that the Learning Support team at Moulsford have absolutely got it right from their screenings to the resources they use to the range of support staff who come into the school. In Scotland, I think we could learn a lot from the Learning Support team at Moulsford and would do well to take on board some of their practices and values. Before my meeting with the head of Learning Support ended, I had enough time to ask one final question which was “What piece of advice would you give to me as a trainee teacher for spotting and then supporting children who have additional support needs?” The advice given was to use differentiation, early intervention and if something doesn’t seem right, to always question it. This is advice which I am sharing so that I can not only enhance my own practice but readers may be able to so as well. I can certainly say that today has been one of the most educational for me so far, definitely hitting one of my goals for this placement. They are a lovely team and I look forward to learning more from the Learning Support team more over the next four weeks.