St Mary’s College Learning Support Program
The Learning Support program at St Mary’s College consists of three areas of specialised support: English as Another Language, an extension program for gifted students and explicit instruction programs for students with special learning needs.
Special Learning Needs
The key components of the K-12 Learning Support – Special Learning Needs Program are literacy, numeracy, social skills and disability support.
Specialised literacy programs are available for students experiencing difficulties with reading, comprehension, spelling and written expression. They are devised according to individual student needs and are conducted in the classroom, in small groups or individually. Explicit teaching techniques are the primary mode of instruction to ensure that specific areas of need can be targeted.
The Learning Support teachers and aides work closely with class and subject teachers to ensure the needs of students with special literacy requirements are met and that the skills they learn in the small group transfer to the wider context of classroom activities.
There are two modes of numeracy support at St Mary’s College: within mathematics classes and/or small group explicit instruction in the Learning Support Centre.
The main focus of the numeracy support program in the Senior School is teacher and student support within the classroom. Programs and resources are negotiated according to the specific needs of individual students. Individual tuition is available at the discretion of the Mathematics teachers in consultation with the Mathematics Coordinator and the Learning Support teachers.
In the Junior School, students work on individual programs that target specific areas of difficulty in numeration and operations. Basic skills are taught in small groups in the Learning Support Centre.
Students with disabilities are included in all aspects of the school curriculum. The learning environment is modified to accommodate their special learning needs. Where a student has very specialised needs such as hearing impairment extra curricula programs such as Auslan are provided.
St Mary’s College initiated an Interschool Social Skills Program with participating Catholic Colleges in Southern Tasmania. The key objectives of the program are to support the students with special learning needs and disabilities to become socially independent and confident, and to learn effective communication and interaction skills with peers from other schools. The ultimate goal is for them to transfer the learned skills to social contexts within their own school environments and achieve greater participation in regular school activities.
Students with special learning needs are assessed along with their peers in the classroom. Assessment tasks are modified to ensure that they experience success and enhanced learning, or alternative methods of assessment are provided depending on the needs of the child. Every attempt is made to ensure that these tasks match the students’ learning strengths. Evaluation is from a wholistic perspective so that each assessment task is a learning task.
If staff or parents are concerned about any child’s learning they are able to formally refer him/her for assessment which may be formal or informal. These assessments in general ability, reading accuracy, comprehension, spelling and numeracy are administered after consultation with the parents and the child’s teacher. Hard copy reports of are made available to parents and electronic reports are made available to teachers.
As their child’s first educators parents are welcome at all times to be involved in the development and implementation of special programs. They are invited to participate in planning meetings and discussions about programming and evaluation for their child. Home programs are devised as requested.
Staff Development and Professional Learning
Within the College, teaching staff are encouraged to attend information sessions on the areas of learning difficulties and disability to assist them in understanding the needs of individual students in their classes.
Learning support staff are encouraged to engage in Professional Development specifically related to learning difficulties and disabilities, curriculum, assessment and evaluation, and reporting.