Learning Support & Resource Teaching
Scoil Naomh Fiachra is a developing primary school on the outskirts of Letterkenny. There are currently 440 pupils on the rolls. There is a teaching staff of twenty-four including the administrative principal, three learning- support teachers and two resource teachers. A full time secretary, caretaker and cleaner are employed. There are two support teachers teaching English to those pupils whose first language is not English. The S.E.N. team look after a total of 82 pupils with varying special needs. There are six Special Needs Assistants employed by the Dept. of Education and Science, looking after eight of the children with special needs and they are deployed through the school when their pupils attend resource class. Scoil Naomh Fiachra also facilitates students of Childcare Post Leaving Certificate Courses from Errigal College, Letterkenny and they receive practical training, through working in the Infant classes. Transition year students are also accepted on placement in the school- usually one student per term, helping the teachers in a variety of classes. They would be involved in helping with general class duties.
Beliefs and Principles
The staff of Scoil Naomh Fiachra believes that the self- esteem of children is central to their educational development. Making learning a positive experience is given priority in the school. We believe that children learn at different rates, to different levels and in different ways, All staff work hard to ensure that each child has the opportunity to learn and feel a sense of achievement in their learning. The school aims to foster a relaxed, inclusive and safe environment where the children and staff are affirmed, praised and encouraged. The staff endeavors to work hard as a committed team by setting good examples to the children, recognising the importance of rules and the promotion of good behaviour.
The school recognise the importance of a consistent approach with regard to the learning and teaching of the curriculum and great value is placed on all children reaching their full potential. All areas of the curriculum are valued and the teachers work diligently to ensure that all pupils are provided with opportunities to explore and develop their skills within each area. Effective learning- support programmes are based on the following principles:
· Whole-school policies.
· Promote and celebrate success and achievement.
· Provision of early intervention.
· Direction of resources towards pupils in greatest need.
The principal aim of learning support is to optimise the teaching and learning process in order to enable pupils with learning difficulties to achieve within their capabilities levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy before leaving primary school.
The following subsidiary aims relating to the provision of learning support for pupils with low achievement and/or learning difficulties arise from the principal aim of learning support:
- To enable all pupils to have access to and participate in the curriculum for their appropriate and class level.
- To develop in all pupils a positive self-esteem and attitude to school and learning.
- To enable all pupils to have ownership of their own learning and become independent learners.
- To provide supplementary teaching and additional support and resources in English and/or mathematics.
- To involve parents in supporting their children’s learning through effective parent-support programmes.
- To ensure that early intervention programmes are in place.
- To develop programmes that enhance and support learning.
- To promote collaboration among teachers in the implementation of whole-school policies on teaching.
- Staff Roles and Responsibilities.
The Principal Teacher has overall responsibility for the school’s learning- support programme and for the operation of services for children with special educational needs. The principal teacher should assume responsibility, work with teachers and parents, monitor the implementation of the school plan, monitor the selection of pupils for supplementary teaching- ensuring that this service is focused on the pupils with very low achievement, oversee the implementation of a whole-school assessment and screening programme to identify pupils with difficulties and keep teachers informed about the external assessment services that are available and the procedures to be followed in initiating referrals.
The Co-ordinator’s duties include maintaining a register of pupils who are receiving supplementary teaching, helping to co-ordinate the caseloads,work schedules of the learning- support and resource teachers, advising parents, liaising with external agencies, arranging for classroom accommodation and resources, as appropriate and implementing a tracking system at whole- school level to monitor the progress of children with learning difficulties.
The Class Teacher has primary responsibility for the progress of all the pupils in their class including those selected for supplementary teaching. It is the responsibility of the class teacher to create a classroom environment in which learning difficulties are recognised and catered for. Lower- achieving pupils should be provided with strategies for reading and problem solving. Learning materials should be accessible and/or adapted for lower-achieving pupils. It is vital that the teacher both work and liaise with the parents.
Where a pupil is selected to receive supplementary teaching, it is essential that class teacher should contribute to developing the learning targets within the pupil’s Individual Profile and Learning Programme and to the planning and implementation of activities designed to attain those targets.
Where supplementary teaching cannot be provided for a pupil, or when support is being phased out or discontinued, the class teacher will need to develop and implement a support programme that continues to meet the pupils needs, This should be done in consultation with the learning- support teacher.
The Learning- Support Teacher’s brief is one of Supplementary Teaching, Collaboration and Consultation. The activities of the learning- support teacher should include:
Assisting in the implementation of a broad range of whole- school strategies designed to enhance early learning and to support learning difficulties;
Developing an Individual Profile and Learning Programme for each child who is selected for supplementary teaching in consultation with class teachers and parents;
Maintaining a Weekly Planning and Progress Record for each individual or group of pupils receiving learning support;
Delivering intensive intervention programmes and providing supplementary teaching in English and/or Maths to pupils.
- Co-ordinating the implementation for whole- school procedures for the selection of pupils for supplementary teaching, in line with the selection criteria specified in the school plan and input from the pupils’ class teachers and parents;
Contributing to the development of policy on Learning Support at the whole- school level, and at the cluster level;
Providing advice to class teachers for pupils experiencing learning difficulties in- individual pupil assessment, programme planning, differentiating the curriculum /activity, approaches to language development, reading and writing
- Contributing at the school level to decision-making regarding the purchase of learning resources, books and materials which are to be made available to pupils with learning difficulties, in their mainstream classrooms, in the school library and in the learning- support teacher’s classroom. Funds provided for these materials should not be limited to the learning- support grant provided by the Department of Education and Science;
Performing a defined role in co-ordinating the provision of special needs and learning support services in one or more schools, if requested to do so by the principal teacher(s).
Role of the Learning Support Teacher in a cluster of schools
Providing learning- support services in a cluster of schools face additional challenges in meeting the learning needs of pupils. The learning- support teacher should:
Develop and review a system that addresses how supplementary teaching can best be provided in a cluster of schools;
Attend meetings (convened at least once a year by the principal teacher of the base school and attended by the principal teacher of the other schools in the cluster) to address issues relating to the provision of learning-support services in all the schools in the cluster.Where possible, provide frequent (i.e. four or five times a week) intensive supplementary teaching to pupils experiencing low achievement in English.
- Arrange travel between schools in such a way that the frequency and intensity of the learning support are at the highest level possible.
It is vital that all staff with the school setting observe the importance of confidentiality at all times
Role Of Board of Management
To oversee the development, implementation and review of school policy in learning support in the base school and cluster schools.
To provide adequately for the special needs of the children attending the resource class, by overseeing the development, implementation and review of the provision of resources in Scoil N. Fiachra.
Provide a secure facility for storage of records in relation to pupils in receipt of special needs and learning- support services.
Agreeing approaches to language development and to teaching other aspects of English in order to ensure progression and continuity from class to class;
Informal screening in the early years through careful teacher observation- also through teaching colleagues liaising with one another and through the sharing of information and concerns.
Providing additional support to pupils who need it and intervening as early as possible;
Implementing a whole-school parent involvement programme that focuses on developing children’s oral language skills, sharing books with children and attaching importance of meeting all parents of new infants;
Implementing effective enrolment policies so that important information may be shared and passed on. e.g. identifying family patterns perhaps with regard to the parents own learning experiences, the involvement of outside agencies such as speech and language, important milestones of the chlid’s development so far.
Implementing paired- reading programmes involving adults in the community and pupils in the school;
Ongoing structured observation and assessment of the language, literacy and numeracy skills of pupils in the infant classes to facilitate early identification of possible learning difficulties.
Early Intervention Strategies
The principle of early intervention should underpin school policy on learning support and the provision of supplementary teaching programmes in English and maths. Research evidence indicates that the implementation of an intensive early intervention programmes in the early primary classes (i.e. senior infants to second) is an effective response to meeting the needs of children who experience low achievement and/or learning difficulties. Programmes have proved successful in improving pupils achievements when;
- They are set within a specific timeframe, such as an instructional term of 13 to 20 weeks.
- They are well matched to what the pupil is able to do, taking into account previous learning.
- They are based on a shared expectation of success by everyone involved;
- They involve small-group teaching or one-to-one teaching when small-group teaching has not been effective;
- They are intensive in terms of the frequency of lessons (daily where possible) the pace and repetition of instruction;
- They include a strong focus on the development of oral language, laying the foundation for meaningful reading activities and further development of language and comprehension skills;
- They emphasise the development of phonological awareness and a range of other word identification skills;
- They engage pupils in frequent supervised oral and silent reading of texts at appropriate levels of difficulty, and monitor their comprehension of these texts;
- They stress the interconnected nature of listening, speaking, reading and writing.
They are multi-sensory when ever possible, with use of concrete apparatus to support learning
Assessment and Reporting
Identification & Selecting Pupils for Supplementary Teaching
The needs of pupils with low achievement should, at all times, be the particular focus of the learning-support provision. Consistent use of standardised tests will help teachers make assessments on their pupils’ progress.
Based on the SERC (Special Education Review Committee) Report, pupils who achieve scores that are at or below the 10th percentile on standardised tests of achievement can be regarded as having low achievement. Therefore, the following recommendations are made with regard to the selection of pupils for supplementary teaching and learning support.
Order of children to receive learning support based on assessment
- Priority should be given to pupils who are performing at or below the 10th percentile in English reading.
- Senior Infants First Class- early intervention programmes for low achievers in English based on class teacher’s observations, recommendations and MIST test results.
- Pupil’s performing below the 10th percentile in standardised test of achievement in Mathematics.
- Senior Infants First Class- early intervention programmes for low achievers in maths based on class teacher’s observations and recommendations.
- Pupils performing below the 20th percentile in standardised test of achievement in English.
- Pupils performing below the 20th percentile in standardised test of achievement in Maths.
- Children above the 25th percentile are not normally entitled to learning support.
- Arrangements for providing supplementary teaching to pupils in the senior classes who experience very low achievement.
- The duration of supplementary teaching should not exceed two or three years, however in certain circumstances this may be subject to review.
The maximum number of pupils in the cluster is approximately 30 pupils. Priority will be given to those pupils whose achievement is lowest in agreed standardised tests.
Arrangements for providing frequent intensive supplementary teaching to the junior end of our school is a priority with 4 sessions per week.
Continuing and Discontinuing Supplementary Teaching
- A meeting at the end of each instructional term if possible with parents if the learning support is to be continued to discuss and review targets and attainments.
- A meeting at the end of each instructional term where the targets have been met and the pupil is performing above the percentile laid down in the criteria for receiving learning support and supplementary teaching is to be discontinued.
- Ongoing structured observation and assessment of the language, literacy and numeracy skills of pupils in the infant classes to facilitate early identification of possible learning difficulties by class teacher.
- Formative testing and observation of work by class teacher.
- Implement the school policies on screening and selecting pupils for supplementary teaching in English and in maths by administering and scoring appropriate screening measures-(Micra T Drumcondra reading test Sigma- T) each year.
- Standardised and diagnostic testing by learning support teacher.
- Record keeping- Children to have an individual file which should contain their profiles, IEPs (previous and present) reviews, records, test results, assessments and any reports from outside agencies. These files are to be kept in a secure filing cabinet.
Liaising with Parents
Effective communication with parents is vitally important to the success of a learning support programme. Activities may be organised to increase the involvement of parents in supporting their children’s learning, this may include
- Paired Shared reading
- Developing children’s oral language through discussion
- Motivating and encouraging children to read more at home
- Creating a home environment where literacy can thrive
- Selecting books that interest children
- Developing children’s reasoning and problem- solving.
- Counting, measuring and other activities involving number.
- Once a pupil has come to the attention of the school because of low achievement the class teacher needs to gather evidence and share concerns with the parents in a sensitive and supportive manner. This will ensure that the parents views about their child’s performance at school and at home can be shared with the school. When a child is selected for Learning Support, the parents must decline or accept the place in writing. (Draft Letter for this purpose)
- A meeting with the learning support teacher and the parents will take place following diagnostic assessment and prior to the commencement of supplementary teaching.
The Learning Support Teacher
- Should meet with the parents of each pupil who has been selected for diagnostic assessment.
- Should meet to discuss the results of assessment, the learning targets in the child’s IPLP IEP and the strategies to be used to meet and support the child’s learning.
- Should hold a meeting at the end of each term with the parents. In cases where supplementary teaching is to be continued discuss the revised learning targets and activities in the pupil’s individual learning plan. When teaching is to be discontinued this should be clearly explained to the parent with evidence to demonstrate why the child is no longer continuing with this level of support. Parents should be reassured that the child will continue to be monitored to ensure that they continue to make progress.
Links with outside agencies
The school will liaise with external agencies such as the psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, CAMHS, juvenile liaison officers and other members of the Garda Siochana, Youth Workers, social workers, to arrange special provision for pupils with special needs. Also to work as a team to share expertise and information so that the child’s individually needs can be fully met.
The school will maintain a register of pupils who are receiving supplementary resource teaching recording their level of support in line with the continuum of support and their specific needs in relation to learning. The school will apply for resources for special needs.
Monitoring and reviewing of policy
Monitoring of learning Support is an ongoing procedure. A meeting will be held yearly with the principal (or principals in the cluster) and the schools SEN team which will include the learning Support resource EAL teachers in order to review and update this policy.
- A letter should be sent to parents in order to outline the new guidelines on Learning Support.
While everyone’s role is clearly defined, consultation and collaboration is clearly vital. The school believes strongly in partnership- a working relationship that is characterised by a shared sense of purpose, mutual respect and willingness to negotiate. This implies a sharing of information, co-operation.Where the school, parents and pupils strive to work as a team. The school will endeavour to keep up to date with current thinking and research in planning programmes and meeting the needs of all pupils with an emphasis on those with specific and general learning difficulties.