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Inclusive education in action at Grantley College

| January 23, 2020 | 0 Comments


Grantley College in Parktown, Johannesburg, is the benchmark for
inclusive mainstream education: a school where all young people can achieve academic success through comprehensive learning support in a
small class setting, and in a fully inclusive and compassionate mainstream learning environment.

As a specialist in inclusive education, as well as the study of the behavioural, emotional and social difficulties of young people, I have noticed that there are as many views on what inclusive education is as there are schools. That is why it is worth thinking about what inclusive
education actually entails.

Since the dawn of democracy in 1994, the education landscape in South Africa has changed dramatically. Inclusive mainstream education has become an aspiration of a nation. Education leaders have actively started to explore how to implement teaching and learning strategies that ensure all
learners have the chance to participate in all learning opportunities, notwithstanding their individual abilities and barriers to learning. The case for children who have various barriers to learning and who continue their education in mainstream schools is well researched and supported across the globe.1

To understand the significance of inclusive education is to understand that inclusion is not the by-product of a democratic society, it is the driving force thereof. Therefore, every inclusion model would need to be developed around the following pillars of inclusion: (a) comprehensive specialist learning support, (b) individualised education plans, (c) high expectations and accountability, and (d) a compassionate school culture within a
mainstream learning environment.

During the past 23 years, I have had the opportunity to study inclusive education practices in the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, and now in South Africa, at Grantley College. All these countries have the following aspects of inclusion in common: inclusion is inextricably linked to top tier teaching and learning, it makes use of innovative learning strategies, and it is inseparable from data-driven teaching practices and integrated psycho-educational support that form the heart and lungs of every child’s academic and emotional progress. The fact is that every child has the ability to learn, but not always in the same way, and not always within the same time frame – but every child can achieve success. All of these aspects are integral to how we approach teaching and learning at Grantley College. This places the school at the forefront of fully inclusive education in South Africa.

Every day is an open day

Jordan Lang (Grade 8)

Choosing the next phase of a child’s educational journey, especially for those parents of children who have had their fair share of hurdles to overcome, is probably one of the most difficult choices parents make. By the time a child arrives at the doors of Grantley College, they have experienced a wide range of remedial interventions, psycho-educational testing and
learning challenges. Finding the right place for a child who needs comprehensive support is not easy, and that is why Grantley doesn’t limit parents and children to visiting the school on one formal ‘open day’ per year. At Grantley, every day is an open day, and visitors can enjoy a day of meeting the teachers and other learners, and experiencing the fully inclusive learning environment.

Every child can read: The research proves it

Sinead Dovey (Grade 8)

On arriving at the school, the first place the child and parents are introduced to is the Reading Hub. The Hub is open from early in the morning, and is a happy space where learners can read, do homework, chat and study together. It also creates the sense that reading is fun and is something everybody can enjoy.

This is important, because reading is the single most important learning skill a young person must master. Yet, because of various other barriers to learning, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), high-functioning autism and generalised anxiety, reading skills (despite strong
primary foundations) often fall by the wayside during the child’s academic journey towards secondary school and beyond. At Grantley, the importance of reading, in terms of fluency, accuracy, comprehension and word recognition, is vitally important for success in Grade 12. The Reading Recovery programme is at the cutting edge of innovative teaching and learning strategies. It is based on proven educational assessments, conducted by the in-house Learning Support Unit (LSU) – a team made
up of a psychometrist, two educational psychologists and a researcher in the psychology of education – to provide a clear baseline from which every child’s reading skills can be developed. The programme, which runs through Grade 8 and 9 (and soon Grade 10 as well), makes use of two hours of dedicated Reading Recovery time per week to help learners develop and sharpen their reading skills. Quantitative data, based on a test-retest design, have shown a statistically significant improvement in reading skills. In the same way, the transference of these skills has also been evident in the
diagnostic analyses of learner progress in national Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) subjects across these grades.

Comprehensive learning support in a compassionate environment

Udhayan Reddy (Grade 8)

The second place visitors will be shown is the LSU. Learning support is one of the areas where Grantley is leading the way towards the future of inclusive education practices in South Africa. In addition to Reading Recovery, every Grade 8 and 9 learner receives an individual education plan (IEP) – a working document that facilitates effective communication
between the LSU, teachers and parents, according to which their individual learning needs are assessed and interventions are planned. Comprehensive scholastic baseline testing forms part of a holistic view of each child – which, in turn, informs the LSU team of the specific learning needs of each learner.

An additional two hours of curriculum time per week is dedicated to bridging academic skills gaps in Grades 8 and 9. During the IEP lessons, the LSU team works in small groups (maximum four learners per adult) to address and improve learning deficits. Fundamental learning tools such as language and comprehension skills, mathematics, Afrikaans and spelling
receive specific attention to ensure that learners are better equipped to access the CAPS curriculum.

Comprehensive communication

Parents play a significant part in providing comprehensive learning support. What sets Grantley aside in the inclusive education community is the continuous communication that exists between the school and home. In addition to normal progress reports, the LSU team provides parents with a written narrative of their child’s continuous progress and development, as well as an in-person report of the results of scholastic testing, their child’s IEP progress, subject choice assessment feedback and general guidance to the best options for the further education and training (FET) phase.

Technology and inclusive education

Insofar as each child learns in a different way and at a different pace, the LSU team also provides intensive individual support to those learners who need extra time and an emotionally secure space. Exam concessions form a large part of how learners are supported during assessments. This includes making use of a wide variety of technology-based and individual professional amanuenses. Technology at Grantley is used judiciously, with
specific individual outcomes in mind.

An emotionally safe space

Damon Honeywill (Grade 8)

During their visit to Grantley, visitors will have the opportunity to be part of a unique social experience. Friendships at Grantley span age and grade groups, and a real sense of family is evident during break times. An evident characteristic of Grantley learners is kindness, and the school community
prides itself on being welcoming and accepting of diversity. Essentially, Grantley College’s goal is to provide an emotionally safe space in which each learner can thrive. This is vital, because emotions and the ability to learn are inextricably linked. That is why compassion is the cornerstone of Grantley’s inclusive education provision.

Professional interpersonal relationships with the well-trained and empathetic teachers and learning support staff are fundamental to the positive change in young people with specific social, emotional and behavioural needs. Moreover, emotional support is fundamental to academic progress at Grantley. The team of Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)-registered educational psychologists provide
ongoing therapeutic support as part of the Grantley learning experience. All staff have a comprehensive understanding of the individual needs of the learners and are in constant confidential conversation with the LSU to ensure that specific learning and emotional needs are met.

More than one road leads to success

 Konke Sikhosana (Grade 8)

During the day, visitors will have a discussion with the principal, Lesley Visser, to help parents and their child make some important decisions about learning at Grantley. While the school understands that high academic expectations are the strongest motivating factor in a learner’s life, it is also clear that success is the product of comprehensive support and a team of teachers who know how to get the best out of each individual learner. In short, success is the result of hard work, a sense of curiosity and undefeatable grit. Significantly so, success is also the result of multiple pathways to achieving a passport for the future. That is why Grantley’s National Certificate in Hospitality (NCH) and National Certificate in Tourism
Entrepreneurship (NCTE) are ground-breaking approaches to equal, parallel pathways to post-Grade 12 employment, education and training.

Top-tier teaching, learning and support

Priela Tendayi (Grade 8)

Grantley’s full complement of teachers and learning support professionals are themselves active learners. They share a passion for helping learners overcome barriers to learning, a deep conviction that every child matters and an insatiable drive to learn more. Few Grantley teachers and support staff don’t have postgraduate qualifications, and several teachers are
actively pursuing master’s qualifications in inclusive education. Not only does the school’s integrated continuous professional development programme ensure that teachers stay abreast of the most recent research in teaching, learning and assessment, but they also role-model lifelong learning. This drive for self development has helped Grantley to become established as a centre of excellence in inclusive education within the educational psychologist community.

The annual HPCSA-accredited Psychologists’ Breakfast has become a calendar favourite for educational and counselling psychologists across Gauteng. The catering (done by Grantley’s hospitality students) is superb, and the high-quality presenters and workshop facilitators have meant that the annual event has become oversubscribed.

A premier high school experience

 Ethan Liasides (Grade 8)

During parents’ and their child’s visit to the school, there may be some aspect of the Grantley calendar they may not have experienced. However, when any future learner decides to join the Grantley family, they can expect a premier high school experience during the five years they will spend there.

A vibrant school with happy learners

 Martin Greenblatt

• From Valentine’s Day to the annual matric dance, Grantley College is a school where every aspect of high school life is experienced and celebrated.

• Social networking is not limited to screens on smart devices – interpersonal relationships and social capital play important roles in the value-added learning at Grantley College.

• Termly awards assemblies are celebrations of the school’s values (grit, leadership, kindness and honour), as well as the academic progress and success of the learners. Every term, our honours students are treated to a burger meal with the principal, and our annual celebration evening is
one of the highlights on the Grantley calendar.

• Learner voices are celebrated in more ways than one: an active Student Representative Council, Grade 12 prefect body and the Emerging Leaders programme (including leadership development camps) help develop interpersonal relationship and leadership skills across all ages at school.
In the same way, a sense of financial responsibility and social responsibility are fostered through learner participation in the Grantley Charity Club and the annual Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) drive.

• The gym is an active space where table tennis, boxing and aerobic activities support our philosophy of a healthy body and healthy mind, and our soccer field has seen many victories for both our junior and senior teams.


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Category: Summer 2019

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News posts added for Independent Education by Global Latitude DMA

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