Resting on a bedrock of 118 years of tradition and excellence in education, Highbury Preparatory School in Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, is known for its strong values and sense of family. The community within the school is tangible, and acceptance, inclusion and diversity are part of our core principles. The school’s motto is ‘Jamais Arriere,’ which means ‘Never Behind’.
Some time back, as our school looked ahead to the future, we became increasingly aware of the growing number of our boys experiencing learning difficulties. For that reason, it became a priority of both the educators and the school board that at Highbury, all learners experiencing barriers to their learning should be accommodated. There should be no need for any boy to leave Highbury in order to receive full-time remedial teaching.
This is how the Learner Support Centre (LSC) was birthed eight years ago. We consulted with remedial schools in our area and further afield and considered the latest technologies available, always bearing in mind that the needs of our boys must be at the heart of the new unit.
We knew that it was imperative for the boys in the LSC to remain fully integrated into all areas of school life, including socially, on the sports field and in the cultural arena. Part of the process has been breaking down outdated stigmas regarding remedial education and creating a new narrative. Setting up the LSC has been a journey that has required much investment, but a journey that has resulted in many rewards.
A fluid model
The LSC was purpose-built within the heart of the school property. The centrally located classrooms are equipped with anti-flicker lighting, air conditioning, global frequency modulation (FM) systems and carpeting.
In each grade at Highbury there are four classes, three of them mainstream and one remedial. The inclusion of the remedial teacher and the boys in the remedial class into the grade as a whole, allows for a fluid model. Movement of boys into and out of the LSC is governed by each child’s individual needs.
The unit offers full-time remedial support for short-term remedial candidates in Grades 1-4, with step-down support thereafter. The boys in the remedial mclass maintain friendships within the larger grade base, and they are able to shine in non-academic areas such as soccer, robotics or orchestra, which are offered by a school of Highbury’s size.
Early intervention is key to successful and happy primary school years, and so the Aptitude Test for School Beginners (ASB) is administered to all Grade R learners. This provides valuable insight and information regarding our learners’ needs. From here learners with specific challenges are identified and full educational assessments are undertaken.
This allows us to identify potential, as well as areas of strength and difficulty. Parents are involved in regular conversations to ensure commitment to the journey on which their son will embark.
The curriculum covered in the LSC is the same as that within the mainstream classes,. However, the pace can be adjusted and different learning styles can be accommodated, as the groups are small and the teachers are qualified in remedial education.
Remedial learners are measured against the same grade criteria as mainstream learners, which enables staff to create a clear picture of outcomes achieved and when it is best to move a child back into a mainstream class. We have found that parents are receptive to clear and honest communication regarding their son’s achievements and areas of challenge in relation to their grade standards.
As a result of this model, we have noted that the cohesion and camaraderie to which our school has become accustomed, has remained intact. Differences in learning styles and pace can be acknowledged without creating division.
Perceptions of remediation and learning difficulties have been changed for the better. A wider acceptance and understanding has developed, not only amongst the parent body, but also amongst the boys. Our LSC boys have proven to be our risk-takers, ‘out of the box’ thinkers, entrepreneurs and coding enthusiasts. These young boys display perseverance and grit. They aim to be our future leaders and our innovators.
Our learner support model has grown and developed over the past eight years. We are proud that our boys are able to acknowledge their learning differences, receive the support and remediation they require, and confidently complete their primary school years. We have seen many successes as our boys move into the high schools of their choice.
Our pupils are at the core of all our decisions and our drive to do better, because once you are a Highbury boy, you are always a Highbury boy!