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Small schools ideal for overcoming learning challenges



It’s vital to dispel the misconception that learning challenges hinder academic success. In reality, with the use of effective strategies and support systems, students can excel in spite of these obstacles.

A thorough assessment of each student’s unique set of strengths and weaknesses is crucial. In this way, specific learning needs can be identified and addressed, and tailored learning approaches employed.

It’s important to harness the power of personalised learning. I’ve found that a smaller school provides a more conducive environment as it allows the school to take a “whole-child” approach by looking at the academic, emotional, and social aspects of the student. Working closely with teachers and training them in inclusive teaching practices is key, and this benefits all students.

Adaptive technologies such as “read aloud” and voice-to-text tools for students with dyslexia and dysgraphia, as well as individualised support is vital in bridging the gap for students facing learning difficulties.

Diverse teaching methods in the form of assisting students with organisation and time management skills helps them to manage the workload by breaking down large tasks into smaller chunks. At exam time, study skills and exam preparation groups greatly enhance students’ comprehension and learning.

The meticulous process of applying to the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) for accommodations is pivotal. Extra time, the use of a computer, scribes, reader, spelling, handwriting accommodations, prompting, rest breaks, and practical assistance are some of the concessions that students with specific learning barriers can benefit from in tests and exams.

A comprehensive subject-choice assessment process in Grade 9 and exposing students to a wide variety of careers and job shadowing experiences in Grade 11 prepares students well for the constantly evolving world of work.

Moreover, it’s important that the learning environment is supportive and inclusive so that students are held emotionally and socially. Adolescents’ lives are suddenly filled with choices and responsibilities as they move towards greater independence: making and keeping friends; resolving conflict; dealing with bullying, social media and body image; learning about substances and their effects; and handling loss and trauma.

Supporting students’ mental health is vital at a time in which the future is scary and uncertain for all of us.

Regular communication between students, teachers, and parents, as well as counselling helps students with learning challenges feel empowered and capable of achieving their academic goals.

The class of 2023 at King David High School Victory Park had a particularly large cohort of students with learning barriers. Through the commitment of the teaching and support staff, the vast majority of these students are poised to achieve excellent matric results, giving them access to degree courses at universities locally and abroad.

  • Gita Lipschitz is senior social worker at the educational support department at King David High School Victory Park.

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