MECS Blog

Education Support

Education Support

Thursday, 24 August 2017  | Di - Assistant Principal - Primary
Over recent weeks some of our students have been preparing to be part of the ‘Tournament of the Minds (TOM)’. Students work in teams to create a presentation around set criteria and to solve various challenges through critical and creative thinking. Last year our Primary team won their way through to the State finals. In preparation for the event selected students have worked with our Education Support enrichment programs and Education Support teachers Gen and Leonie.

This is one of the many ways in which our Education Support teams work with students to create a faithful learning environment and to meet individual needs; in this case, enriching those students who have a passion for learning and problem solving to collaborate with their peers and demonstrate their skills and talents in engaging, vibrant ways.

MECS is well attuned to meeting individual learning needs and providing best practice in tailor making educational programs so students can reach their potential, whilst maintaining a rich and lively learning environment for all students. Differentiation for students can look ‘different’ right across the school. It can be as diverse as being involved in TOM or the ACMI screen challenge competition (see below) or it might be as simple as having built in breaks to learning times to assist concentration. Sometimes you might see students climbing the play equipment or running the oval during lesson time. They are building their ability to concentrate and get the most out of a lesson. The student who is cooking pizza with a learning assistant is reading, building oral language skills and practical mathematical skills, not merely getting out of class and work. The student who is having a break from class to bounce a ball is employing calming techniques allowing for better concentration for themselves and the class. What might look like 'fun' is tailor made, best practice learning that is meeting the goals and needs of individual students at their point of need. Some of our students receive extra government funding on a range of needs. Whether a student is parent funded or government funded for extra assistance in their learning, they qualify for an Individual Educational Program (IEP).

An IEP is formulated to specifically target individual areas students need support in. These areas can be academic, behavioral, emotional and/or social. Student Support Group Meetings (SSGs) are held in place of Parent Teacher Meetings twice a year. At these meetings a collaborative team, including the class teacher, Education Support Coordinator, education support teacher, parents and, at times, other professionals, such as speech pathologists or occupational therapists, work together to celebrate progress, discuss challenges, review goals and formulate a new IEP. "As part of the IEP, goals are formulated to target specific areas of need. The IEP outlines the strategies and resources which will be used to support students to achieve their goals. A general learning plan outlining the time the student has allocated Learning Assistant support is also incorporated.” Gen

The media in recent weeks would tell us that all schools are experiencing an increased need for more individualised support for students. In an article in The Australian, Kenneth Wiltshire of the UQ Business School and co-chairman of the review of the national curriculum and Australia’s representative on the executive board of UNESCO states that “students with various forms of intellectual disability are probably now of the order of 12 per cent of the total school population and growing exponentially.” He also asserts that schools need to keep working to meet the needs of students in practical and focused ways not just in philosophies. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/

MECS is not immune to the increased needs in our society. Our school has the same needs as other schools. At MECS we want to respond in the best way to meet student needs with a very wide range of learning requirements, including those with disabilities. We want to honour all our students in their learning and to create a learning environment that allows everyone to thrive, both our mainstream students, students who academically excel, and those with disabilities. We do not disadvantage mainstream students by providing quality programs for those with extra needs. In fact research is telling us that it can be beneficial to all students. ‘Inclusive Education for students with a disability: A review of the best evidence in relation to theory and practice’, states “by providing explicit or multi-faceted instruction (aimed at ensuring students with disability are able to access the curriculum), there is often an unintended positive effect on academic attainment by other students in the classroom." Boyle, et al. (2011) (p. 73). We see that by up-skilling our teachers to adapt curriculum, be inclusive in the way they teach, and to differentiate well, all students benefit.

Tournament of Minds

This year we have two Senior Primary teams participating in the Tournament of Minds. Both teams will compete at Lilydale Mercy College on Saturday 26 August.
Teams work collaboratively to solve a Long Term Challenge over 6 weeks and also present a solution to a Spontaneous Challenge on Challenge Day. At present, one Senior Primary team is working on solving a Long Term Social Sciences Challenge and the other is developing a solution for a Language Literature Challenge.
TOM seeks to provide the stimulation of real, open-ended challenges, develop creative problem solving approaches and techniques, foster cooperative learning and team work, promote knowledge and appreciation of self and others, expand and develop creative and divergent thinking, stimulate a spirit of inquiry and a love of learning, develop enterprise and celebrate excellence.

ACMI Screen It! Competition

During Term 2 a group of Senior Primary students (Kai, Elisha, Jason, Noah, Patrick, Mia & Makedde) were selected to participate in a Senior Primary Enrichment Group (SPEG) focussing on storytelling and using technology to create animation.
Three teams collaborated to create an animation for the Australian Centre of Moving Image (ACMI) - SCREEN IT! 2017 Competition. Screen It! is a national competition for school-aged filmmakers, animators and game developers. The theme for the competition was 'Time'.
The SPEG workshops taught and encouraged students to use a variety of creative techniques and approaches to express themselves using the moving image. Teams also developed skills in problem solving, planning and collaboration.
Each team worked together to brainstorm a story around the theme. They created the sets and characters with modelling clay, cardboard and Lego. Using the animation software “SMOOVIE” and iMovie each team recorded and edited their animation.

Sometimes we can be challenged in our own desires, hopes and dreams when we need to accommodate others, understand that they learn differently and/or whose needs are greater. In Leviticus 23:22 we read “When you harvest your land, don’t reap the corners..leave them for the poor.” God commanded that the corners of the fields be left uncut so those who were less fortunate could reap the fields and not go hungry. Those who were generous and trusted God left large corners. Let us leave large corners for all students. Let us open our hearts and minds to embrace difference and use our resources wisely so all children can learn well and flourish.

Further reading:
KENNETH WILTSHIRE ‘Intellectual disabilities are more common than ever and demand a renewed focus’
Saturday July 1, 2017 issue of The Australian Digital Edition.
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/.
https://www.aracy.org.au/publications-resources/command/download_file/id/246/filename/Inclusive_education_for_students_with_disability_-_A_review_of_the_best_evidence_in_relation_to_theory_and_practice.pdf 
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