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“We’ve really been able to run”: The impact of learning support coordinators

Issue: Volume 99, Number 10

Posted: 29 June 2020
Reference #: 1HA8dG

The addition of two learning support coordinators at Avonside Girls’ High School has made a world of difference to what the school’s learning support team is able to achieve within the school community.

Kirsty Clark, Katrina Boxall and Angela Dye Hayes are taking a collaborative approach to implementing the Learning Support Delivery Model.

Kirsty Clark, Katrina Boxall and Angela Dye Hayes are taking a collaborative approach to implementing the Learning Support Delivery Model.

The learning support team at Avonside Girls’ High School in Christchurch works out of the school’s Enrichment Centre, an open-plan, open-access space located at the heart of the school for students to access the learning support they require. 

Head of Learning Support Katrina Boxall, with the support of her team and the school’s senior leadership, has led a whole-school approach to learning support, implementing the Learning Support Delivery Model to ensure that every learner is receiving the right support at the right time. This approach extends to working with agencies and alongside other schools in their cluster to support smooth transitions for students.

Learning support registers

Over the past few years, Avonside Girls’ High School’s learning support register has been strengthened as steps have been taken to identify and understand the full range of students’ learning needs, which currently include specific learning difficulties, sensory impairments and self-regulation challenges. 

Learning support registers are useful because they provide a consistent way to talk about learning support needs, show the number of learners who need support, and help track learners’ progress over time.

However, despite progress, Katrina was beginning to feel her role wasn’t sustainable. 

“I’d been attempting to implement a range of initiatives and while it appeared change was impacting individual students well, I just couldn’t put the wheels on the ground for other, more wide-ranging, interventions. I could advise, guide and suggest, but I couldn’t put enough of the physical support to enable that to happen.”

Upon hearing that Avonside Girls’ was among the first tranche of schools to be allocated learning support coordinators (LSCs), Principal Sue Hume and the leadership team made the strategic decision to retain Katrina’s SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) role and expand the capacity and capability of the learning support team with the addition of two LSCs. The team also includes six learning support assistants.

Real commitment

Katrina says she is proud of the school’s approach and believes it shows a real commitment to providing targeted and meaningful support for the learners in their wider community.

They were clear from the outset what skill sets they needed within the new positions to deliver this support: a specific learning difficulties teacher and a primary teacher, preferably with RTLB experience, who would be able to assist in the drive for school improvement.

Kirsty Clark and Angela Dye Hayes emerged from the recruitment process as the new LSCs and started their new roles at the beginning of 2020. Katrina says they’re already having a positive impact on what the learning support team is able to achieve within the school community and wider cluster of schools. 

Consistency in practice

Kirsty and Angela meet several times a term with the LSCs from their cluster to discuss issues pertinent to their Kāhui Ako, provide resources in their relevant specialist areas and to ensure some consistency in practice and procedure.

The LSCs compare notes on the learning support register, making sure it is fit for purpose and aligns with the priorities in the the Learning Support Action Plan – a plan that helps guide the cluster’s approach to learning support delivery. They are conscious of being flexible and adaptable, in order to meet the burgeoning needs across their wider school community. 

“Transition between schools has been an early focus, ensuring our language around specific learning needs and behavioural difficulties has been consistent and therefore informative,” says Katrina. 

It is evident that students are appreciating increased access to support for their learning. 

“Students are increasingly advocating for their own needs because the response is quicker, more visible and tailored to their needs,” says Katrina.

Staff engagement

Engagement with staff has increased, more students are being supported in a range of flexible ways, and they’re much further down the track with getting external support when needed. 

“We’ve really been able to run. I’m really thrilled with how quickly we’ve been able to gain momentum.”

Related article: New LSCs find their stride(external link)

Learning support coordinator Kirsty Clark with Enrichment Centre team member Salaneta Ioane and student Zakea.

Learning support coordinator Kirsty Clark with Enrichment Centre team member Salaneta Ioane and student Zakea.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:21 am, 29 June 2020

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