This, the penultimate Academic Newsletter for this half term, has a slight change of focus as it is designed to introduce the topic of “Learning Difficulties”. The mandate for this is to educate and enlighten on the issues that many face on a day-to-day basis. At Royal School, we have a policy which limits the numbers of students who need specific support, to 10% per class. Whilst this is a difficult number to maintain because a class with, for example only ten students and two staff members can easily manage one or even two students with specific and divergent needs, we do try to stick to this policy to ensure that the best education is on offer for all students and all students receive the same amount of individual focus and attention. However, the problems upon which I will touch today cannot be ignored both inside and outside of the classroom. I trust that this newsletter will begin to shed some light on the learning difficulties faced by students and the wider community.
From here, the following three Academic Newsletters will be written by our resident expert, Mrs Mery Blaga and I would ask only, that if you have further questions on this specific matter (all of which will be held in the strictest of confidence) you email Mrs Blaga direct via email@example.com
Identification – What are Learning Difficulties?
Unfortunately I cannot profess to be an expert here, though having been exposed to and having worked with children (and adults) who display a vast range of difficulties inside and outside of the classroom, and in the workplace, I feel as though I have at least a small handle on the nuances.
Learning difficulties, as far as I can find (I am sure Mrs Blaga will enlighten us more in the forthcoming issues) were first tangibly identified in the late 19th century and since then we have come to learn so much more about the issues faced by individual children whilst undertaking formal schooling and lifelong learning. What many people take for granted: the ability to interact as part of a team, the ability to operate independently, the ability to write cogently, the ability to read either prose or mathematical figures or the ability to simply socialise, others find incredibly difficult. The range of difficulties is as wide as the number of people who experience such difficulties and, I suppose, it is clear that each case needs to be dealt with on an individual basis – through diagnosis, prognosis, development and strategies.
What is clear to me through my own experience is the fact that labelling can be very dangerous but at the same time incredibly beneficial. If a school and the teachers of a child know and understand what the individual child’s issues are, then they are better placed to help the child find their place in the world.
Most teachers in most schools have some experience of dealing with children with learning difficulties and also have the ability to notice when something is not happening as it should, or as is planned. Initially a teacher will look to themselves to see if they are the fault behind the disconnect but very often, after much soul searching, one discovers that there is a barrier to learning presenting itself to the individual child. This is where identification is key. The earlier a child can be identified as having learning difficulties, the earlier a level of understanding from the professional can be reached and the earlier the child can be aided.
In this sense it is important to trust the teacher, who can be spending up to eight hours per day with the child and, if asked, be as open and honest as possible when meeting with the teacher to discuss such a sensitive issue and the recommended pathways forward. A difficult time is when parents bury their respective heads in the proverbial sand and refuse to accept that there is something wrong with the child: this actually serves to damage the relationship between the teacher and the parents as a feeling of mistrust can arise. The heart of the message here is: early diagnosis and honesty helps.
I am not going to enter into the tunnel of attempting to explain the multitude of difficulties faced by many. The focus over the forthcoming few weeks will, I hope, blow away the clouds with which, for many of us understanding learning difficulties are covered. But there is a wealth of research which suggests that children who have no barriers to learning actually benefit from working with children who do have barriers: their empathic skills develop, their academic skills develop because they actually affirm their own learning by teaching and supporting others and they develop a level of understanding which helps them enter higher education and the workplace; this is in sharp contrast to the bygone days when children with difficulties would be simply perceived as ‘bad’ kids with no future or a child to be swept under the educational carpet.
For the child who may have learning difficulties, knowledge and understanding is power. To have the ability of knowing exactly what one needs is something that eludes many adults, let alone children! Children are incredibly tenacious, adaptable, resilient and above all interested in who they are and their place in the world today. Our role at Royal School is to ensure that every child really does matter and that all needs are catered for.
My final note, for a few weeks, is to recommend visiting the following sites, to gain a better insight into the issues which have been briefly touched upon here and will be expanded upon over the next three weeks:
http://aqtest.net/ (this one is for self-testing and should be used in a relatively light manner) and
For now I leave you with a quote from the Daily Mail (UK) in March, 2016: “Every one of us is on the autistic spectrum: We all experience key symptoms ‘just to varying degrees’”.
Many thanks again for taking the time to read this Academic Newsletter and feel free to contact either Mrs Blaga or me (firstname.lastname@example.org) should you feel the need.