The Learning Support Department aims to help all boys to reach their full academic potential. Central to our ethos is the recognition that boys, of all abilities, may experience specific weaknesses and we strive to ensure these difficulties do not hold back a boy’s eventual success. We are also passionate about boosting the boys’ self esteem and keeping their spirits high, by portraying specific difficulties as differences in learning styles, rather than as problems.
All boys are screened on entry to the school and then twice a year thereafter. If a boy is found to have a specific problem with either literacy or maths, we offer a programme of support allowing him to work at both the speed and level to which he is best suited. These classes are usually undertaken in small groups or individually, with the sessions being woven in to a boy’s timetable, often on a rotational basis, but never out of sport! We liaise regularly both with parents, who are welcome to call at any stage, and also with the English and maths departments, to ensure that each individual is receiving the help required. We attend all the weekly English departmental meetings and work extremely closely with the English team. We also provide a summary to all staff of boys with specific difficulties.
We have developed and published our own internal reading and spelling programme called WordBlaze which covers all the key phonetic patterns using stories and pictures, taking a far more visual approach than that adopted by most other literacy schemes. The WordBlaze programme now forms the backbone of the spelling patterns taught by the English department in Years 4-6. Twenty words are tested each week in dictated sentences. This methods offers an ideal opportunity not only to teach and assess punctuation accuracy simultaneously, but also to model more complex forms of sentence construction. By using the same scheme, the two departments have developed a highly successful working synergy. Alongside reading and spelling patterns, we teach the boys the top 300 high frequency words, as these make up between 50-75% of what they need to read and write day to day. WordBlaze actually covers 1,000 high frequency words and more than 5,000 words in total.
A short course in Study Skills is taught by the department to all boys in Years 7 and 8, a key element in their preparation for Common Entrance. Specific help for boys learning English as either a foreign or additional language, is also given on a weekly basis.
The department has a wealth of games and activities to support this programme and make learning as enjoyable as possible. When combined with considerable praise and extra good marks for the boys concerned, this leads to a happy and productive environment. Once here, boys feel they can come to Learning Support in times of need and they actively tend to look forward to their extra sessions. The invitations to our Christmas party are hotly anticipated from September onwards