Advice Column, Assisted Learning, Education, Recently

Assisted learning needs a rebrand

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There’s widespread recognition that schooling needs to evolve to remain relevant in a changing world and Hennie Mentz, Executive Head of Curro Uitzicht, an assisted learning school in Cape Town,  says this is also an opportunity to improve inclusivity. He believes this will not only pay off in terms of improving educational outcomes, but in future-proofing the next generations as they enter a very different working world to those who have gone before them.

Mentz says that there remains a stigma around assisted learning, even though research has demonstrated its benefits, as well as making it clear that not all learners learn best in the same way.

“Requiring assisted learning does not indicate a low average intelligence,” says Mentz“In fact, it is often those learners with a high intelligence score who benefit from assisted learning.”

Mentz says that as an educator, he would like parents to understand and accept the fact that not all children can or should follow the same path in their schooling career. “It should be all about what is best for each child,” he says. This is the philosophy behind inclusive education.

“Inclusive education is a mindset,” says Mentz. “It is about planning curriculum delivery to accommodate diverse learning styles and empowering learners to access learning opportunities. Inclusive education focuses on the needs of a learner and creates opportunities for a learner to have access to learning.”

He stresses that inclusive education is not about labelling a child, but about planning the best way forward for each child. This is whatCurro Holdings, a leading independent education provider, aims to do through the Curro Learning Support Project, spearheaded by the Curro Uitzicht Resource Centre.

Mentz says the aim is to provide an environment focused on empowering all learners to access and actively participate in learning opportunities. “Although all children would benefit from this approach; those most suited to the assisted learning environment are learners who face learning barriers, such as specific learning disorders or a diagnosis that impacts social and independent learning. A good starting point for a parent is to work with professionals in the field of learner support, such as educational psychologists, occupational and speech therapists and if necessary medical professionals.”

Understanding neurodiversity

“It is important to understand brain elasticity and adaptation through your child’s development,” he says. This includes understanding what neurotypical development is, and when behaviours and needs are neurodiverse (which is about recognising that different people’s brains will perceive and respond to things in different ways).

Thankfully, he says, learning support within the school system is growing both in public and private schooling and policy is turning to action.

“Understanding and accepting your particular child’s learning needs opens up a whole new world of learning opportunities and personalised achievements for your child,” says Mentz. “It is important for parents and teachers to collaborate and ensure that they both understand their child’s learning needs and accommodate their learning style to alleviate anxieties and create the optimal learning environment both at school and at home.”

Sometimes, this means that a neurodiverse child will benefit from alternatives to a mainstream environment, whether temporarily or for the duration of their schooling. This does not indicate any intellectual deficit, but is rather a consideration to help neurodiverse children to reach their full potential in an environment that better supports their unique learning styles.

Putting it into practice

“Curro is embarking on bringing national support policy structures to life within our group, as well as using and implementing our unique strength in excellence,” says Mentz. “We are working towards empowering each school with its own school-based support team and empowering our teachers with knowledge and understanding to carry over into practice in the best interest of our learners and their families. Curro Uitzicht will facilitate the support and inclusion of all learners in our system from the base of the resource centre in the group, empowering teachers to support the neurodiverse learner.”

His advice to parents and educators alike is to put the needs of the child first, and to recognise that the best education is the result of a team effort between parents, teachers and other professionals in the educational sphere.

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