Once a Highbury boy, always a Highbury boy

Supporting remedial educational needs whilst maintaining unity.

With 119 years of tradition and excellence in education, Highbury Preparatory School in Hillcrest KZN is known for its strong values and sense of family. The community within the school is tangible, and acceptance, inclusion and diversity are part of our core principles. The school’s motto is ‘Jamais Arriere’, Never Behind. As our school continually looked ahead to the future we became increasingly aware of the growing number of our boys experiencing learning difficulties. For that reason, it became a priority of both the educators and the Board that all learners experiencing barriers to their learning should be accommodated within Highbury. No boy should have to be recommended to leave the school in order to receive full-time remedial teaching input.

And so the Learner Support Centre was birthed. After consultations with remedial schools in our area, visits further afield and consideration of the latest technologies available, the needs of the boys remained central to the heart of our new unit. It became imperative that the boys remain fully integrated into all areas of school life including socially, on the sports field and in the cultural arena. Old stigmas regarding remedial education needed to be broken down and a new narrative created. It has been a journey that has required much investment, but a journey that has resulted in many rewards.

The Learner Support Centre was purpose-built within the heart of the school property. The centrally located classrooms are equipped with anti-flicker lighting, air conditioning, global FM systems and carpeting. Each class is one of four classes per grade including three mainstream classes and one remedial. The inclusion of the teacher and boys into the grade as a whole allows for a fluid model and the movement of boys into and out of the Learner Support Centre at a time governed by each child’s individual needs. The boys maintain friendships within a larger Grade base, as well as being able to shine in other areas offered by a school of our size such as soccer, robotics or orchestra. The unit offers full-time remedial support for short term remedial candidates in Grades one to four, with step-down support thereafter.

Early intervention is key to successful and happy primary school years and so the Aptitude Test for School Beginners (ASBs) is administered to all Grade R learners. This provides valuable insight and information regarding our learners’ needs. From here learners are identified and full educational assessments are undertaken. This allows us to identify potential, as well as areas of strength and difficulty. Parents are involved in regular conversations to ensure commitment to the journey their son will embark on.

The curriculum covered within the Learner Support Centre is the same as that within the mainstream classes, though smaller group size and qualified remedial educators allows for the pace to be adjusted and different learning styles catered for. As a result, a learner is measured against grade criteria and allowing for a clear picture of outcomes achieved and when best to move a child back into a mainstream class. We have also found that parents are receptive to clear and honest communication regarding their son’s achievements and areas of challenge in relation to their grade standards.

As a result of this model, we have noted that the cohesion and camaraderie to which our school has become accustomed has remained intact. Differences in learning styles and pace can be acknowledged without creating division. Perceptions of remediation and learning difficulties have been changed. A wider acceptance and understanding has developed not only amongst the parent body but also amongst the boys. Our Learner Support boys have proven to be our risk-takers, out the box thinkers, entrepreneurs and coding enthusiasts. These young boys display perseverance and grit. They aim to be our future leaders and our innovators.

Our Learner Support model has grown and developed over the past eight years. We are proud that our boys are able to acknowledge their learning differences, receive the support and remediation they require and finish their primary school years strong. We have seen many successes as our boys move into the high schools of their choice. Our boys continue to stretch us and challenge us. They remain the core of all our decisions and our drive to do better. Because once you are a Highbury boy, you are always a Highbury boy!