Where do I start?

When choosing a school, the relationship between your child and their teacher is very important. Take the opportunity for a school visit to meet the staff, and go on a guided tour of the school with your child. It is also good to see the classrooms in action and observe the atmosphere when you visit.

You will also find a great deal of information through a search of the internet. Most schools in Adelaide have a website and you will get a first feel for the school’s ethos by having a look at what they are doing as a community, as well as educationally.

The links and information below will help guide you to the choice of school sectors in South Australia and help you create a list of questions you will need to ask when determining if a particular school will meet your child's needs.

Department for Education (State Schools)

The South Australian Government provides a website to assist when choosing a school for your child covering topics from choosing a Primary or High School, Enrolling in School and Changing Schools - click on the link below:

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School Zoning for State Schools

If you are looking for a State School you may be limited to zoning. You can find out more about which catchment area or school zone you are in by going to the Department for Education link here:

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Independent Schools

This site allows you to search for independent schools by location, gender, religion, and/or year level:

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Catholic Education

Find out which Catholic Schools are in your area here

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Questions to ask the school

When looking for a school it is a good idea to be prepared with a list of questions around the needs of your child. This is especially the case when your child has a learning difficulty. You may like to ask for examples of how they support students with learning difficulties.

When creating a list of questions, you might also draw on the following:

  • recommendations from a psycho-educational assessment (if your child has been formally diagnosed)
  • observations highlighted from a Dyslexia Checklist (see a page on Dyslexia)
  • comments in school reports about achievements in areas such as literacy and numeracy
  • your own observations of how your child is coping with their school work
  • does your school focus on areas your child has interest in? eg to drama, sport, music, art, technical studies, etc.

Questions you may find useful:

  • Does your school use a synthetic phonic approach to early literacy teaching and intervention? If so, which program/s?
  • Will my child receive any one on one or small group support?
  • Does your school celebrate individual achievement in a wide range of activities including music, art, drama, sport and achievement of personal academic goals?
  • Does your school support the use of computers by all students in the classroom? From what year level?
  • Can they use assistive technologies in the classroom?
  • In what areas do you encourage parental involvement?
  • What is your homework policy? Can we negotiate timed homework periods?
  • How many students receive accommodations and adjustments in a typical classroom?
  • Does your school work to whole school policies around the curriculum and strategies used to support struggling students?

Role of the Class Teacher

Talking with your child's teacher

It is important to establish a connection with your child's teacher early on so you can work in partnership with them to get the best out of your child. Provide the teacher and school with any information that will help assure a smooth transition for your child, including any information about behavioural or learning difficulties, educational, speech or hearing assessments or any concerns you have about their learning.

Gathering of data about your child

Students bring a range of backgrounds into a class so teachers use a range of assessment processes to gather evidence and data about all of their students. Not only will teachers use published tests and checklists but they will also observe students as they go about their learning, make records using teacher developed checklists, speak with previous teachers and talk with families.

When a teacher asks to speak with a parent

It is quite common for teachers to ask to speak with parents about their child. Parental involvement in a child’s education is important to ensure a united approach for the well-being of your child. It may be about a concern the teacher has about a child, about a learning difficulty, or sometimes it is about what terrific progress a child is making. The teacher may need to put in place strategies to support your child, both at school and home.

Whatever the reason, it will be important to take the opportunity to have a meeting with the teacher.

Identifying areas of concern

If there is a student who presents with learning difficulties, class teachers will more thoroughly investigate the student’s lack of knowledge, skills and understandings, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Once the teacher has analysed assessment information, they can then more specifically target their teaching to address students' learning needs.

Teachers are likely to seek advice from colleagues and the leadership team at their school if a student presents with more complex learning needs than they have previously experienced. Additionally, they may seek advice from experts in the field of learning difficulties. Teachers and parents are welcome to ring SPELD SA for advice or meet with staff to discuss the needs of particular students.

Targeting gaps in learning

It is important the children are provided with well-designed instruction targeting the area in which the child is struggling. This instruction should be explicit, systematic and cumulative and needs to form the basis of an intervention that continues for at least six months. Many children make rapid progress once given appropriate systematic instruction, suggesting that their difficulties are results of gaps in their knowledge and skills, rather than a persistent and enduring learning difficulty.

Assessment gathered during this time will help both the teacher and parent make decisions about on-going intervention and support. If the child is experiencing significant difficulties, it will be in the best interests of the child to seek professional advice. The key is not to delay. For more information about diagnosing a learning difficulty, see the AUSPELD Understanding Learning Difficulties Guide for parents.

Parent Teacher Interviews

Class teachers regularly assess students' learning abilities and this information is shared at parent interviews. With classes of around 30 students (and in secondary school around 120 students), teachers have many students to consider and plan for. Parents are advised to make a specific time to speak with their child's teacher about any learning concerns.

It is suggested when you have the opportunity to review the progress with your child's teacher, that you make a list of any concerns or queries you may have. The time provided with teachers for this purpose is on a tight time schedule and the list will ensure you address all your concerns and questions.

If there is not enough time to address all your concerns, consider making another time to meet with the teacher. Send them an email outlining your questions prior to the meeting so that the teacher can prepare responses or collect information to assist in the meeting.

Options if a teacher recommends an assessment with an educational psychologist

  • When a teacher recommends a student to have an educational psychological assessment you will have a couple of options:
    Parents of children in the state school system may have access to an assessment by a Guidance Officer (educational psychologist) who is allocated to their school.
  • Parents of children attending Catholic or Independent Schools may be recommended to take their child to a private educational psychologist.

If a student is assessed by an educational psychologist, a written report will be provided with recommendations for helping the child at home and at school.

SPELD SA provides the services required for an Educational Psychological Assessment. Click below to find out more.

Considerations around repeating a grade

Best intentions?

Holding a child back is done with the best of intentions, but there can be long-term dangers. Most children/adults report that being held back traumatized them, and some researchers link increased rates of substance abuse and depression in adolescence with repeating a grade in earlier years.

Changing Schools

Repeating a grade at the time of moving from one school to another can work for some children.

Your child may be entering a grade in which all the students are a year older than your child. This happens sometimes because they started school earlier in another place, was young for their year entering school, or spent only 3 terms in reception. The school may allow you to choose whether your child joins the grade they transferred from, or a grade lower with same-age children. Your child may opt for this themselves to be with the same aged children.

The best way to address your child's academic problems is to give them personal instruction in their areas of weakness. If your child has dyslexia, the arguments against repeating a year are especially pertinent. Research shows that a dyslexic child does not catch up to his/her peers by being given more of the same instruction. They will catch up through multi-sensory instruction that takes them systematically through a phonics program and incorporates a great deal of repetition.

SPELD SA offers a tutoring service, a literacy clinic and a free online intensive literacy program as options for intervention. (see link buttons below)

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