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Special Educational Needs

SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

There are many bright young children who are struggling or unhappy in the mainstream education system today because, simply-put, they are a little bit different.

Bright or “gifted” children tend to be highly sensitive souls who abhor repetition and are quickly frustrated by traditional teaching methods. These are people who function on an intense level – whether when questioning a teacher or parent, engaging with peers or assessing themselves. They need, more than most, an environment which has structure, but clear communication and fair application of rules. They crave stimulation, and mentorship. They are born with the ability to reach the stars, but too often have no idea how to get there.

Our dream was to build a school which brought the fun back into the learning process. To nurture the brightest of minds in an environment where there are fewer limits imposed on the children, and where knowledge and thought are embraced as a wonderful opportunity, rather than a chore imposed by parents or legislation.

We employ a system where the primary goal of every lesson is the internalisation of a thinking skill, rather than a mere absorption of fact. Each pupil must be seen and treated as an individual – with unique needs, capacities and interests, and this feat can only truly be accomplished by fostering a close working relationship with the parents and other care-givers.

SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

01: CHILDREN WITH HIGH INTELLIGENCE AND/OR CREATIVITY

  • Have extraordinary potential that requires special education approaches in order to develop this potential

  • Learn faster, have wider interests, remember more, think with greater depth about what they learn, show curiosity and sensitivity 

  • Prefer a quiet learning environment, independent learning, a chance to participate in the teaching and learning process 

  • Need a teaching approach that teaches critical and creative thinking skills, allows for a vertical and horizontal enrichment, uses cross-discipline studies, stresses interpersonal relationships, individualization, problem solving, imagination, risk-taking, curiosity, self-direction and research skills in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for divergent thinking

02: SANDTON PRIMARY SCHOOL  MEETS SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS BY

  • Having one of the acknowledged specialists in the field of gifted education to direct the teaching program of the school

  • Limiting class size to 18 pupils in order to be able to allow children to participate in classroom events, have ample opportunity to practice the skills we develop, be nurtured to develop their unique strengths and be supported in areas that need assistance

  • Ensuring that top teachers are carefully selected, receive ongoing training to understand children of high potential, are capable of facilitating knowledge rather than teaching factual content, are eager to share the discovery of knowledge with their pupils and are constantly innovative

  • Instilling a love of learning and knowledge in our pupils, with more emphasis on the children than their results, allowing excellence to follow maturity

  • Aiming to guide the pupils towards developing self-confidence, competence and a sense of service towards the global community by awareness of topical concerns, relating the relevance of content to present issues and encouraging projects that benefit the community 

  • Promoting the development of self-discipline and good manners based on respect for the rights and needs of others. 

  • Using the integrated school day approach, which gives the pupil a degree of freedom in choosing when to work on prescribed tasks, either in small groups or independently and which encourages self-directedness, depth in learning, co-operation in team work and accountability towards the standard of work produced. It requires own research, selection of content, attention to relevance and organisation skills – all under the guidance of the teacher. Own and peer evaluation of completed work is expected to encourage confidence, independence and a sense of direction in the learning situation

  • Self-direction and research skills in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for divergent thinking

HOW THINKING SKILLS ARE TAUGHT

Instead of telling children what to think, we teach them how to think – that is,

to nurture and master the following skills of creative and critical thinking:

01: CREATIVETHINKING (THE PRODUCTION OF IDEAS)

  • Skill in defining problems and issues

  • Skill in identifying and following the most promising areas of investigation

  • The ability to postpone judgement

  • The ability to produce many ideas easily

  • Skill in divergent thinking (achieving a broad, rather than a narrow assortment of ideas)

  • Imaginativeness

02: CRITICAL THINKING (THE EVALUATION OF IDEAS)

  • Fair-mindedness in analysing issues

  • Skill in asking relevant questions

  • The ability to select appropriate criteria of judgement

  • Skill in interpreting factual data

  • Skill in evaluating the reliability of sources

  • The ability to make important distinctions and to recognise unstated assumptions

  • The ability to detect errors in one’s own and other’s thinking (for example the errors of illogical or hasty conclusion, over-generalisation and oversimplification)

 Although these skills are vital, to be effective thinkers children must want to use them. So teaching thinking also requires the development of the following dispositions:

  • Interest in the sources of one’s own attitudes, beliefs and values  (family, peers, the media etc.)

  • Curiosity about one’s own mental processes and eagerness to develop them further

  • The desire to reason well and to base judgement on evidence (instead of twisting evidence to fit prejudices)

  • Willingness to subject one’s own ideas to scrutiny

  • Willingness to revise one’s view on the basis of wider experience

  • Interest in viewpoints other than one’s own (even in those that challenge one’s own)

  • Passion for truth (scientific attitude)

  • Sensitivity to problems and issues

  • The willingness to be adventurous in addressing problems and issues

  • Skill in evaluating arguments

  • The ability to draw sound conclusions from evidence

  • The ability to recognise when evidence is insufficient

  • Vigilance concerning one’s own tendencies to irrationality

THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER

01: TEACHING THINKING SKILLS IS EFFECTED BY INTEGRATING OUR METHODS INTO THE NORMAL CURRICULUM

It is impossible to develop skills by listening to others talk. Teaching thinking demands that traditional roles and classroom procedures be changed.

Instead of lecturing for most of the period, the teacher asks children thought-provoking questions about problems and issues related to the course and guides them in discussions and debates with one another.

The teacher refuses to be the ‘answer person’ and instead coaches pupils in the application of thinking skills. Instead of remaining passive and dependent on the teacher, pupils become active and assume much of the responsibility for their own learning.

Through regular, guided practice they develop both competency and confidence and gain increasing facility in writing and speaking.