Letter from the Principal on what learning looks like at Winstedt
Winstedt is a different kind of school. To understand what we do here, you need to push aside your own personal memories or perceptions of how a school operates. Imagine a school that works for each and every child, as the unique individuals that they are.
At Winstedt we tailor literally everything – class structure, lesson plans, homework packets, subject groupings, activities... - to your child. Not to the class, not to the grade level, but to each individual child. This can be difficult for new parents to conceptualise, so we would like to request that you take a minute to read through what this looks like and how it would impact your child.
Winstedt was founded and purpose-built for students who think and learn differently. What exactly does that mean? Exactly what it says. Winstedt was set up for those who may not fit or be happy or be able to reach their full potential within a traditional school model. It is for students who are bright and capable but are more successful and more comfortable in an environment that is flexible and responsive to them, rather than one that forces them into a box.
There is a misconception among parents, and even within the education community, that Winstedt is a special needs or special education needs school. Parents enquire about our Support Services or how many pull-out sessions we provide or ask about IEP’s. While Winstedt can and does welcome students with learning differences, Winstedt’s unique approach provides the flexibility and creativity to personalise every aspect of a child’s learning experience to however best enables them to reach their potential. All students can benefit from an education that is tailored to them.
Most parents find Winstedt because they are looking for a school that provides ‘support’, be it academic, pastoral or social. At Winstedt, this concept of ‘support’ goes well beyond tutoring sessions or extra time in exams. It is a pedagogical philosophy of personalising learning to each child, whether they have learning difficulties or not, and this philosophy is woven into everything that we do.
This personalisation, or what others might call “Support” is the Winstedt way. Our teachers are immersed in it every moment, every day. They breathe it, it's second nature to them, it's part and parcel of the Winstedt culture.
It is our 15 students to 2 teachers class size that defines us, our even smaller specialist groups and subject modules, our unique integrated therapy approach. It is customised small groupings according to abilities, class placement by profile rather than age, it's a mutual understanding that when we invite your child to step out of a class for that for extra dose of literacy, reading, spelling or maths, they know it’s helping them move forward in leaps and bounds.
It's additional in-class social support from the School Counsellor to ensure that a child is emotionally ready to tackle any lesson. It's the flexibility in timetabling - in adding another session for helping with reading strategies, peer reading, an additional therapy session to work on handwriting for the whole class, organisational, executive functioning or social skills. It’s guiding students towards a growth mindset so that their concept of self-worth shifts towards their own potential rather than past failures. It's having therapists observe, consult with the teachers on a weekly basis and implement strategies for every child in the class, interventions you may not hear about, but which our teachers just do - creating a checklist for a desk, writing up a social story, trying a different chair. Our teachers, the ones who believe in your child’s abilities, are familiar with these strategies, putting them into place, using and adapting the environment to facilitate the most comfortable, conducive learning space for every child, every day throughout the year.
Our Behaviour Therapy Consultant/Clinical Psychologist and School Counsellor are observing lessons, making recommendations, guiding teachers, working on the next topic of conversation - sleep tips, cyber bullying, sibling relationships, text anxiety. At recess, there is not only the teacher on duty - there is a teacher on duty at each section of the playground and lunchroom, in addition there is the Behaviour Consultant/Clinical Psychologist, the School Counsellor, the Speech and Language Therapist or Occupational Therapist and the Head of School, walking, talking, observing, guiding students socially and redirecting them behaviourally.
At Winstedt, there are eyes everywhere: pre-empting, reflecting and putting in place interventions. This is not for control - this is to facilitate and guide social interaction, help build self-esteem. This is to role-model inclusion, curate friendships and help children feel that they are known and valued. Many of our students need explicit help in social skills. Recess situations need to be paused and played back for them so they can understand what went wrong and how to deal with the consequence and learn strategies going forward. Situations arise because some students struggle with working memory, perception, rigidity, auditory processing and they need explicit help understanding these situations. Some students come to Winstedt because of previous bullying or anxiety, having extra staff on hand during unstructured times helps them feel more secure and more open to friendships.
Class teachers meet with their respective Heads of School weekly to discuss every child, to reflect on lessons, behaviour, interventions, learning support, OT, SLT and strategies to be implemented. Math and Literacy meetings are held weekly to hear feedback from teachers and to move students from group to group according to profiles, ability and performance so that students are always working at the right level. Each week the Pastoral Team meets to discuss students, strategies and solutions. These are reviewed, actioned, followed-up almost immediately ensuring that the Winstedt environment is the best that it can be for any child. This is ‘support’ in a nutshell.
But it goes even beyond even this. It's the tremendous effort the teachers put into helping each child. Last week a teacher commented, “If I had a larger class, even with three teachers, I am not going to be able to see immediately who needs help. I will only see who doesn't get the concept when the worksheet, homework or assessment is completed. That's not Winstedt! With a maximum of 15 learners and two teachers, I can pause, be flexible and rethink my teaching and adjust my strategy as needed for each child!"
Another example of ‘support’, which may come across as just a simple act of kindness; some students recently missed their Maths field trip to the supermarket. Their teacher then made arrangements for them to go this week. Now this is not something that is easily organised, logistics of teachers and students moving off campus is tricky. But this is an activity that is important for their learning experience; a real-life teaching moment to apply what they have learned about money in the classroom to a practical situation. Going out of their way to plan logistics to redo the activity is not kindness – it is how we personalise learning at Winstedt for every student.
We are often asked about what support a child gets at Winstedt or is there a way to attend Winstedt without ‘support’. We do our best to communicate to parents what all goes into each child’s learning but we’re uncertain we can capture it all. ‘Support’ is our whole-school approach to providing the best possible education to each student. Winstedt teachers and staff are constantly developing and revising strategies and interventions to help each child maximise their potential. We cannot fully describe the tireless efforts our teachers put into each individual child’s education.
Our teachers are hired based on their qualifications, certificates and their passion for believing in what Winstedt does. They are here because they don't necessarily believe that traditional educational systems have it figured out. They are constantly researching and exploring how to teach children who think and learn differently. Of course, the degree is important, but the certificates are often more important because we hire teachers who have been trained in specific strategies for children with learning differences.
WInstedt teachers are qualified in methodologies that come highly recommended by Educational Psychologists in order to best leverage the many different learning styles and profiles in a classroom. Our teachers come to Winstedt with a wealth of experience and extra training that equips them with a toolbox of strategies to tap into the potential of diverse learners. They don’t just have one lesson plan, but will develop several with strategies for differentiating instruction based on the individuals in the classroom. Please have a look at our Faculty Directory to learn more about our amazing teachers.
All classes at Winstedt have two qualified teachers. When you add in our specialist teachers, therapy and pastoral care teams, Winstedt has 2.7 classroom-based professionals to every student. That is what makes this personalisation possible. Our teachers have the time and flexibility to tailor learning for each student.
We hope that this lengthy letter helps to clarify what ‘support’ looks like at Winstedt and how this unique approach to education can help any child reach their potential.
Ms Jeanette Buckley, Principal