'Small class' could make a big difference for students in need of support

Murray Bridge's Tyndale Christian School is trialling a new mode of education for children with learning difficulties.

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A Murray Bridge school is trialling a new model of education in response to an unmet community need.

Staff at Tyndale Christian School simply call it the “small class”: a junior primary classroom where eight students in need of extra help can receive it each day.

It was not intended for children with complex needs or acute behavioural problems, teacher Laura Clothier said, but for those with learning difficulties who might fall through the cracks in a mainstream class.

“The biggest thing for us is we want to create independence for these kids, so they can make choices and drive their own learning,” Ms Clothier said.

Learning support leader Jenny Jansen said the small class had been a response to the needs of families whose children had come up through Tyndale’s early learning centre.

“We’re an inclusive school ... if (parents) want their child here we consider each case,” she said.

“There are cases where we don’t have the equipment or the expertise, but we take on anyone we can.

“We have so many children with (learning difficulties) and they find a mainstream classroom really hard.

“There are a whole lot of strategies we use to pace those kids so they can not only make it through the day, but have some learning.”

The school tried to work with parents to develop a curriculum which made the most of each child’s interests, she said, and featured plenty of play-based activities.

Junior school pastoral care leader Cath Grant said Tyndale would eventually have two small classes: one in junior primary and one in the middle school.

The school had adapted its newest building for the purpose, she said, and another small classroom would be a priority in the school’s next building project.

“Classrooms can’t look like they have before,” she said.

“They need to respond to the needs of students.”