To The Parent
If you are like most parents, you want your child to be happy.
But if you are the parent of a child with learning difficulties, you may have found this desire frustrated by the problems inherent in the mainstream school setting. The class size may be 20 or 30. Teachers may lack the appropriate training and experience with special needs. Achievement may be measured in targets and national norms. Getting individualised help may be elusive if not impossible.
You will know the cost of such difficulties for your child. Unhappiness. Frustration. Poor attendance. You may also be particularly concerned by your child’s lack of confidence, poor self image and increasing anxiety.
These concerns may prompt some vital and fundamental questions. What kind of school do you want for your child? What would be its chief characteristics? What of class sizes? The qualifications of teachers? The pastoral sense? Will the school be able to help the child develop all that is best within him or her? And will it genuinely care? In essence, what kind of environment do you want so that your child may be happy and, indeed, happy in learning?
The CA Environment
The Centre Academy schools, CA London and CA East Anglia, are committed to helping all children reach their full potential in a safe and caring environment.
We do this by creating a learning situation that is manageable for our students. This means very small classes (usually 5 or 6); a significant amount of individualised instruction to help pupils develop learning strategies; placement not by year group but according to need and level of achievement; and teachers who are highly trained and experienced in working with children who face learning challenges.
It also means putting the responsibility for assisting students with homework where it belongs: on the school. Accordingly, the Centre Academy schools feature Prep Periods, during which our students are given expert help and guidance as they address assignments that augment and reinforce what has been presented in class.
The Centre Academy environment is supportive, caring and intimate. It provides the structure and the discipline essential for learning to flourish, while also offering the kind of flexibility that many students require. As our students begin to see that their needs are being met, that the coping skills they are mastering enable them to concentrate and to organise their time, school takes on a new meaning. It becomes a place that is welcoming, a place where a sense of security prevails. No one here is ‘different’. No one is anonymous. Our students begin to feel that they belong—and that they are valued.
We are also dedicated to ensuring that our students grow in other equally important ways: in confidence, in self-esteem, in self-discipline. Thus, we educate character as well as intellect. We emphasise those values that are fundamental to a child’s inner strength and well being: trust, fairness, respect, civility, compassion.
We suggest that there is great merit in never settling for less than they can achieve. And we help them achieve it!
Too often people assume that 'special needs' is a designation for children of limited ability.
Nonsense. At the Centre Academy schools, the term ‘special needs’ is simply our acknowledgement that some children learn differently from others. It is our job to understand how a child best learns and then to create programmes and approaches that will enable that child to achieve his/her full potential. At our schools, one size definitely does not fit all!
How successful are we? Very. Dyslexic children frequently gain two or more years in reading and comprehension each year. Our Middle School students almost always go on to GCSE study. Our vocational students, fresh from extended work experience, frequently gain admission to college. Diploma students undertake a challenging curriculum that leads to university; in fact, we have never had a Diploma graduate who has not gone directly to university. And as our students achieve success in a variety of ways, their options also increase.
Our success is also reflected in other equally important ways. It is discernible in the sense of accomplishment our students have; in their growing confidence; in the discovery of their own talents and strengths and unique gifts. And when these discoveries take place, our students are ready to reclaim their futures.
Teachers are the key to the success of our students.
They are dedicated professionals who have chosen to work with students who face learning challenges. This fundamental decision informs all their activities and governs all they do.
Special needs teaching demands certain gifts and abilities beyond what may be required in the mainstream school. Our teachers have advanced and very specific qualifications. They have a wealth of experience and are fully in command of small group, subject-specific instructional techniques. Their methods are multi-sensory, with attention given to visual, auditory, tactile and kinaesthetic elements. And they know that small classes are not a luxury. They are essential if learning is to flourish.
Beyond the areas of qualifications and expertise, however, are other factors that are especially important. Our teachers have been chosen because they have the capacity to devote themselves to the well-being and development of their pupils. They know their students and understand that what works for one may not work for another; they see each child as an individual with unique needs, abilities, gifts and talents. They are always highly supportive, nurturing and patient.
Our teachers understand that a good teacher is one who respects and draws out all that is best in a child. Accordingly, close communication with the child and, indeed, with the parent, is vital, for this forms the basis by which the child’s development moves ahead.
The Centre Academy curriculum is broad yet highly focused, structured yet stimulating, sequential yet flexible. It is, moreover, sensitive to the challenges and opportunities for students who live in the United Kingdom, and accordingly, makes every effort to address the social, moral, spiritual and cultural climate that is integral to the British identity.
Literacy and Numeracy are fundamental: fundamental if students are to gain access to all other subjects within the curriculum, fundamental for success in the 21st century and fundamental if they are to pursue the many options open to them following their time at the Centre Academy Schools.
As our students gain mastery in Literacy and Numeracy, they may also explore History and Geography; Science and higher Mathematics; Foreign Languages; Current Affairs; Advanced Writing; ICT; Art; Drama; Music; Citizenship; Religious Studies; Careers; and PE.
Each of these disciplines involves core elements, from characterisation in the novel to the narratives that history unfolds to the elements of DNA in science. But we also emphasise other dimensions within each discipline.
Thus, we help our students explore the social and cultural aspects of contemporary societies, the moral ambiguities of drama and poetry, and the spiritual nuances in Religious Studies. These and many other explorations enable our students to more fully understand the essence of the United Kingdom, that is, the social, moral, spiritual and cultural realities that define our values as a nation.
Our curriculum is designed to accommodate and stimulate many different kinds of learners. We follow the National Curriculum through Key State 3, with modifications as necessary to suit children with learning challenges.
We offer broad-based GCSE study, a pathway that can lead to further opportunities for college-level study.
And in place of the examination-based A-Level system, academically strong students may opt for the American High School Diploma, which involves a system of continual assessment and is the pathway to university study.
Finally, for our more vocationally orientated students, the Centre Academy Schools offer Foundation Learning, the ASDAN Program and the Unit Award Scheme, all of which can involve individualised special programmes and work experience.
In essence, the Centre Academy Curriculum is antithetical to the notion that ‘one size fits all.’