The right approach can motivate and support any child, says Nicola Lovell, head of Prep at Burlington House School (previously The Moat School).
From an early point in my teaching career, I realised that not every child learns in the same way or at the same time. Just how popcorn kernels don’t all ‘pop’ at the same time, there are those children whom require a different approach to learning. Whether there is a specific learning difference or not, all children can benefit from a learning environment where their strengths are encouraged and celebrated and their challenges are supported.
Having taught in mainstream and independent primary schools as well as internationally and more recently in a specialist setting, I have witnessed the importance of a nurturing environment where a child feels understood and ready to learn. Self-belief, confidence, the ability to reflect on mistakes, resilience and having a growth mindset are just some of the foundations of a child’s learning. I believe that such foundations need to be firmly in place so that a child can engage and for them to be in a safe, happy environment so that they are motivated to learn.
This month, I am starting as head of Prep (Years 3-7) at Burlington House School, the preparatory school for Burlington House Senior (formerly known as The Moat School) in Bishop’s Park, Fulham. It is ‘mainstream in structure but specialist in nature’ and provides a unique, supportive learning environment where pupils with a specific learning difference can progress and flourish.
Every child is respected as an individual with their own valuable strengths and talents alongside learning challenges. Children with specific learning difficulties often have an incredible sense of creativity, beyond average expressionism and an aptitude for many school subjects, but they may also face difficulties with reading, writing, spelling, numeracy as well as organisational skills or speed of processing.
I envisage every child to be on a journey at Burlington House School; not every child will reach the same destination at the same time but we will help them to discover their unique strengths at their own pace.
We recognise our pupils may need additional support to help bridge the gap between their performance and their potential. Therefore, every aspect of the education provided at Burlington House School is designed to support pupils while they meet the challenge of bridging this gap.
Onsite provision for speech and language and occupational therapy is integrated within the curriculum and the small class sizes guarantee high levels of attention from empathetic staff. Each child is provided with a laptop on which to organise their work as well as becoming proficient with using technology. While I believe that handwriting continues to be an important part of a child’s early development, our Burlington House pupils will be 21st-century citizens and they will be technologically able.
For some children, delays to literacy or numeracy development can lead to frustration, anger or a reluctance to learn and this can lead to a false belief in their ability, which, down the line, will likely affect them socially and emotionally. Once a false belief is ‘set’, it can be difficult to reverse the process and that is why early intervention is key for an individual and why I am proud to be heading up Burlington House Prep.
As the late educationalist Ken Robinson stated: ‘Education needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardise education, but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.’ At Burlington House School, we will always champion the individual.
Nicola Lovell is head of Prep at Burlington House School.