Home' Teacher : December 2010 Contents 8 TEACHER DECEMBER 2010
The school, she says, has a 'strong sense
of diversity.' 'Sarah is always encouraged.
She is never dismissed and the teachers have
great respect for her. What impresses me is
that Sarah's teachers know her; they don't
make generalisations about children who
have Dow n syndrome. They truly value
the Catholic ethos of "the education of the
whole child." The staff is professional and
informed. The principal supports ongoing
in-ser vicing and training for Sarah's teach-
ers. Recently they attended a seminar day
held by Dow n Syndrome New South Wales
for teachers. We are blessed at Fatima to
have a principal and parish priest who are
forward thinking and have a vision which
embeds equal opportunities in Catholic
Mary Cloran, a special education adviser
with the Catholic Education Office, Sydney,
says that the creative supported-integration
approach 'has worked very well for this
particular school, with these particular
children at this particular time.'
'There are lots of schools working mira-
cles out there,' Cloran says. 'Miracles are
most likely to happen when parents and
schools are working in partnership towards
the best learning outcomes for the children.
With the limited funding that we have, we
try to be as creative as we can when it comes
to providing the best support for children
with special needs across our Sydney region.
We implement programs at local levels to
reflect the particular local needs at a par-
Cloran calls the system in place at Our
Lady of Fatima a 'great example of the crea-
tive flexibility and the inclusive approach
we take to the education of students with
special or diverse needs.' 'When children
are enrolling in Catholic schools, we do
as much to prepare the school for the chil-
dren as we do in preparing the child for the
school,' she explains. 'As a system, we are
solutions-focused and continually evaluat-
ing and implementing programs to suit spe-
cific situations across our 147 schools.'
Debbie Gilmore, the head of diverse
learning needs at the Catholic Education
Office, Sydney, says the Caringbah program
underscores the school's -- and the system's
-- ability to be 'nimble, flexible and inclu-
sive' when faced with a Kindergarten cohort
which included several children with diverse
'This is an excellent example of a beau-
tifully integrated school community where
the needs of the students and their families
come first,' Gilmore says. 'This program
was designed around these five children.
Now, as they head into Year 1, we can see
just how much they -- and their families --
have benefited from this early inter vention.'
At a glance: Disability and special
Six per cent of students in Sydney's Cath-
olic schools have a disability. The figure
climbs to nine per cent when children
with special learning needs are added.
The Catholic system of schools uses the
same criteria for assessing children's needs
as the New South Wales Department of
Education and other education bodies.
The recent NSW Legislative Council
inquiry into the provision of education
to students with a disability or special
needs found that government funding
was inadequate across the state and pri-
vate education sectors.
The report's authors made 30 recommen-
dations calling on the NSW government
to address funding, unmet demand for
places and improved assessment proc-
esses for individual disability funding,
and to boost professional support and
enhance teacher training.
Kathryn Barton is the Communications
Officer, Jour n alism and Media, for the
Catholic Educ ation Office, Sydney.
Pictured: page 6, four of Our Lady of
Fatima Primary School's famou s five
Kindy students, from left, Abbey Smith,
Ella Watson, Lily Blackley and Sarah
Clark; page 7, Ella Watson , Lily Blackley
and Sarah Clark with Kindy teacher
'What impresses me is
that Sarah's teachers
know her; they don't
about children who have
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