AN early intervention program on Queensland’s Gold Coast is helping Prep to Year 2 students who are struggling to get to grips with a school learning environment.
Coral House, also known as Arundel Early Years Learning Centre, is an off-campus classroom hosting youngsters from a regional cluster of 20 state schools.
Mick Quinn is principal at Arundel State School and line manager for the program, which launched in 2010 following a think tank session with the community.
“The local principals were concerned with the ability of a lot of our younger students to integrate straight into school,” Quinn says.
SAILS, part of the Anglican Church, stepped forward to help by providing the building and converting it into a centre, situated less than five kilometres from the school campus, that has now helped around 70 students.
Students are referred by their schools and attend the centre full-time for five weeks, then receive ongoing support to reintegrate back into their schools.
“The whole program is based on early intervention and the students are very receptive to what’s happening. They know themselves they’re struggling at school,” Quinn says.
“Sometimes [it’s a parental issue], sometimes they’ve got particular behavioural issues, or a classroom in which they’re not the best fit.
“Other times they just don’t have the skills to function in a classroom when it’s so complex with 25 other kids, a teacher, rules and all those sorts of things, and distractions.
“The whole program is aimed at promoting those students’ understanding of themselves and monitoring how they behave and respond to things. That self-monitoring is the most powerful aspect of all.
“These kids might act out behaviour in some ways in class, but that’s not because they want be violent, they’re just little kids who can’t cope with things and they need the skills, training and support to develop the behaviour skills and personal capacity to be able to function in their classroom.”
Quinn says the program sees students work towards goals set in conjunction with their school, parents and staff at the centre.
After taking part in the program, the students return to their school better equipped to function well in the classroom.
“They’re more able to sit down and do their work … and more capable of learning with others.
“There’s a meeting before the end of the five weeks, so we plan the reintegration back to school — that often means there’s got to be some alignment between the processes and things that have been working at Coral House and back at their regular classroom — that’s very important.
“Our staff go out and work with the teachers and support the kids in their classroom environment.
“Sometimes, in that five weeks, our kids have learned so many processes and skills that they go back into the class and when the class sits on the carpet and things like that our kids are their sitting up backs straight, legs crossed, hands on their lap … better than some of the other kids.”