FAQs answered from the Principal's pen...
Is it true that Lockerbie is a 'special needs' school?
There is a reason for this misconception and to explain it we need to tell a story, starting at the beginning. In 2005, we opened a remedial centre called 'Learning for Life' which was extraordinarily successful due to our highly trained remedial tutors and their experience and practical knowledge in a wide range of remedial programmes. While we provided language-based remedial classes for most of the students who came to us, we supported the curriculum for mainstream students as well. In 2005-7 our ratio was 85% remedial classes, 15% mainstream (ie. students who had absolutely no special learning needs). By 2008, we had so many mainstream students who loved our approach to learning, that the ratio completely flipped and we found ourselves, through organic evolution, with 85% mainstream day students. This fell in line with the global classroom average of 12-17% of every classroom being students with diagnosed learning challenges. The reason the mainstream students have always been excited about learning at Lockerbie College and more apply for entry each year, is that our approach to teaching is Socratic, motivational, collaborative, experiential and student-focused. These methods are the forte of excellent remedial tutors everywhere, and our tutors know that these strategies result in higher engagement, quicker progress and engaged attitudes for all students. By 2014, we decided to re-brand as Lockerbie College as we had truly evolved into a university preparatory school. However the reputation of having an exceptional remedial environment has never left us. The truth is that we are still a school that can accommodate students with special learning needs, but our programmes are mainstream. Students and parents know that we are 'special' in how we do what we do and that everyone benefits from our experiential, dynamic, contemporary learning environment.
I'm concerned my child won’t have any friends because the school is so small.
Yes, the school is small, just like a family. In any school year we can accommodate between 70 and 90 students because our classes are small in order to effectively meet student needs. With a staff of 30 teachers, we have a wonderfully low teacher to student ratio and like a family, we all do things together. We share communal spaces, eat and play sports together. When our students are not socialising in age groups, they are grouping by gender or activity preference, just like a family does. The truth is, that in larger schools, children only have 2 to 5 good friends whose company they enjoy and spend leisure time with. Lockerbie College is big enough to provide students with a small group of friends across all age groups and no one is left out. A huge added bonus is that all ages interact and enjoy each other's company so there is no informal hierarchy as there is in a larger school; no segregation or exclusive groups. We have a lot of fun at school and our students have made friendships that have endured (as have teachers and parents) because that's what family is!
Does Lockerbie have any extra-curricular programmes?
From September 2017, our playing field will be ready to use after school from 2pm to 4pm for Football, Volley Ball and Cricket. We also have a full gym with exercise machines for use by students, teachers and parents if they wish. There will be yoga and cross fit classes scheduled after school. We have a Robotics club in the afternoon and Coding classes during the day. Our newest addition to our music department is our band which will give students the opportunity to choose an instrument and enjoy the journey to playing music for pleasure. There are other extra-curricular projects we are planning, among those is a STEAM Club (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths). FInally, Lockerbie College is partnered with the Association of the Disadvantaged and Disabled and our students receive, sort, manage and deliver public donations from our collection point. So, for a small school, there is a lot going on!
Does Lockerbie still work with students who learn differently?
That's the beauty of Lockerbie College. We are a mainstream, inclusive school so our small classes cater to all types of learning. That's why we keep classes small and headhunt the most experienced, trained and instinctively talented teachers (who make learning fun and engaging as well as meaningful and appropriate). If you think about it, a gifted and talented student, with high intellectual functioning is definitely in need of a customised programme of study, while still being in an age-relevant learning environment. Likewise, the child who does not read to the neurotypical age norms still needs knowledge input at a higher, acquisition level than that which he is reading. No child is held back; we focus on the teaching at the pace that is dictated by performance and potential.
Give an example of the ethos of the school.
The best way to demonstrate 'who we are', what we know and the team players we are know for, is to share a recent answer to an enquiry on Facebook. QU: Where or who does Dyslexia and Apraxia testing here? Also need recommendations for teaching / special classes. The testing and classes needs to be affordable. ANS: As you would have researched, you're dealing with 2 very different types of issues. The first step is to get a quality, comprehensive assessment done that paints a clear global picture and gives meaningful recommendations which can be understood and actioned both at school, at home and by a specialist learning professional who is much more than a teacher. Basically you can't hit a target (remediation) without a target being there (diagnosis). Starting with Dyslexia, you could go to the Caribbean Dyslexia Centre Barbados and they will screen for (only) that, but it is far better to have a wider assessment done by an Educational or Clinical Psychologist. This will look at how not reading and spelling well has already and will continue to affect language development, cognition and executive function in a broader sense, knowledge acquisition (curriculum) and learning in general (tasks and skills). Dyslexia is complex and is like the foliage of a medium sized tree above ground which will negatively impact the foundation of your home, through a massive and destructive root system underground. Treatment needs to be holistic so assessment needs to be broad. It's never going away, so intervention needs specialist remediation which is a bit more than just a good teacher can provide. (You wouldn't go to a GP to stitch back on a severed hand). When you are looking at Apraxia you are mainly looking at speech as well as language development and it will definitely take a Speech & Language Therapist to assess, evaluate and diagnose this AND to work therapeutically with the child. Absolutely no trade-offs here by going cheap and using a special ed teacher. If you are enquiring about the same child who you suspect has both conditions, I would recommend going first to an Educational Psychologist for the broader assessment and then having them liaise with the SALT for the speech assessment. You will need a collaborative multi-agency team to help you carefully design a plan of action and they will advise the child's teachers and specialist interventionists what they need to do differently to support the child and what home can do to scaffold the professional input. This may sound complex or confusing but it's just that right now it's unfamiliar territory to the Mum (and you maybe) and you may not know what direction to move in and what advice to take. My best advice right now is for you to gather information and find out about the professional network locally and what are the courses of action available to you. Do not jump in and start lessons, no matter how kind, popular, highly recommended, 'reasonable' or experienced the teacher may be. You're going to have to spend money to get this dealt with, so it is easy to panic and jump in and make a start and then have to halt and rethink entirely when you are not seeing progress. That will mean poorly invested money, ineffective input and wasted time. Of the three, time is the one you do not want to lose because almost all learning challenges are very much harder to 'fix' after the age of 12. If you'd like to chat further, my advice is absolutely free and comes from years of experience, and a pragmatic solution-focused approach. Almost 25 years ago, I was in a similar position, so I don't come to this as a teacher, I come to this as a parent, knowing all of the anxieties too well that have driven you to ask your question. 25 years ago I was on a serious budget too (times haven't changed unfortunately) so I know that you want this issue properly, professionally and permanently addressed without losing your house. If you want to chat further, just send me a FB message. I'll be glad to help.