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Parents of learning support students scrap distance learning

May 20, 2020

Parents of learning support students scrap distance learning

Wilson Special School located in Takapuna has been offering its students distance learning. Photo: Ella Stewart.

Parents of children requiring learning support have opted for family time over distance learning.

The special schools’ personalised learning programmes are not so easily ‘transferred’ online, leading to difficulty, say parents.

Pauline Vercoe-Curtis’ son Jessie, 21, who is non-verbal and deafblind, attends BLENNZ special school where she says his education is unlike a regular school.

“Learning for him is completely different than learning in a mainstream class, so it’s not about learning how to read and write, it’s about having new experiences,” she said.

Mrs Vercoe-Curtis says Jessie’s time at home has been beneficial as she has taught him a new walking route around the house.

“It is [usually] sort of go, go, go, but now it has been much more relaxed and laid back and we can spend more time with him, it’s actually been really nice,” she said.

Wilson Special School principal Rosemary Jenkins says the school has tried to provide distance learning for students and parents, offering contact and support throughout the lockdown.

“Because our students have very individual needs, we’ve had a wide variety of tools we’ve used,” said Mrs Jenkins.

Some tools included home-based activities and Zoom meetings with students, but Mrs Jenkins says they did not want to overwhelm pupils or parents.

Ant and Gaylene Ward’s son Marshall, 10, is autistic and non-verbal and studies at Wairau Valley Special School.

They say their biggest concern is changing their son’s routines and keeping him entertained at home.

Mr Ward says Marshall is not used to home schooling, so it was better for the family to let him ‘chill’.

“It is quite difficult to get Marshall to do a learning task or schoolwork.

“There was communication from the school and things set up, but we didn’t want to push it because we thought it would go south pretty quick, just with him being home day after day,” said Mr Ward.

As Level 2 starts this week both families have no problem sending their children back to school.

“I’m not really worried about his health at all, we’re happy he is going back to school and getting back into that routine,” said Mr Ward.

Mrs Jenkins says around 80% of their students are returning, with some parents anxious about sending their children back.

She said says the school will not be practicing social distancing instead emphasising hygiene practices much like early childhood education.

AUDIO: Wilson Special School Principal Rosemary Jenkins discusses how they have been delivering distance learning and supporting their community.

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