The Learning Skills (LS) Department is an integral part of Downe House. Its aim is to enable each girl to learn in a way that suits her unique profile, and to promote those skills for learning that will underpin consistent progress across the subject range for the wider school community. Students with identified needs are documented on the LS database to which all pastoral and subject staff refer, ensuring strong collaborative working relationships with LS teachers so that the needs of the individual student are met. The department aims to encourage every LS girl to grow in confidence by recognising her unique strengths and to assist her in identifying useful strategies which she can transfer into her own learning; thus students are enabled to flourish in the classroom and beyond. As early identification is key, parents are requested to disclose the nature of any specific learning difficulties (SpLDs) in advance of an application. The department can support pupils with a range of SpLDs, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, mild speech and language and semantic pragmatic language disorders, low level attention deficit (hyperactive) disorder, as well as those in need of skills development. The LS team consists of five well qualified and experienced specialist teachers of SpLDs and it is well resourced with a variety of games, computer programmes and texts to encourage overlearning.
A student with 'ongoing' support will be taught an individual lesson tailored to her specific needs, once or twice a week; this will be timetabled during the school day, since, except in exceptional circumstances, it is departmental policy not to remove pupils from lessons. All pupils are taught in a multi-sensory, structured and cumulative way and, if appropriate, assistive technology and appropriate adjustments for examinations may be arranged. The LS Department adheres to the principles of Quality First Teaching, building in high expectations for all students and embracing a graduated approach of assess, plan, do and review. All programmes have an agreed set of termly targets which are reviewed regularly often as part of an individual educational plan. Some on the database who are not deemed to need regular one-to-one support can have 'open door' access to a LS teacher, on a less regular basis; others on the database need little contact with the department, but the fact that their SpLD is noted on the database means that their progress is regularly monitored by the department and subject staff. The Head of LS is an assessor of students with SpLDs and has strong collaborative links with external SEN professionals, such as educational psychologists and Speech and language therapists. All the LS teachers aim to respond flexibly and in co-operation with the wishes of the pupils and their parents.
Further information about Learning Skills may be obtained by contacting the School, please ask to be put through to the Learning Skills Department.