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In the Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School Junior School, the Individual Differences team ensures each student fulfils their potential.

“We are able to acknowledge and monitor the tracking of progress for all students,” explains Mrs Helen Moore, the Deputy Head of Junior School. “Then the Individual Difference (IND) team helps students who need a bit more support or extension.”

For Mrs Moore, the biggest issue facing young students who need enrichment or support is a sense of acknowledgement. “It’s a great relief for them, to know that someone else knows and understands their needs,” Mrs Moore explains. “It's very reassuring. It helps them feel connected when someone recognises them and who they are.”

The classroom teacher plays a crucial role in identifying those students with different needs. “They are the ones observing students in their natural learning environment everyday,” explains Mrs Moore. “Their role is to provide support and extension everyday. We’re there to support them.”

In the classroom, IND takes a variety of forms. It could mean one-on-one support with an IND teacher, a like-minded small group in the small classroom, or a mixed ability pair where a stronger student is paired with a less confident one. “We use the resource of the children in the classroom to support one another,” explains Mrs Moore.

“Being able to seek out the support you need to get things done, without constantly relying on the adults in the room is a life skill,” she says.

Outside of the classroom there are many opportunities for Junior School students to extend their learning, including Maths, Science and Writing competitions. The Ignite program is designed to capture the passion and interests of students, and it's an opportunity for children who show real talent to immerse themselves in a particular activity, such as sewing, art or robotics.

Likewise, GATEWAYS is an extension program that extends children’s passions and interests in a particular area. Run by an external provider, the program offers incursions into Science, Maths and Literacy throughout the course of the year.

Another way the Junior School caters to different interests and talents is through the Co-curricular and lunchtime Clubs. From the Lego Technic Club and Coding Club, to Art, Writing and Sport, these activities capture the interests of a wide range of students. “If a child is struggling in their academic work, to be validated for their physical prowess can be a huge boost to their esteem,” says Mrs Moore. “It can impact and turn around their academic work.”

“It’s about finding the spark and allowing that spark to shine.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2020 edition of Lux Mea Magazine.