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An interview with Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, Mrs Laura Kling

St Georges campus

Please tell me about your role and responsibility within St. George’s
I have several roles in school; I am in charge of the Learning Centre in the Middle and Senior School. Students from Years 6 to 11, who have additional language needs (they may be completely new to English, or in need of English support) join our English Language Acquisition Programme and follow a tailor-made, evolutive programme which combines intensive English with their mainstream class subjects such as PE, Music, Art, Digital Literacy, Maths and Perspectives Globales. I work with a team of teachers to provide this, including Mrs Schibler, Ms Hobbs and Ms Ross. As Special Educational Needs Coordinator for the school (SENCo), I also support a wide range of student needs in collaboration with the Heads of each section of the school; Mme Gippini Pose in the Early Learning School, where we complete general observations and ensure all the children are ready to transition to Foundation Stage; with Mrs Kaeser in the Junior School, with screening and tracking of students literacy and numeracy skills, as well as social and emotional support and interventions to target literacy and numeracy development in small groups; with Mr Chapuis in Middle School and Dr. Brooke in Senior School, where we support students with English Language curricular support as well as specific learning challenges. Ms Hobbs, Mrs Travis and Mrs Lew also deliver learning support lessons for students with identified needs in our Learning Centre    As Head of Pastoral Care, I work with tutors, class teachers, Staff and Student Wellbeing Teams, Heads of School and Boarding and the Wellbeing Prefects to monitor and promote wellbeing. Through Life Skills classes, events, clubs and regular tutor time input, we work together to make this a key focus of school life. Holding a Certificate in Clinical and Pastoral Counselling, I am available to offer advice and direct students to professional counsellors or therapists, in conjunction with parents, where necessary. I am also the school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead, working closely with Mr Carver in Boarding, who is the Designated Safeguarding Officer.

How has the role developed since you began?
As we have developed, we have become more aware of the pressures that students and staff are faced with, the need to balance work and ‘play’ and the importance of communication. As a school, we have always placed great importance on the pastoral care of the students, with class tutors in the Junior School, tutors in the Senior School and, of course, the House system. We have now formalized the communication between all these systems and put in place weekly meetings to gather information and to closely monitor student welfare more efficiently and effectively. I feel so privileged to work with professionals who know their students and are tuned in to their emotional, as well as academic needs and challenges. I always remember my father telling me that his school days were the best of his life, and they should be. If they aren’t then we need to be able to identify the problems and try and help.
Please tell us about ongoing training and new developments?
There are always new training opportunities, and we are very lucky to be supported in our personal professional development. I recently completed a Certificate in Clinical and Pastoral Counselling, in order to strengthen our provision in school. Of course, the local area is rich in specialist provision, and we work with psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as a variety of therapists in the region. As a school we have regular training based around the school’s chosen focus: most recently we have been focused on Multilingual Learning and how to support multilingual learners in the classroom; it is surprising just how long it takes to learn a language to the level of academic proficiency!
Have you noticed any changes as students navigate the challenges of COVID and the changes to their life at school (lack of sport/usual social activities) 
COVID-19 has had varying effects on students and families, as we all have different levels of resilience and have lived different experiences. We have all had to face our own personal challenges, but we have been very lucky as a community to be able to remain at school for the majority of time. This has meant that students, even though still affected by measures put in place depending on their ages, have at least been able to keep face-to-face contact in school and support each other. Of course, isolation and the restrictions have been difficult and students have had to adapt and change on a regular basis. What they have experienced will stand them in good stead for the future, they have had to rely on themselves and find personal strength that will prove invaluable as life skills.