ACS Cobham is a long-established international school located on the outskirts of London which offers students a choice of either the International Baccalaureate Diploma or the US College Board Advanced Placement courses. With a student body incorporating over 73 nationalities, the school prides itself both on the excellent results that students achieve and the nurturing environment that the 1480 students, aged from 2 to 18 years old, experience.
As you might expect within a school of this size and diversity, some students will have specific support requirements and the school has a Learning Support Team, to identify and provide appropriate help and to apply for accommodations during exams where needed.
In the case of dyslexia and dyscalculia, the team has put in place an effective screening process for identification and support.
The initial indication that a new student may have a problem can come from a variety of sources. A student may have struggled at a previous school, the parents may raise a concern or one of the student’s new teachers may suspect a problem.
Once any concern has been raised, the school immediately assesses the student using GL Education’s Dyslexia and Dyscalculia Screeners to identify whether the student is just having general difficulties in literacy or numeracy or whether the problem can be attributed to dyslexia or dyscalculia.
The tests are easy to administer, as Patricia Giannola, Head of High School Learning Support, explains. “It takes about 5 minutes to set up and then the student sits at the computer with headphones on while they complete the test, which usually takes around half an hour. I can get on with other work at the same time and when the test is done I can see the reports instantly.” This contrasts with their old system which used to take an hour, one-to-one, and then required further analysis to produce the reports.
This ease of operation encourages the school to test early and to assess even the most marginal cases. “The dyslexic students I have worked with have all been high functioning students with only mild to moderate cases,” says Patricia, “but I have never seen a positive indication, no matter how mild, that wasn’t backed up by further testing.”
The school shares the reports with the students and parents, and further guidance is then sought from an educational psychologist.
One student at the school had struggled with maths in her previous middle school. On joining the high school she also only achieved an F in her first test. She asked for some additional tutoring and when she was taught in a different way, her results improved. “We screened her for dyslexia and dyscalculia,” says Patricia, “and as a result she was referred to the educational psychologist. The diagnosis meant that she received extra support and was entitled to some accommodations during examinations. Prior to her diagnosis she felt demotivated and unable to achieve a worthwhile result. With the additional support in place she felt positive about working around a defined constraint to achieve her academic goals. She has just received her IB diploma (which includes a mandatory mathematics component) and has secured a place at one of the most prestigious universities in the UK.
The Dyslexia and Dyscalculia Screeners have become an essential component of the school’s Learning Support process. “The sooner we can identify what additional support a student needs,” says Patricia, “the sooner they are able to start making the level of progress they are truly capable of.”