Gonski turns Lucas’s learning around

Barrack Heights Public School in NSW has used Gonski funding to change the lives and learning potential of its children through more individual support.


11 year-old Lucas is one of the kids who has had their school experience turned from negative to positive thanks to the great work the school is doing.

His mother, Lisa Simmons, says Lucas had significant needs and struggled from Kindergarten to Year 2 with the basics of reading and writing, lost confidence and became disengaged from school.

“He found the basic concepts of reading and writing difficult and got quite discouraged. He stopped engaging with the class, he wouldn’t ask questions and refused to participate.

“He would refuse to do anything that was related to reading. It began affecting his confidence in other areas of his life.

“When we engaged with the School to support Lucas, it became evident to all of us that he needed more support than what he was getting already.

Gonski funding allowed Barrack Heights to shift Lucas into a special class of just 15 students who were taking extra time to learn the basics, and who were given extra one-to-one support.

“Lucas is very active and a hands-on learner and this class was able to adapt to that. He was also given one-to-one support to make sure he was able to learn and to bring his confidence back,” Ms Simmons said.

“He got the help when it mattered the most - in the classroom whilst he was being exposed to new things.”

“Not every child learns the same way, and some children will always struggle. We need to make sure those kids get help as early as possible, like Lucas did.”

Lucas is now in Year 5 and back in a mainstream class with his reading and writing at grade level.

“He is confident and wants to get involved in everything,” Ms Simmons said. “I know the help he got at school has had a positive impact on his whole life, and on his learning in the future.”

“This also benefits my daughter and her class because the teachers are not having to try and support kids who are falling behind, while still teaching the rest of the class and making sure they are learning too.

Barrack Heights is a regional school on the NSW South Coast and has received $200,000 in extra Gonski resources in 2014-16.

Principal Sarah Rudling says the school chose to use the money to run programs which helped children improve their reading, writing and maths and engage with their learning.

She said that the school had students who did not have the ability or self-esteem to stay in class for long periods of time, but individual attention had delivered remarkable results.

“Having this funding has made such a difference. It has given the school the flexibility to pay for additional staff including speech therapists, occupational therapists, mentors and specialist teachers to work intensively with children with additional needs or learning difficulties.

“It has provided the time for teachers to engage in high quality professional learning, so they are now in a much stronger position to help children learn.”

She says that Gonski must continue for the full six years so all children at the school can get the support they need.

“I don’t think people realise the impact that well-funded schools have on children, not just for their education but for their sense of hope and sense of achievement so they can take that back to their families and to their communities.”

Watch Lisa Simmons talk about the support her son received and the difference it made.

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