Pilot screening programme to benefit 1,500 Rotorua children


Close to 1,500 Rotorua students will be screened for learning, visual and processing disorders and supported to overcome any challenges, thanks to an innovative programme being rolled out across the city from next month.

The Rotorua Schools Collaborative Screening Project 2021 is being facilitated by the Empowered Learning Trust, which has received $60,000 from Rotorua Trust for the project.

Part of the grant from Rotorua Trust will enable 34 learning support co-ordinators, teacher aides and special education needs co-ordinators to be trained in screening that identifies individual students’ barriers to learning, provide a pathway for support and to monitor progress and achievement. The remainder of the grant will be used to provide resources and support for those found to have difficulties.

Empowered Learning Trust chairperson, Karen Barker says one in five students are affected by a learning difficulty of some kind.

“These difficulties make it challenging for students to fully engage and unfortunately students often experience continual failure, which leads to poor self-esteem, behavioural issues and disengagement with education – impacting wider into their families and the community.

The routine screening programme will screen all Year 5 students at participating Rotorua primary schools.

Mrs Barker says specific learning difficulties such as Irlen Syndrome (visual perceptual processing disorder), Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia and phonological awareness are underpinned by cognitive difficulties and, if addressed early, the student has a better chance of achieving their full potential.

“Our aim with the project is to screen all students – not just those already showing signs of difficulty – and identify those living with visual and processing issues so we can then support them with resources, lenses or extra tutoring to enable them to prosper.

“The funding from Rotorua Trust enables us to go further and reach more students. It means no child is left behind and potentially left to fall through the cracks.”

Rotorua East Kahui Ako project lead, Tineke O’Callaghan, who is one of the lead teachers in the project, believes it takes a structured and collaborative approach to identify and support children with learning and processing difficulties.

“By training more support staff we are creating more awareness and providing schools with more wrap-around support so that students can thrive. The school-based programme means there can be greater detection and more participation.”

Ms O’Callaghan reports children who are screened, identified and supported with their difficulties are more confident, have higher self-esteem and go on to feel more settled overall.

Rotorua Trust chairman, Stewart Edward says the screening project will deliver benefits to many local children, their families and the wider community.

“We look to support community organisations that can make a real difference in the community and the screening project fits within our education priority funding area. I’m excited to hear the reports back on how many children this project positively benefits in our community.”

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