The Creative Centre, the brain child of the former Principal, Beverley Ulett, was launched over fifteen years ago to cater to children with special learning needs in a smaller, more controlled environment – a surprising move, some might think, given Vaz’s reputation for scholastic excellence in the GSAT and Gleaner Spelling Bee Competition.
Working with gifted children is not the sole focus of our school, says the current Principal Karlene Bisnott. Over the past years, the school has launched 3 ‘Pull-Out’ programmes aimed at remedial coaching in reading and numeracy. The Creative Centre is, however, the programme of which we are most proud. “This is because it embodies our belief in the philosophy that no child should be left behind, regardless of aptitude.”
“Once a child in the main school is identified as being in need of individualized help he or she is placed in The Creative Centre”, says Bisnott. “There we emphasize learning strategies to help them overcome their particular challenges. If they improve during the year, we return them to the regular classroom. If not, they stay on for another year before re-integration”.
Located on premises, the Creative centre currently has 12 students with capacity for 20 and has been approved by the MInistry of Education.
”Children learn through various modalities – kinesthetic, auditory, visual, tactile”, Sherman explains. So each student must have a psychoeducational evaluation done by a child psychologist.
The assessment involves a battery of tests which produce a wealth of information from which an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is designed. The IEP is matched to the prescribed sequence of learning in the regular school curriculum; then it is used as a teaching and assessment guide.
“Most of the learning strategies are interactive with an emphasis on a “game-like approach,” says Sherman. The Centre also uses educational software, and is the recent beneficiary of a computer lab. The Computer Lab was organized by Marlon Hudson and Dane Spencer from Smart Mobile Solutions who enlisted the support of others who contributed in a variety of ways.
Not surprisingly, there is a heavy emphasis on teaching the children to become self-motivated. “They set goals for themselves and are awarded points during the work week,” she says, “However, the ultimate goal is to mold them into confident, empowered students who know how to use the strategies that work for them.”
The support of parents is critical to the programme’s success, says Sherman: “A good home-school connection drastically increases our chances for success.”
Another important determinant of success is early intervention. “When we treat children early it makes a big difference” says Vice Principal Glenette Colman-Wray, a UWI-trained literacy specialist. Colman-Wray is instrumental in pinpointing students in need of early intervention.
Non-academic activities are not ignored. “Quite a few of them love sports and music, and we encourage them to participate in these activities,” says Colman-Wray. “It helps in the re-integration process, and more importantly their overall development”.
The school recognizes the Ministry of Education as a valuable stakeholder. “We thank them for granting our special needs students special accommodation for the GSAT and more recently PEP each year. Now in its 68th year, Vaz continues to excel in the PEP at Grades 4 to 6.