ABOUT WANDSWORTH SCHOOL
Wandsworth School for Children with Special Educational Needs has been operational since January 2007. The school began as a pre-primary school called Wiggles and Squiggles. It used the Foundation Stage Learning Modules, originating in the United Kingdom. Wandsworth School gradually began to attract children in the Randpark school district whose special physical, sensory and educational needs where not being met by other schools in the area.
Children with Cerebral Palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorders, various Genetic Syndromes, and multi-sensory disorders all benefitted from the high staff to child ratios and the progressive teaching methodologies. In 2010, Wandsworth fully embraced the Montessori philosophies, methodologies and mentorship techniques. The children now benefit from the diverse combination of the Foundation Stage and Montessori Curriculum, which facilitates children working through elementary milestones to age appropriate academic markers at their own pace. Each individual child is able to experience his world of learning through tactile, concrete equipment that goes beyond the microcosm of the classroom and extends into the macrocosm of everyday life.
The children work in a boundary-firm environment, where those who can, are encouraged to explore their environment, being creative, yet respectful, with the equipment. With the children who are more physically challenged, presentations are adapted to their abilities with their absorbent mind playing a significant role in assimilating the content presented. The children work methodically through the curriculum, enjoying a language-rich environment which meets both academic literacy and communication needs.
Wandsworth values the movement towards independence above all else. One of the first ways to achieve this is for a child to be able to communicate beyond their home and classroom. As an educational facility, we have had the privilege of being able to incorporate techniques like picture/symbol communication, sign language, low tech communication boards and various grid systems, on tablets, for those who can afford them. As has been our experience, no one single communication system suits every child throughout their lifetime. The same is true for academic physical, sensory and emotional milestone development. For this reason we make every effort to keep parents, therapists and teaching Directresses in contact with one another, and continually revert back to our Individual Education programs (IEP), keeping up to date with each child’s needs and goals to help him realise his full potential.
As Wandsworth School has grown, so too have the children who have moved through the school since its inception. Some of our children are now very close to being of a Junior High School age, and because of this we have taken the decision to change our name from our Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) and NPO registered Wiggles and Squiggles name, to Wandsworth School for Special Educational Needs Children. The Wiggles and Squiggles Governing Body, directorship, trade registered names and registration numbers will remain the same for the foreseeable future.
Even with this small change, our special children and their families will still receive the same high-quality service, care and education that they are used to. Our new comers will be hard-pressed to find a facility filled with more love, light, knowledge and educational passion than what is offered at Wandsworth Special Needs School, the Gauteng LSEN School of Choice - embracing your special needs child.
Any achievement, whether big or small, academic or otherwise, is recognised, shared and celebrated.
WANDSWORTH & INCLUSIVE LEARNING
Every child has the ability to learn, but the way children learn and how much knowledge they can absorb can vary considerably — especially for a child with special needs. Yet, as a society we owe all children a chance to reach their potential, so it is important to create the best possible learning environments for that to happen. Figuring out how to provide the best education for a child is never easy because what’s best for one child may not be best for another. When looking at mainstreaming, it is important to look at inclusion. Inclusion involves bringing special education services to a child who is in regular classes, rather than bringing the child to the service. It focuses on the benefits of being in a common learning environment, but the requirements for that student are tailored to the child’s special needs.
Here at Wandsworth we have this all in place but currently lack the benefits of integrating the mainstream child. With full inclusion we hope to create the opportunity where our special needs children can integrate with mainstream children. Several studies have suggested that overall, including disabled children in mainstream classrooms improves academic achievement, self-esteem and social skills. When addressing the needs of disabled students, it is important to remember the needs of the rest of the class. Including special-needs children in a regular classroom can be disruptive and make learning more difficult for the majority. However, children without special needs can benefit from interacting with children who struggle in some ways. Whether a person with a disability is a child or an adult, ultimately they have more in common with a non-disabled person than they have differences. For children, and many adults, these distinctions are harder to discern without exposure to disabilities. This exposure encourages children to help one another and develop empathy for other human beings, whether they suffer official “disabilities” or not.
Our Montessori curriculum focuses on key developmental milestones in children between the ages of three and six-years-old. We put emphasis on self-directed learning, inspire creativity and are dedicated to individual growth in preparation for their future academic and social excellence. All objects and activities have precise locations on the shelves of a Montessori classroom. When children are finished with an activity, they place items back into their appropriate places. This sense of order helps facilitate the learning process, teaches self-discipline, and caters to a young child’s innate need for an orderly environment. With the opening of our mainstream Montessori Pre-School at Wandsworth, we hope to bring the idea of inclusion to life. Integrating both mainstream and special needs children.
Sue gained a Bachelor of Physical Education at Wits in 1996, majoring in Psychology, Physical Education, and later, English through UNISA. Sue also completed her Montessori diploma through the North American Montessori Centre. After finishing her studies, Sue taught at Rand Park High School and served as a school counsellor for four years.
In 2000, she moved with her husband to the UK and taught at a number of special needs schools before settling at Paddock School. She worked in the Key Stage 1 and Early Years classes over a five and a half year period, before moving back to South Africa with her family in 2006.
Wandsworth School started in January 2007 as Wiggles and Squiggles School with one child on a part-time basis from Sue’s home, and in the 10 years that Sue was Principal of Wandsworth, she shared her local and invaluable international teaching experience, investing in staff training and sharing successful teaching strategies used in the United Kingdom to build the school into what it is today.
Sue’s ethos and ethics are ingrained in the daily running of the school providing a strong working model for a safe and nurturing educational environment where children and young adults with diverse special needs can grow and thrive. Sue currently lives with her family in England, but continues her service to the school as a member of the Board of Directors and works closely with the management team.