Focusing on what students can do, rather than on what they can’t, and developing a thorough understanding of each child is key to preparing them well for the future, according to St Gabriel’s School Principal John Franzin.
“We spend a lot of time with families at the enrollment stage talking about their aspirations and working out how we can meet the needs of their child.
“We do a lot of pastoral work with parents at every step of the child’s education,” he said.
Now a co-ed Catholic primary school, St Gabriel’s used to be a residential school for boys with hearing impairment. Today its enrolment criteria extends to students with special needs including intellectual disability in the mild to moderate range, sensory impairment and autism, in order to meet the growing needs of families in the Hills.
Mr Franzin said the 90-year-old school has four key values: joy, faith, community and relationships. Using these as their guiding principles and keeping class sizes to eight to ten students, Mr Franzin said staff members are able to get to know the students really well.
“With our specialist teaching staff, individualised programs and purpose built environment set on three leafy hectares in the heart of Castle Hill, we are committed to meeting our students’ developing educational, emotional, and social needs through a strong focus on communication.
“Communication can take the form of speech, technology, visuals and or signs and gestures. Students using visual technology such as the iPad and the interactive whiteboard helps them to learn new concepts and skills and gives them greater access to all areas of the curriculum,” Mr Franzin said.
St Gabriel’s operates like a mainstream primary school, following the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) curriculum but the syllabus is differentiated and tailored specifically for each student. Students learn subjects such as English, maths, science, sport, art and music – they even have our own choir.
“We also provide access to additional support with our own Speech Pathologist, and the services of an Occupational Therapist and Counsellor, and we work in partnership with families to ensure their child’s learning and communication needs are being met whether they are in or outside the classroom.”
Mr Franzin said that essential to learning is ensuring their students’ experience is fun and engaging, and importantly that students are challenged.
“Some of our students stay only for the first few years as they settle into school life and all it has to offer.
“If we can help parents with this first step, and their child is achieving and making progress, then we’ve done our job as specialists in education.”