Mansfield Secondary College: Supporting secondary students with learning difficulties

Learn more about how Mansfield Secondary College is supporting secondary students with learning difficulties.

Mansfield Secondary College is highly regarded for its inclusive practices that benefit all students and are essential for students with disability and diverse learning needs.

The rural school, in Victoria’s alpine region, caters for 477 students from Years 7 to 12.

Principal, Tim Hall says 1 in 5 students at his school has a learning difficulty. That means they need reasonable adjustments to engage with the curriculum.

Tim says: “We know that learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and dyscalculia are for life; they don’t go away. So, it’s vital these students are supported throughout secondary school.”

“With the right support, these young people can absolutely make their contribution to society. They are successful young people. Our job is just to help them show what they are capable of.”

Tim says the evidence-based teaching practices the school uses to support students with learning difficulties benefit all students.

“For me, the opportunity to help these young people achieve is just central to what we do. It’s great to be able to see them flourish and achieve the standards they are capable of,” he says.

Year 11 student, Zach, has dyslexia. He says he uses technology such as speech-to-text, immersive readers as well as scribes to help him convey his knowledge and insights.

He says: “The biggest hurdle for me is proving to myself I can do it. I’m not stupid, I will be able to do it. It might take me a bit longer; I’m just going to have to figure out another way to get to it. Some people go over the hurdles, we just go around them, and we all end up in the same spot.”

Disability Inclusion Leading Teacher Courtney O’Loughlan stepped into her new role to support staff to develop their knowledge of and skills in inclusive practices. Her role is to upskill staff in the use of evidence-based practices that support students with disability and diverse learning needs.

She says there are loads of strategies teachers can use to support diverse learners. “It can range from the way teachers are able to change their practices and the content of what they are delivering in their classes.”

Adjustments that help include:

  • assistive technology, such as text to speech and speech to text
  • physical materials that support hands-on learning
  • task checklists
  • explicit and direct instruction
  • repeated exposures
  • using modelling to reduce cognitive load
  • visual prompts and representation
  • scaffolded and gradual release of control to students (e.g., I do, we do, you do)
  • small group instruction.

It’s been the biggest privilege of my year to watch some of the adjustments that teachers are making to support students, such as Zach, to be able to participate and showcase his knowledge verbally while I acted as a scribe. It was a moving experience for me, and absolutely enabling him to shine and show what he knew. That was a real honour!”