Roxburgh College: Supporting students with language difficulties

Learn about how Roxburgh College supports all students to develop strong language skills, including those with language difficulties.

Roxburgh College is a secondary school in Roxburgh Park with 1,117 students.

The school recognises how language plays a vital role in all aspects of student learning and wellbeing.

“Strong language skills are central to a student’s academic attainment,” says principal Fernando Ianni. “Language is critical for literacy, numeracy and all areas of the curriculum. Language skills are also important for a student’s social interactions, self-esteem, behaviour regulation and mental health. That’s why it’s so important to support all students with language, particularly those with language difficulties.”

Statistics show that 1 in 15 Australian students will be diagnosed with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), and many more will have language difficulties. Many students are not diagnosed because their language difficulties are mistaken for academic, social-emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Fernando says about 1 in 7 students at his school has a language difficulty. “That’s a lot of students who require intervention. We know we can help them, and we know that strategies that support students with language difficulties will benefit all students.”

Roxburgh College established a dedicated Language Support Program in 2010 that is designed and run by speech pathologists. It’s been a great success, providing much-needed support to hundreds of students over the years.

Speech pathologist Aimee Harrison says a language difficulty is a difficulty in understanding and/or using language for learning purposes or being able to engage with your community. “Students may have difficulty following instructions, being able to demonstrate their knowledge through spoken or written means and in completing tasks,” she says.

The Language Support Program at Roxburgh College is for years 7 to 9. Intervention programs include speech pathologists working with individual students as well as trained language support teachers delivering small-group classes with content designed by speech pathologists.

The school has a whole-school approach to language development. All teachers use strategies that support all students to develop strong language skills and are essential for students with language difficulties. These strategies include the ‘I do, we do, you do’ approach in which the teacher demonstrates what’s to be done, the class then works on the task together and then students work independently.

Teachers also ‘check-in’ regularly with students who have language difficulties to ensure they understand the work and are on the right track. They use visual supports, such as mind maps and examples of completed work, provide clear and concise instructions and repeat key information.

The school is reaping the rewards, with significant improvements in students’ behaviour, engagement, academic attainment and completion of Year 12.

Aimee says her heart fills with pride when she sees the progress of students with significant language difficulties. “It’s really rewarding to see them complete all their tasks, get their VCE and move on to tertiary studies.”