Here’s a unique and innovative special needs school for children aged three to 18 that focuses on arts-based therapy to teach numeracy, literacy and independent living skills.
Melbourne Specialist International School (MSIS) is a school for students with special needs where visual arts and a performing arts programme take centre stage. This all-through school for children aged three to 18 years offers an alternative to mainstream education and is designed for students with a variety of learning disorders as well as physical disabilities.
The school says:
“At MSIS, we discover and nurture the strengths of a child with special needs rather than focus on their disability. Every child should be valued as they have the potential to contribute to society.”
It’s a small school of just 60 students and teacher to student ratios are a low 1:4, which you would expect at an SEN school. Teaching is delivered by a team of classroom teachers, specialist teachers in dance, music, art and drama, and therapists including occupational, art, music, and speech therapists, physios and psychologists. Every student is given an individual learning programs that focuses on their specific needs.
MSIS follows the Victorian Curriculum Framework for foundation years through to Year 10. This is an Australian curriculum that enables teachers to identify a student’s current levels of achievement, and then deliver teaching and learning programmes to support progression in their learning. It has a reputation in Australia for supporting a diversity of learners, ranging from students with disabilities and additional learning needs to those who are gifted and talented.
The early years for children aged three to seven years focuses strongly on the Jolly Phonics programme; in Foundation 1 for six to 13-year-olds, Montessori-inspired activities play a key role in all learning; in Foundation 2 for eight to 13-year-olds, there’s an emphasis on reading, comprehension, critical thinking, writing, speaking and listening. MSIS also offers pathway programmes into adulthood that focus on living skills and vocational training.
A typical day would cover English, maths, art, outdoor play and PE, social and life skills, and the performing arts. There are also swim lessons held at a nearby swimming pool, and weekly therapy sessions in the class with the option of 1:1 therapy if required.
MSIS is part of the White Lodge Education Group, which owns seven pre-schools and kindergartens across Singapore, and is in partnership with an innovative school in Melbourne called Port Phillip Specialist School. Centrally located in Loewen Gardens near Dempsey Hill, the school is a small, single-storey building with eight classrooms.
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