Lower Primary Learning Support

At Leipzig International School, we are committed to an inclusive learning environment. The purpose of the Learning Support program at LIS is to respond to the diverse learning needs of all students. This includes students who encounter mild to moderate learning difficulties, as well as students who may require greater academic challenges than those provided within the regular curriculum. Students experiencing a specific learning difficulty need support in acquiring skills and strategies, which will enable them to succeed with the regular curriculum. The Learning Support teachers work collaboratively, through on-going observation, assessment and evaluation, with the classroom teachers, parents and outside specialists to support students work towards obtaining those skills. Our level of support ranges from incorporating learning strategies into the classroom, small group intervention (individual and/or small group intensive instruction in a separate classroom), in-class support by a learning support specialist. Our aim is for all students to thrive, be safe, happy and become empowered and lifelong learners who will achieve their highest potential while celebrating their unique learning identity.

Middle School Learning Support

The upper primary/lower secondary Learning Support specialist is responsible for students in Grade 5 through Grade 8. The Learning Support specialist, in collaboration with the principal and assistant principal (AP), evaluates new students to determine if services are needed upon entry to LIS. The type of support offered is mainly in-class (“push-in”) support, in which the Learning Support specialist is present with students, in certain mainstream lessons.

In Grade 5, students receive support in Literacy and Mathematics. The Learning Support specialist works with classroom teachers to differentiate the curriculum to meet the unique needs of students and meets with parents to discuss the transition to secondary school. A recommendation for Learning Support is made based on student needs.

In Grades 6 – 8, students receive a number of in-class (“push-in”) support lessons every week. The Learning Support specialist works with the Head of Department to arrange examination access arrangements for students in Grade 8 that have a diagnosed learning difficulty and performs internal assessments, as needed. Students without a diagnosed learning difficulty are not eligible for access arrangements and students in need of additional testing will be referred for an external assessment by an educational psychologist.

Upper Secondary Learning Support

Learning Support in Upper Secondary focuses mostly on students with mild to moderate learning difficulties. Learning difficulties may affect the acquisition, organisation, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information.  We also strive to support any students that have been identified from the teaching team in collaboration with Student Support Services. However, supporting students in the lower classes of primary or in middle school is very different to supporting students in Upper Secondary. We are an IB school; therefore, when it comes to our students, we try to help them to become:

  •  Inquirers
  • Knowledgeable
  • Thinkers
  • Communicators
  • Principled
  • Open-minded
  • Caring
  • Risk-takers
  • Balanced
  • Reflective 

(IB learner profile)

As described by Ware et al (2011) the following factors help students with learning difficulties to access the curriculum:

  • Different teaching approaches
  • Classroom organisation
  • Differentiation
  • Individual Education Plans
  • Out of Class interventions
  • Use of Technologies

So our approach is focused on those factors. We try to support our students not just during the Learning Support lessons but also by working collaboratively with the subject specialists so our students can overcome any barriers they face when they are accessing the curriculum.

Working with Subject Teachers

As mentioned above we try to work and communicate with the subject specialists when possible on the above factors. It is important to point out here that different teaching approaches do not only benefit students with learning difficulties.  However, we need to consider that for a student with Special Educational Needs (SEN) different approaches need to be targeted to his/her needs. Therefore, whenever it is needed, we review with the subject teachers resources, educational platforms or even the structure of an assignment. We try to liaise with the subject teachers even on details like where a student sits in the classroom. Differentiation is also very high on our agenda and we try to share this with our colleagues. Personally, I do not feel that it is something that should be happening only for students with learning difficulties and I feel that it has the potential to benefit all the students. For example, instead of writing an essay, students are allowed to type it. In my experience, students with dyslexia will prefer typing to writing but this also might look easier for other students as well. Differentiation should focus on students’ strengths, interests and abilities, or as described by Levy ‘a set of strategies that will help teachers meet each child where they are when they enter class and move them forward as far as possible on their educational path’ (2008, p. 162).

Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) or similar documents help us to collaborate and communicate the needs of the learner and the modifications that the learner requires in order to access the curriculum (NCSE,2011).  IEPs also help teachers, SEN staff, students and parents to communicate, evaluate the arrangements and establish a well-functioning relationship in order to support the learners effectively. In an IEP we will generally find the following:

•access arrangements


•parent/student/teachers’ input

From the above, I feel it is evident that we try to help our students boost their academic performance, make them more confident learners and improve their self-esteem.

Out of Class Support

During a learning support lesson, we try to be as flexible as possible in order to maximise the benefit of learning support to the students. Usually during a lesson the following situations happen a lot:

  • 1-1 support
  • group work
  • help with the learning resources that the subject teacher has provided
  • positive relationship with the student
  • work on various educational platforms
  • students take ownership over their work

To the best of my experience, the relationship of the learning support staff with the student cannot be more important than the student-subject teacher relationship. As Blatchford et al (2009) state, this could have a negative impact on a student’s progress, which makes sense in my opinion as the learning support teacher is there to help subject teachers and not to replace them, since they do not possess the subject expertise.

In the Upper High School, Learning Support happens mostly outside of the classroom, which with the most mature students can work very well as, according to research (Norwich and Kelly, 2004), students tend to prefer it to the in-class support, as it gives them a quiet place to work away from all the distractions. Additionally, this working in an out-of-class support environment makes them more productive and relieves stress.


Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., Brown, P., & Webster, R. (2009). The effect of support staff on pupil engagement and individual attention. British Educational Research Journal, 35(5), 661-686. doi: 10.1080/01411920902878917

IB(undated). Learner profile for IB students | International Baccalaureate®. Retrieved 4 December 2019, from https://www.ibo.org/benefits/learner-profile/

Levy, H. (2008). Meeting the Needs of All Students through Differentiated Instruction: Helping Every Child Reach and Exceed Standards. The Clearing House: A Journal Of Educational Strategies, Issues And Ideas, 81(4), 161-164. doi: 10.3200/tchs.81.4.161-164

NCSE. (2011). Retrieved 4 November 2019, from https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/AccesstotheCurriculum_1.pdf

Norwich , B., & Kelly, N. (2004). Pupils’ views on inclusion: moderate learning difficulties and bullying in mainstream and special schools. British Educational Research Journal, 30(1), 43-65. doi: 10.1080/01411920310001629965

Ware, J., Butler, C., Robertson, C., O’ Donell, M., & Gould, M. (2011). Retrieved 12 November 2019, from https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/AccesstotheCurriculum_1.pdf

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