Our School - Junior School

The Junior School curriculum is developmental, broad, balanced and designed to give children a chance to experience a variety of activities in order to discover themselves as learners and their strengths, interests, skills and talents. We want our children to have fun in their learning and love coming to school each day. We strive to assist all children to be the best they can be and reach their full potential in a safe and stimulating environment. Junior staff consider every minute as learning time. 
The curriculum in the Junior School has a strong focus on improving students’ social skills and assists them in becoming independent in their daily living skills – from hanging up their bag in the morning until the time our students leave school; we find teaching moments everywhere! 
The Junior School consists of 13 classrooms and each class belongs to a Professional Learning Team (PLT) with at least one other class, encouraging a team teaching and learning environment. Students are grouped in mixed ability classes with similar aged peers and age from 5-11 years. There is a staff of 14 teachers and approximately 30 PLT assistants ensuring that our students receive appropriate support in their daily learning. 
The Early Learning Centre (E.L.C.) is also a part of the Junior Mini-School and caters for children aged 3-5 in a preschool and kindergarten program.

Literacy and Numeracy We plan our literacy and numeracy programs around the individual needs of students, based on the goals and priorities agreed upon between families, teachers and therapists – as outlined in each students’ Individual Learning Plan. 
Students undertake literacy and numeracy activities on a daily basis and their learning is tracked through a variety of assessment approaches. Our speech and occupational therapists provide support during these programs across a broad range of areas; this might include one-on-one sessions with students out of the class, small focus groups or assisting with running whole-class activities with a strong literacy focus. Each day our students are involved in class circle time with a focus on inclusive communication and oral language experiences. 

Our literacy program: 
• Enables students to achieve speaking, listening, reading, writing, fine motor and pre-literacy goals 
• Uses curriculum documents such as Working Towards AusVels and AusVels curriculums, as well as our Integrated themes 
• Incorporates strategies that support children with autism, including the use of visual cues, Picture Exchange Communication (PECS), Auslan signing & Proloquo2go on the iPad 
• Integrates the use of Inclusive Learning Technologies including our class Interactive Whiteboard into the daily class program to increase student participation and engagement • Incorporates literacy into play and everyday activities allowing students to develop functional skills 
• Ensures students work on activities at their individual point of need 

Our numeracy program: 
• Enables students to achieve learning goals set in the areas of number, shape, money, space, time, measurement and other priority areas 
• Gives students a chance to develop skills using concrete materials during timetabled numeracy sessions 
• Allows students to apply concepts during everyday tasks, as numeracy is explicitly taught during real life contexts

Learn to Play Program & Social Skills
All children in the Junior School take part in the Learn to Play and/or Social Skills program. Supported by therapists and implemented by class staff, the program involves one hour sessions (at least once a week) where the focus is on the explicit teaching of play skills suited to the age, stage and interests of each student. The program has been informed by the findings of a study conducted in our setting during a trial Learn to Play Program (Stagnitti and O’Connor, 2010) where it found that our junior students have significantly increased social competency with peers, with benefits also evident in the areas of language, social skills, literacy and numeracy.

Specialist Programming 
Each week Junior students will participate in a range of specialist programs: Art, Music, Physical Education and Drama. In addition, all junior students participate in a weekly food preparation program. The focus is on developing basic skills in preparing simple snacks and meals to be shared with the class. Students become familiar with a range of foods and discuss healthy food choices as a part of this program. Our classes enjoy lunch and snack programs with their peers, working on developing positive social skills and habits during meal times.

Health Education 
We work hard to assist our students to develop a sense of independence in all areas. We explicitly teach many self-care skills such as hand washing, toileting, meal time routines and dressing skills. Our role involves working with parents/carers to identify areas of need using a daily living skills checklist to prioritise areas of focus. Health, hygiene and independent living skill activities are integrated into our daily programs.

Each week junior students go on a small class excursion to places such as our FARM campus, local outdoor recreation areas, shopping centres, Sovereign Hill, The Ballarat Wildlife Park and other areas of interest. Visiting our school cafe can also provide students with a restaurant experience which develops meal time social skills and habits. The focus for these sessions is to foster positive social skills and interactions in a range of different settings while assisting students to participate many exciting experiences with their peers and teachers. Each semester we also offer our students a major excursion related to a theme we have been learning in class. These excursions can exceed the boundaries of Ballarat with students visiting Halls Gap Zoo, Melbourne Aquarium, Geelong Adventure Park, and so on.

Entry age classes participate in a weekly water awareness program using the school hydrotherapy pool. This program is designed to target confidence and safety in the water. Other junior classes participate in a swimming program each week for one term of the school year at the YMCA. Students are grouped according to their level of water awareness and swimming level and all work at increasing their confidence and safety around water.

Kids Hope Mentoring Program
Kids Hope Australia, with the support of World Vision, is a mentoring program that helps Australian children needing additional support, and their families. Through a partnership between local churches and primary schools, Kids Hope works to improve opportunities for mentored children in the areas of education, self-confidence and wellbeing. For one hour each week, a caring adult mentors a child needing additional support at school. This usually involves helping the child with work, playing games, arts and crafts, or just spending time together. The program is run in conjunction with One2One Church and Ballarat Specialist School. All mentors undertake a series of professional development and training sessions on site prior to commencing work with children.

Community Engagement 
Throughout the year Junior students benefit from interactions with senior students on Community Service Placement. Students from within the Ballarat Specialist School, Loretto College and Ballarat High School have chosen to complete their placement with us, and the results have been positive for everyone. Each year, students from the University of Ballarat School of Education undertake a long-term placement at Ballarat Specialist School, working with individual children on a variety of health-promoting programs. This placement culminates in a Junior School sports day, which is enjoyed by everyone!