The aim of this space is to highlight a specific school or organization whose work is creating a positive path for parents and children. The second school to be profiled is OAKLEY HOUSE. The following is an insightful interview with the principal of Oakley House, Catherine Fourie.
- How long have you been involved at Oakley House?
Oakley House School was started six years ago, and I have been Head for almost two and a half years now. However, our director, Lynn Gould, and I have been longstanding friends who taught together many years ago at Tafelberg Remedial School. I have had an active interest in Oakley House since its inception, and was regularly kept up to date on all of its early history and development by Lynn until I joined as principal in 2010.
- What are the requirements for children whose parents may want them to attend Oakley House?
Before I meet with prospective parents, I require a recent Educational Psychologist’s report: this will give me an indication of whether the child fits the profile of our enrolment criteria and will also indicate the nature and extent of their learning difficulties. Parents are also requested to submit copies of current professional assessments, copies of school reports and completed application forms.
At Oakley House, we support children with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, speech and language delays, motor difficulties, sensory difficulties, and Asperger’s Syndrome. Some of our children do not have any of these challenges, but just need a small supportive environment in which to learn.
- What is a typical day in the life of a child at Oakley House?
Oakley House School is an exciting environment in which to learn. Up to Grade 6, we have a maximum of 10 children in a class, and this ensures much one-on-one support from our remedially qualified teachers. We encourage our teachers to implement a multi-sensory approach, so learning, especially in the Foundation and Intermediate Phase, is much more interactive and experiential than in a mainstream school. For an hour every day, all of our children in Grade 2 – 6 take part in our Literacy Hour Programme: children are grouped not necessarily according to their grade or chronological age, but according to their reading age. They then receive focussed support in relation to phonological awareness, syllabification rules, morphology, fluency and comprehension strategies, within a small group of between 4 and 8 children. We have an Individual Remedial practitioner who takes children out for individual support in Mathematics. We also have a multi- disciplinary team to provide individual therapy for Speech and Language and for Occupational Therapy. Our school councillor is available for counselling and therapy and we have an Educational Psychologist who runs Social Skills Groups during the course of the school day.
We believe very much in the development of the whole child, so apart from the subjects laid out in our National Curriculum (CAPS) our children enjoy a variety of other enrichment subjects during the course of their school week: we have assembly every week, and the children attend lessons in Art, Physical Education, Music and Computers. We also have a full extra-mural programme on both our campuses: on the Junior Campus we offer Playball, Sports Club, Drama Club, Techioo (a woodwork club), Modern Dancing, and Computer Club. On our Senior Campus we have a Steel Band, Chess Club and also a number of sporting options such as Cricket, Soccer, Rugby and a Running Club.
- What are the highlights of working at Oakley House?
For me, it is working with an amazing team of highly dedicated practitioners who are passionate about enabling our children to develop and learn; it is having the privilege of watching our children grow in confidence and competence when they receive the kind of support which they have not been given before; it is the privilege of being able to make a significant difference in the lives of our children and their families.
- Do you have any advice for parents of children who are unsure of what school is best for their child?
My advice is to investigate every possible option for your child, so that you find the fit that is best for your child and your family. Find out about as many schools as possible which might meet your particular needs, go and visit them and ask to visit the classrooms during the course of the school day so that you can get a sense of the teaching methodology and the particular character of each school. If you spend time investigating and asking questions, you will then be informed sufficiently to make an informed decision.
- How can people contact Oakley House?
We have two campuses: our Junior Campus in Diep River (Grade R – 3) can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and the telephone number is (021) 713 3885. Our Senior Campus in Plumstead (Grade 4 – 9) can be contacted at email@example.com and the telephone number is (021) 762 7204. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.