Todd Harnwell, Co-ordinator of Learning Development
Todd Harnwell is Co-ordinator of Learning Development in the Senior School at Christ Church Grammar School. He is now in his third year at Christ Church following three years at Sacred Heart College where he worked in learning support.
Todd turned to teaching after playing soccer with Perth Glory for three years. He completed a major in history and a minor in special education at UWA but during his prac discovered a greater passion for the special education side of his work. Since then, he has been dedicated to literacy and numeracy support.
At Christ Church, more than 70 boys in the Senior School require some level of assistance due to learning difficulties or disabilities. Todd runs Curriculum Enrichment classes for boys in Years 8 and 9 who have learning difficulties or disabilities. These classes are in place of studying a foreign language.
Working closely with Learning Development Teacher Mary Brunsdon, Todd also offers support during normal curriculum classes. “We work with the teachers and offer team teaching and in-class assistance,” Todd said. “We create learning profiles for the boys, identifying areas where support is needed and also areas of strength. This information gets disseminated to the staff so they can provide the best accommodations in the classroom.”
Todd also works very closely with the School psychologists. He said that in most cases the boys had previously been identified as having learning difficulties but often further assessments would be carried out. “A lot of information comes from the Prep School,” Todd said. “Parents also provide copies of the boys’ psychometric assessments where strengths and difficulties have been identified.”
However, some boys were newly identified when they came to the Senior School. “The transition from Prep School to Senior School can be extremely difficult,” Todd said. “And this is where academic difficulties can be identified.”
In addition, Todd said some boys would have recognised learning difficulties but would not need to undertake the Curriculum Enrichment classes. “They are doing well on their own so we just keep a very close eye on them and assist if needed.” Todd said often maturity and hard work would help the boys manage their difficulties and not all boys would need support all the way through senior school.
Todd said Learning Development was an extremely important support mechanism in the Senior School. “We’re able to give teachers the information and tools to help boys access the curriculum,” Todd said. “Most of them are bright boys. It’s just a matter of giving them a chance to demonstrate what they know. For example, they might not have well-developed writing skills but have great verbal communication skills.” He said this needed to be catered for.
Todd said he got a great sense of achievement from his role, which allowed him to “really build the boys’ self esteem”. “I’ve seen many wonderful success stories.”