FAQ

What provision exists for children with Special Educational Needs and learning difficulties?

St. Lawrence College recognises that all children have a right to learn, whatever their abilities and whatever the unique challenges they face to progression in their learning. Wherever possible the school provides differentiated lessons that attempt to address the specific needs of the children being taught, irrespective of their age and grade.

Children with diagnosed special educational needs receive support in the Resource Rooms of the junior and senior school sections of St. Lawrence College. This involves, following consultation with parents, senior management and specialised staff, allowing children to leave their class lesson in the junior school, or specific subject lessons in the senior school, to receive one-to-one specialist support from a designated and qualified teacher of special needs. Every child identified as having special educational needs has an IEP (Individual Education Plan) prepared which enables a unique set of objectives and a set of suggested methods that teachers should adopt to help that pupil attain their objectives. The IEP includes evaluation strategies that allow the IEP and its contents to be assessed and adjusted in order to maximise the gains to be achieved. Ideally, the IEP is constructed through a joint effort involving SEN staff, senior school management and subject or class teachers as appropriate, along with parental input as well.

Sometimes children exhibit characteristics that the experience of teachers within the junior and senior sections of the school believe may be indicative of diagnosable conditions. Naturally this is an extremely sensitive issue and teachers who are concerned by what they observe in a child’s behaviour and progress will always act in accordance with the procedure set out to them by the school. This involves communicating their concerns formally to special needs staff and the senior management of the junior or senior school, as appropriate. It will then be incumbent on the Headmistress of the junior school or the Head of the school (in the case of a senior school pupil) to contact parents, and discuss concerns raised by teachers. This may lead to the testing of the pupil by an educational psychologist in order to identify whether there is a condition present.

High achieving pupils are also recognised as having special educational needs. These children deserve to be challenged in their learning as much as any other child and teachers should differentiate their lessons accordingly in order to keep these children meaningfully occupied and consistently motivated.

Children with severe or profound learning difficulties may be advised that St. Lawrence College cannot accommodate their needs to an appropriate degree. Such children would benefit from more dedicated specialist support than our school can currently offer. At best, St. Lawrence College can achieve progress with children possessing mild to medium learning difficulties and it would be incorrect of the school to suggest to parents otherwise. 

How is the year divided and what are the school hours?

The academic year starts in early September and ends in mid-June, with 2 week holidays for Christmas and Easter. There is a one week half term holiday in October and another in February or March (depending on the dates of Easter).

The school day starts at 8:40am and classes at 8:50am, ending at 3:15pm, Monday through Friday. There are eight 40-minute periods each day, with a mid-morning as well as lunch break.  

 

What pastoral care exists in the school?

Pastoral care is the education, support, protection, guidance and advice a pupil receives as they progress through their school life. It encompasses all learning and development a child achieves at school in every aspect other than academic and sports learning. It is delivered to whole classes and to individual pupils on a one-to-one basis. It is delivered as part of an ongoing, structured programme, but is also delivered as and when called for – be that at times of group need or at times of personal crisis. Pastoral care is as important for children as any other aspect of their education, regardless of the age of the child and St. Lawrence College places great importance on the quality and the accuracy of the pastoral care we supply.

In the Junior School children are supported in their pastoral care by their class teacher, by the Deputy headmistress and ultimately by the Headmistress. It is natural in a British school such as ours that the class teacher provides the vast majority of pastoral support given that they spend the most time with a pupil. Every Junior School teacher has been trained in this role and understands it is his or her duty that any concerns they have are to be expressed to and discussed with the senior management of the Junior School, confidentially, as needed. Likewise, when it is deemed appropriate and necessary, parents are invited to discuss issues with the class teacher and with the senior Junior School management. Furthermore, parental concerns regarding pastoral care should be expressed to the school, either directly to the class teacher or to the Headmistress of the Junior School. It is important that parents inform the school when a child’s progress is likely to be affected by events outside of the school. Without this parental communication, there will be occasions when the school will struggle to identify the pastoral needs of a pupil.

In the senior school, as in secondary schools throughout the UK, the form teacher is the principle provider of pastoral care. It is the form teacher’s responsibility to monitor all aspects of a pupil’s daily school experience; from the attendance and punctuality of the pupil through to discussing with subject teachers how the pupil is progressing. Furthermore, all issues of a pupil’s pastoral care are the specific concern of the Deputy Headmistress of the senior school, who is in constant liaison with parents over pastoral issues.
The reality is that pupils often grow attached to a particular subject teacher who, de facto, becomes a kind of pastoral tutor and advisor for the pupil. Quite often this is a subject teacher that the pupil no longer has as a class teacher but who taught the pupil in a previous school year. This is natural and acceptable as all teachers recognise the responsibilities of such a role and the trust that has been put in them by the pupil and by the school. These teachers completely, appropriately and confidentially keep senior management of the school informed of the role they have grown into.

Certain areas of pastoral care are delivered through subject lessons. Drugs awareness, healthy living and a balanced diet are delivered in Science lessons. Internet safety is delivered through Computer Science lessons. Advice regarding subject option choices is delivered to prospective IGCSE and A-Level pupils by the Headmaster in a series of orientation meetings. Corresponding meetings are also held for parents. Higher education guidance (Which country? Which university? Which course? Where will it lead to? What career could it take me to? What should I do if I have no idea?) and careers advice is provided by VI form tutors, the Director of Studies and the Headmaster. Other pastoral care issues are, on occasion, delivered by external specialists, invited into the school to offer their expertise to our pupils.
Above all, and perhaps most importantly, the school is aware that pupils need an environment of care and concern, of safety and acceptance if they are to develop not just academically, but as members of society, aware of the diversity of a community in which they live. They also need to feel they are in such an environment if they are going to feel confident enough to approach a figure of authority when they are facing a problem, when they have a non-academic question or when they need advice. The school is working constantly to foster such an environment.

Why does the school insist on the selection of languages taught in the school, and not offer other languages as lessons?

The school currently offers Greek and English to all children. Pupils face the choice of a third language from grade 4. At the current time this choice is between French, Russian, Spanish and Chinese. Thus six languages are taught at our school. This is a wide choice for a British school, and it is rare that such a school of our size and teaching the British curriculum would offer three languages as early as the fourth grade of school. The timetable does not currently allow the teaching of more languages, nor of devoting more time during the school week towards languages. Given the public exam results in these subjects (IGCSE, GCE AS-Level and GCE A-Level), the school believes that these languages are taught to a high standard, and a standard more than adequate for a British school.

There will always be subjective views regarding the selection of languages that the school offers. St. Lawrence College recognises that there are languages which some parents would like to see being offered at our school which are currently not available. However, such parents must consider the following points:

a)    Our school has a pupil body of over fifty nationalities and as such it is truly global. Thus, to offer three European languages and two non-European languages represents, in the view of the school authorities, a fair balance.
b)    The majority of pupils that graduate from our school progress to UK universities for their higher education. In order to access the best universities in the UK, pupils need top grades in their public examinations. Four of our five languages are currently offered at A-Level and all five are offered at IGCSE. The school’s expert guidance on higher education and its experience in ensuring pupils progress to the best universities they can relies upon a stable school curriculum, teachers familiar with the demands of the public examinations and an awareness of what the universities’ admissions procedures require. We are satisfied that the current suite of languages offered, along with the other subjects offered at our school, have allowed pupils to move on to an extremely wide range of degree courses at the full range of universities in the UK (and indeed in other countries). 

Why does the school maintain the GCE A-Levels and not adopt the IB system in the final two years of school, prior to university?

A number of schools in the Athens area, and internationally have chosen the IB as the final school qualification prior to progressing to higher education. Many British schools have retained the GCE A-Levels as this qualification. Our school has decided to keep A-Levels. The principle reasons for this decision are:

a)    As a British school, it is correct to maintain the system that the vast majority of schools in the UK still use.
b)    A-Levels are an older system of school-leaving qualification, recognised throughout the world and rightly respected as truly reflective of British education.
c)    The vast majority of students at UK universities have reached British higher education by sitting A-Levels. Thus UK university admissions officers are most familiar with assessing those applicants to their university that are preparing for the A-Level examinations.
d)    An argument sometimes made for the IB system is that it offers students a greater range of subjects and thus delivers a broader education. This is an extremely misleading argument however. An IB student takes six subjects, three at higher level (a little less than A-Level standard) and three at standard (approximately equivalent to IGCSE level). This does not compare to the breadth of education received by a pupil in the British system who has taken 8-10 IGCSEs in their 11th year of school, followed by 3-5 AS-Levels in their 12th year of school, and finally 3-4 A-Levels in their 13th and final year of school.
e)    Given the existence of AS-Levels at the end of the 12th year of school, university admissions officers have far more data to accurately assess an applicant sitting A-Levels than they have when assessing an IB applicant who takes no formal examinations at the end of their 12th school year in the British system. Pupils applying to university from those schools in Greece that offer IB in the 11th and 12th years of school are applying with nothing more than IB predictions as they have sat no public examinations at all until that point. 
f)    The presence of the AS-Levels as a ‘halfway-point’ at the end of the first year of the two years of A-Level creates an extremely valuable evaluation of the pupil’s progress. In addition to providing the universities with more information about a candidate, it delivers to the pupil a snapshot of their progress at the midpoint of their A-Level studies. This will help them identify weak spots, select appropriate universities to apply to and may also deliver a much-needed ‘wake-up call’ or ‘kick’ to a pupil who has been underperforming.
g)    A-Levels are assessed entirely with examination (with the exception of History and Art & Design where there is some coursework). This is not the case with IB, where there is a coursework component of 20% in each subject taken, plus a further 7% of the IB is awarded for the extended essay and community work. The high percentage of the final IB score not attributable to examination performance could be argued to lead to unfair advantages for some pupils over others – namely those who receive additional help outside of school in the form of additional parental support or the advice of private tutors.

In short, the school is very satisfied with the A-level system and given that it is the older and the official and the standard method to assess pupils leaving school in the British system, the school sees no good reason to change its practice. Indeed, it is a system that has served our school extremely well and has allowed thousands of young men and women to progress to universities not just in the UK but all over the world, where A-Levels are universally recognised as the hallmark of British education.

Why does the school continue to forbid pupils from using mobile phones and other electronic devices in school?

While the school recognises that mobile phones and electronic devices ranging from media players up to tablets and laptops have become a regular part of the lives of pupils and adults alike, the school does not allow these devices to be active and used by pupils on school premises. In the case of mobile phones, the school believes there is no need for any pupil to use their phone during the school day. If a child needs to make an urgent phone call to a parent, they can use the phone in the school office. Likewise, should a parent need to contact their child during the school day, they need only call the school to ensure their child receives a message.

Mobile phones would create a distraction for children and teachers if they were allowed to be switched on during the day. Furthermore, phones would be more likely to be broken, to ‘go missing’ and to create a source of tension and jealousy or envy between pupils if they were constantly on display. Pupils accessing the internet on their phones would be at an unfair advantage in their work. Even pupils who had not used their phone in such a way could be accused of unfair advantage by other pupils.

Given that every phone has a camera, it is essential that we safeguard the privacy of pupils and staff as they go about their school day. Any photography of pupils and staff (whether still photos or video) during the school day undertaken by pupils on their mobile phones would undoubtedly lead to extremely serious repercussions. By not allowing the use of mobile phones in our school such potential sources of tension are removed.

In addition to the above reasons, the Greek Ministry of Education has made it clear that pupils in schools in Greece should not use phones in schools.

With regard to other electronic devices, many of the same potential issues apply. Unfair and unequal access to the internet during the school day, security of the devices and the photographing of other members of the school community are the main reasons such electronic devices are not permitted at our school.

There are occasional exceptions to this rule. Certain (not all) special educational needs may warrant the use of a laptop by a pupil; but such cases are rare and permission is only granted by the Headmistress of the Junior School or by the Headmaster of the school.

Why does the school not allow certain hairstyles?

School should be an enjoyable and friendly environment where children feel comfortable and secure enough to learn. An essential ingredient towards establishing and maintaining such an environment is mutual and ongoing respect between teachers and pupils. Therefore pupils have to demonstrate this respect for their school and their teachers (and, indeed, their fellow pupils) by being thoughtful about the way they present themselves. Furthermore, one of the key lessons that pupils are learning while at our school is how to cooperate with others in a community. That will, as they learn, inevitably involve some degree of compromise. Thus, to show the respect that is due to the school and the other individuals present, daily, at school; and to show a willingness to want to be part of a community that has expectations of all, pupils are expected to present themselves in what is deemed an acceptable way when they come to school. In terms of hairstyles, therefore, boys are not permitted to have patches of hair shaved very short while other areas of hair are left long. Specifically, but not exclusively, this is designed to prevent boys from arriving at school with Mohican-style haircuts, dyed hair and so forth. There will inevitably be a degree of subjectivity in the interpretation of hairstyles. Consequently there has to be a final arbiter in the interpretation of the rules, and this responsibility rests with the Headmaster. That said, the school rules are as clear as can be on this matter, and are available to all via the school website and, in person, via the school office.

Why does the school insist on school uniforms?

Wearing a school uniform is expected in schools throughout the UK and within British schools throughout the world. There are sound reasons to expect pupils to wear a uniform. Pupils in uniform are less likely to be distracted by what they or other pupils are wearing when everyone is in the same uniform. There is no danger of clothing sending a signal about household wealth when all pupils are wearing the same uniform. Indeed, a uniform is a great equaliser among the pupils. Furthermore, wearing a uniform creates a greater sense of community in the school, as pupils feel part of the school more strongly when they and their classmates are in uniform. Finally, most parents would accept that clothes buying and decision-making on this issue is easier when pupils wear a uniform.

Why can’t I select which teacher my child has for a subject in the senior school?

It is inevitable that pupils and parents will have teachers whose manner, personality and style of teaching they prefer to other teachers. Nevertheless, this preference cannot be extended to the point where parents (or pupils) choose which teacher they have for a specific subject. There are a number of valid reasons why this would be an incorrect practice in a school such as St. Lawrence College. The principle reasons are:

a)    In those subjects which are streamed according to ability, it is proper and expected that a child will be placed in the correct streamed group according to the ability they have demonstrated and according to the professional assessment of the subject department. This is irrespective of who has been designated as the teacher of that streamed class. The purpose of streamed classes is that a pupil finds themselves among peers of similar ability in that subject. They can be taught accordingly for their streamed class by the teacher. Furthermore the pupil will benefit from hearing the lesson contributions and answers to questions from those pupils who have been assessed to be of a similar ability to themselves in that subject. Consequently there can be no question of such a pupil leaving the correct streamed set for the sake of a preferred teacher who is teaching another streamed set!
b)    In subjects where there is no streaming, the department head will have good reasons for class allocation of pupils – and which certainly go beyond the whims and preferences of a pupil. These may include maintaining desired ratios between boys and girls, ensuring all classes are of the same size and same comprehensive mixed-ability population. It will likely include some separation of combinations of pupils to ensure better working environments for all.

Above all, parents and pupils must accept that in any one school year, between grade 7 and grade 11, a pupil will have around ten different subject teachers. Over the entirety of their secondary education they will very probably have 30 or more different teachers. It is inevitable that they will make subjective judgements about these teachers. They will prefer some to others. They will believe that they were able to work better with some teachers than with others. But parents must realise that these are subjective, personal opinions. Every teacher that works at St. Lawrence College enjoys the confidence of the school in their ability to do their professional duty. Pupils and parents must accept this and recognise the enormous benefit, to the pupil, of being exposed to a wide variety of teaching styles. The skill of absorbing information is enhanced in this way, and the emphasis a pupil places on the quirks or style of the teacher declines and the competence to extract information and adapt and learn grows. Above all, it is a mature pupil who recognises that the ultimate responsibility to work and to learn rests, finally, with themselves.

Why can’t I choose my child’s class teacher in the Junior School?

Parents of Junior School pupils rightly have a strong concern over who will be teaching their child. The responsibility of the class teacher in the Junior School is enormous, as they spend so much time with their pupils and given they are the principle educator the child will have for the entirety of their year at school. It is inevitable that parents will look ahead to the next year of their child’s education and equally inevitable that they will formulate personal views and opinions about the teaching staff they see at work in that grade. 
Naturally parents think primarily, if not exclusively, about what they believe is best for their child. However, this can never be extended to actually selecting which class teacher their child will be allocated to for the year.

Parents are obliged to accept the allocation of all pupils in a grade among the class teachers who will teach the classes in that grade during that school year. It is intolerable, and against the practice of any British school, to permit an arrangement such that parents select the teacher for their child. 
The main reasons why this cannot be so are:

a)    The school has confidence in all the teachers employed and will therefore not accept arguments that a certain teacher is not as strong as another teacher. Nor will the school accept arguments that a teacher is ‘new’. Again, any teacher who has been employed by St. Lawrence College has demonstrated that they are capable to fulfil their professional duty to a standard that the school expects.
b)    The school advocates the movement of teachers between grades. Primary school teachers in British schools should not be, and are not, restricted in their expertise to teaching a single grade. Indeed, while some teachers become attached to teaching in a single grade for a number of years, and other teachers relish regular changes between grades, it is an expectation of British schools that Key Stage 1 and 2 teachers are flexible enough to be moved between grades. Parents must expect and accept that the teachers they observe teaching in a grade one school year may not be the same teachers teaching in that grade the following year.
c)    The school has a duty to keep in balance as far as possible the ratio between boys and girls in all classes within a grade. Likewise the distribution of native speakers of English, of EFL pupils and of children with special educational needs.
d)    The school attempts to ensure that all classes represent a fully comprehensive set of pupils, equally mixed-ability and all comprising of high achievers and those pupils less strong. Streaming by ability happens at later grades of St. Lawrence College, but not among classes in the Junior School.
e)    Given the choice, from grade 4, of French, Russian or Chinese as a third language (in addition to Greek and English) it is required, due to timetabling demands, that all pupils taking Russian are in a single class and all children who have opted for Chinese in a separate single class.
f)    The headmistress of the Junior School, allocating pupils into classes, will have certain reasons to ensure, as far as possible, that some children are not placed in the same class as each other. There will be sound, yet confidential, pastoral logic for these decisions which are not and need not be divulged to third party parents.
g)    Likewise, the Headmistress of the Junior School, when possible, will recognise that some children may work better when placed in the same class as certain other pupils. Where this is possible, the Headmistress acts on this. That said, and especially in later grades, pupils must begin to learn the need for separating their progress in school work from their need to be around friends. All children, whatever the class, share the same break and lunchtimes and as a consequence there is ample time for children to associate with their friends. It is a powerful lesson for the children to appreciate when is the time for work and when is the time for play. Hence no guarantee is made that friends will definitely be kept together in classes.

Thus parents of Junior School pupils must accept that for these and other reasons, and in light of the unique circumstances that every grade and every pupil generates, the final decision on class allocation rests with the Headmistress of the Junior School.

What is the school’s policy towards ‘private lessons’?

Pupils at St. Lawrence College do not require additional private lessons. There are sound educational reasons why parents should resist any temptation to provide additional tuition for subject lessons that pupils are taking at school.

a)    When pupils receive support at home in a lesson they may choose to make less effort in the class at school – as they know that they can cover the subject matter at home with their private teacher.
b)    There may be a conflict between how a school teacher covers a topic within the syllabus and how a private teacher explains it. This can create uncertainty for the pupil as to which method to use.
c)    Some private teachers will use the opportunity they have to generate a need for further work and secure future income. This can be done through denigrating the style or competence of the school teacher and so by contrast appearing more capable themselves. This is called the exploitation of asymmetric knowledge. Unscrupulous private teachers manipulate their position of superiority to create a scenario where the pupil is dependent on the teacher.
d)    British education is designed to engender skills of independent study and problem-solving in pupils. This is a key role of homework. As pupils progress through years of British education the ability to work alone and grapple with problems until answers to problems are found becomes more and more important. In this way pupils develop the skills of self-discipline, planning and stamina and are better equipped to tackle public examinations; fully prepared and with confidence. Likewise free periods, for independent study are built into the A-Level programme and then at British universities, degree courses rely on a student’s ability to work alone. However, a private teacher prevents these skills of personal study from developing because the lessons deprive pupils of appropriate time alone to work and also remove from the pupil a need to work by themselves to find answers and solutions. It is integral to the development of a pupil that they struggle towards and attempt think out their own notes and answers to work set. Only by going through such a process, over and over again, do pupils learn how to work alone. Private teachers, sitting with pupils after school, by definition get in the way of this process.
Parents should also be aware that not all private teachers have a secure knowledge of the demands of UK examination boards’ syllabuses at IGCSE and A-Level standard – whatever such teachers claim. Also not all private teachers remain up-to-date with changes to subjects and exam assessment criteria as teachers in school do. Likewise, private teachers marking work are never in a position to see the work in the context of a wider body of work from a range of pupils and are therefore in a weaker position to assess the work and how it ranks against other pupils’ work.

Of course there are exceptions. Pupils joining a course late, pupils who have been absent due to extended illness etc. might benefit from lessons. But the exceptions are rare. Parents should know that the concept of extra tuition is effectively unheard of in the UK and so is clearly not necessary.

If parents feel their child needs extra help, or if the child has requested extra help, or if parents have been advised from outside school they should make use of extra tuition they should first make an appointment with the class teacher or Head of Department to discuss the matter. They can also make an appointment with the Director of Studies or Headmaster to discuss the matter.
Parents must not believe that they are automatically helping their children by spending more money on them. Parents can have a far greater impact and deliver far more support by being involved with their children’s education. This can take the form of discussing how lessons at school are going, asking what their children enjoy and what is the most challenging aspect of their subjects, what tests they have coming up, how tests went etc. More practically parents can ensure their child has a good working environment at home, a desk to work at and a well-lit room where distractions (TV, computer, mobile etc.) can be temporarily removed. Parents should establish a routine for children where evenings are divided into clearly identified times for work and recreation. Parents should beware of, in effect, delegating these responsibilities to a private tutor.

Pupils who mistakenly believe that hiring a tutor is the answer to their difficulties need to remember that their teacher at school will almost certainly give them the occasional 5 or 10 minutes at break or lunch to help them with a problem. The pupil must appreciate that subject matter is supposed to be challenging and that IGCSEs and A-Levels have been designed to require thought and time. If they are finding work difficult, well that is to be expected and is not in itself a problem! Pupils need to attempt to answer; ask their teacher questions; identify the weaknesses of their work and seek a strategy from their school teacher as to how progress can be made. That is the environment in which learning – real and lasting learning – takes place.

What arrangements are made for transport?

The School is served by a network of school buses which collect children from most parts of the Greater Athens area. Transport arrangements should be made at the time of registration. 

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