Royal Far West School solving literacy

Technology and retired tutors have helped solve literacy learning problems for children with illnesses that take them out of school.

The Royal Far West School (RFWS) provides schooling for rural students who are receiving medical assessment and treatment through the Royal Far West clinical services.

"All our students are from country NSW and come to us with a range of medical conditions," RFWS principal Jenny Rayner said.

"At Royal Far West School we believe all children have the right to achieve their potential - no matter where they live or whatever their medical condition or disability."

About 1500 students from preschool to Year 12 attended the school each year. Usually the students attend the school for a week at a time, but can attend several times throughout the year.

RFWS works closely with the students' home schools.

"We provide a bridge back to local schools by engaging children in a highly supportive way and then working with their schools, families and Royal Far West clinicians to implement support structures and strategies at home and at school," Ms Rayner said.

The SOLVE IT (School Outreach Learning Using Volunteer Educators and Information Technology) program works by matching students with tutors, allowing the students to receive individual support with reading, accessed through web conferencing.

"Because often our students have a multiplicity of factors hampering their literacy development such as language delays, multiple school placements or extended school absences due to illness, they need individual, highly structured, highly skilled support," Ms Rayner said.

As part of SOLVE IT, students log on from their home schools three times a week to work with their tutors, who are often retired professionals.

"The pool of tutors [is] extremely small in rural areas, often making it impossible to match students with tutors with the appropriate skills and personalities - SOLVE IT overcomes this," Ms Rayner said.

"Our area, Manly, is rich in retired professional people who are keen to put something back into the community. All tutors are fully trained [and] work under supervision."

The students work with the same tutor each week, allowing them to build rapport and maintain a consistency in the learning - something that is critical for achieving positive learning outcomes.

"The program is a simple and effective showcase of how technology, in particular broadband communication links, can transform educational opportunities for students in remote locations," advisor innovation, policy and performance CLIC -Colin Wood said.

The school hopes to use the concept to support students who need help with speech pathology and language development, as well as expanding the program to include after-hours support for adult literacy classes in regional and remote NSW.

Watch a video about this innovative technology-based outreach-learning program.

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