Clarke Road School still setting the standard

Clarke Road School has celebrated a half-century of learning excellence. Jim Griffiths reports.

People cutting a cake. People cutting a cake.
Image: Clarke Road School celebrated its 50th anniversary with a cake cutting and open day.

For 50 years Clarke Road School has exemplified what communities can achieve when they work together towards a common goal – a place where students are valued, celebrated and provided with a high-quality education personalised to meet their needs.

Clarke Road School started in January 1973, in two rented rooms at the back of Sir Eric Woodward School, St Ives, with two teachers and 18 students. The school has been at its current purpose-built site since November 2013.

Principal Rebecca Saunders said the key founding principles of Clarke Road School still resonate strongly, with a student-centred approach and staff driven to create meaningful programs for students with disability.

“When the school started, its first teachers recognised the importance of building students’ play, communication and language skills, as well as keeping students physically active, developing life skills and engaging in the wider community,” she said.

“We continue to value students developing relevant and meaningful life skills, so that each one is engaged and challenged to learn.”

Ms Saunders said Clarke Road School was a centre of excellence in special education and its impact had been far-reaching.

The Money Skills program, which was developed at Clarke Road in 1984, is still used consistently in schools across Australia.

“We regularly receive requests to support other specialist and mainstream settings,” Ms Saunders said.

Students’ core learning at the school is supported through programs including:

  • Passport for Learning, which builds on students’ skills in expressive and receptive language, and their cognitive and social skills.

  • In the Zone for Learning, which builds students’ ability to engage in learning and develop regulation skills.

  • Positive Behaviour for Learning, which focuses on explicitly teaching students positive ways to engage with their peers and in the community.

Ms Saunders said staff at the school worked hard to develop strong connections with families and the community.

“It’s their contribution, in partnership with families, that have enabled students to meet their potential,” she said.

Long-standing relationships with other schools, such as Hornsby South Public School and Barker College, have also benefited students.

“We regularly have students from other schools visit and even volunteer,” Ms Saunders said.

“These relationships foster inclusive outcomes for our students who transition to other educational settings, such as support units in mainstream schools, or post-school education.”

A community partnership with Ku-ring-gai Rotary Club was instrumental in setting up ‘Cluck Road Farm’ in 2018 and the school opened a ‘Mini Woolies’ in 2022.

“Our farm helps students develop work skills by maintaining a vegetable garden, caring for animals and in working as a team to run a café,” Ms Saunders said.

“The ‘Mini Woolies’ was established onsite through the support of both Woolworths and Fujitsu.

“With such strong connections, our students are integrated in the local community, which allows them to succeed in all manner of ways, including with learning essential life skills.”

A crowd of people applauding. A crowd of people applauding.
Image: Current and former students and their families attended the celebrations.
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