Minerva School wins Premier’s Award

Minerva School celebrates a recent award win ahead of tomorrow's International Day of People with Disability.

Image: Minerva School staff in a photo taken earlier this year

Tomorrow is International Day of People with Disability (3 December), a day which aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

Minerva School is a school that continues to raise the bar when it comes to improving community awareness of young people with disability. Located in Sutherland, south of Sydney, the school community has more reasons to celebrate the achievements of staff and students, after winning the 2020 NSW Premier's Award for Highest Quality Education.

The award recognises a school’s commitment to nurturing and educating children and young people through their schooling life and providing access to quality lifelong learning that ensures students have the skills for jobs of the future.

Minerva School was awarded the prestigious achievement for the ‘Learning for Life’ project which improves learning outcomes for students who have autism, intellectual disability and complex mental health needs.

Minerva School Principal John Mazzitelli said the Learning for Life program utilises an occupational therapy framework, promoting a quality education that is individualised and caters for the specific needs of each student at Minerva.

“It is a project embedded across the entire school with a focus on the sensory lens, how we support emotion regulation, learning and behaviour and what tools and resources we are providing to help each students’ individualised needs,” Mr Mazzitelli said.

“This approach provides students with more control and allows them to learn how to better use resources, tools and strategies to regulate themselves.”

Mr Mazzitelli said nominating in this year Premier’s Awards was not just about acknowledging the school community for their efforts but about drawing attention to being comfortable with doing things differently and what works best.

“We understood the importance of promoting the impact and success that this project has had, to be ok with having a bespoke approach, and to bring focus and attention to the positive impact that allied health care professionals had in this setting.

“This project has been so powerful for us in its benefits and results, and we hope that we can help to inspire other schools to look at things differently, it’s okay to investigate.

“There is a real opportunity here for other schools to look at our setting and the work that is being done and the results achieved with ‘Learning for Life’.

“How we are setting up students to be successful members and contributors to the community and life beyond school is always front of mind.

“For staff this award and the results we achieve affirms for them that the focus, direction, hard work and dedication has a positive impact, whether it is big, small or gradual.”

Mr Mazzitelli said the student numbers had seen a steady increase year-on-year as a result of positive sentiment within the local community.

“We have 46 students at present which is up from 30 a couple years ago. This is because the community share the experiences of the school with one another, there is just such a positive feel,” he said.

“We have also seen improved education among community members about what the Learning for Life project is about, it’s not just about students coming to school, but about teaching, learning and improving student behavior.”

The role of the allied health care professional is immense and includes observation, gathering an understanding of the individual students, completing sensory profiling on each student, support teaching staff, and to provide expert advice and guidance around the aesthetics of a classroom to ensure the learning spaces support the sensory needs of students.

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