Personalised learning

A personalised approach supports refugee students by looking at their strengths, interests and specific learning and wellbeing needs.

A comprehensive assessment of each student is necessary. Obtaining input from all personnel involved is vital and should include the English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) teacher, school counsellor, School Learning Support Officer (Bilingual), year adviser or stage coordinator, and student welfare coordinator. A personalised approach is best coordinated through the school learning and support team.

Collect information about students

Collecting information about a student's background and life experiences, family situation, health and wellbeing, interests and talents can help the school plan appropriate support. Information about a student's English language proficiency, literacy and numeracy levels and prior schooling can inform the school about the need for modifications to school routines, programming and assessment practices, additional learning support programs and curriculum options. It can also inform schools about professional learning needed by teachers about the impact of refugee experiences on learning and behaviour, effective pedagogy and strategies for differentiating teaching and learning.

Plan the support

Many refugee students have emotional, welfare and other educational support needs as a result of their refugee experiences and disrupted or limited prior schooling. Developing personalised learning approaches for refugee students can help ensure that information about students is collected and support is provided by people with the appropriate expertise and area of responsibility.

The following templates may assist schools to develop student learning plans for refugee students:

Student learning plan – primary schools (PDF 753 KB)

Student learning plan – high schools (PDF 637 KB)

Watch the video on individual learning plans which shows how schools can develop targeted support through personalised approaches to learning.

Individual learning plans to support students.


Laura Roby, ESL Teacher, Bossley Park High School

Miss Toomah, School counsellor

Kim Cootes, Assistant Principal ESL, Fairfield Primary School

Peter Flowers, Principal, Blacktown Girls High School

Karin Harrison, ESL Teacher, Blacktown Girls High School

Nerida Cracknell, Learning and Support Team, Blacktown Girls High School

Sue Mayhew, ESL Teacher, Marsden Road Public School

Kerry Cheeseman, ESL teacher, Auburn North Public School

[Gentle music]

Student: This is the counsellor. Come in.

Teacher: Thank you.

Laura: For every student who comes under the learning support umbrella, particularly our refugee students, we do individual learning programs. We sit down with all the teachers that work with them in the classroom and the school counsellor, and the parent. The student is also there so they're are aware of what the teachers are feeling they need support in but they can also say well, this is what I feel I need support in.

Teacher: I might introduce the teachers that we have here today.

[Arabic translation]

We have Miss Roby who is our ESL teacher, Miss Toomah who is our school counsellor.

Laura: We fill out the school proforma which looks at setting goals, and the strategies to go about achieving those goals. And then we set a review date.

Teacher: Miss Roby as our ESL teacher has conducted a progress report.

[Arabic translation]

Kim: Refugee students have unique needs. A teacher needs to know those students really well, and then develop a teaching and learning program for those individual students. The school learning support team may also be part of that, and of course the school counsellor.

Miss Toomah: We have also been working on her confidence as far as her speaking goes, and just the other day, Adira was in charge of the refugee week presentation.

[Arabic translation]

Laura: We look at things like literacy and numeracy development, we look at their vocational pathways. It's a very big process. There could be up to 15 teachers sitting around a table discussing a child. In reviewing, we feel that Adira is meeting the targets of her IEP.

Peter: Blacktown girls has a really strong learning support team. We've got a wide range of staff who are part of that team. We're really looking at getting the important information on each student and then making sure that the rest of the staff are aware of that information

Karin: On these plans we have their background, the amount of language literacy they have in their first language.

Teacher: Her behaviour, in class that I observed, was actually quite confronting at times.

Karin: If we have any relevant information regarding previous schooling then that goes on to the plan as well, and we work with the teachers to establish programs and learning activities that suit those particular students. A lot of it is to cover up her difficulty in learning

Teacher: Ok

Nerida: The learning support team meet twice a term for a very big meeting where we invite also heads of each of the faculties.

Teacher: So she's on the defensive?

Teacher: All the time

Teacher: So she likes steps.

Teacher: So scaffolding's going to be really important.

Peter: The staff get to know their students as quickly as possible, and then teach towards those individual needs.

Teacher: We're going to use this way of figuring out how we're going to work together. I think in planning learning for students from a refugee background a priority is knowing all about the students that I'm going to be teaching. I rely on my colleagues in our learning support team for anecdotal information about the individual students that I'll be working with and that often includes information about their family.

And then "shhh" - don't share yet. That basically means don't sort of say to the person next to you: "What did you write?" Also I look at their academic situation, so I use the learning support team for that as well, and we have individual learning plans that kind of concisely draw all this information together. But I also use things such as their NAPLAN data if it's available, real work samples that they're doing in a variety of their classes.

Teacher: The reason we had to put a personalised learning plan together for William was because he was experiencing difficulty with his reading.

Sue: Individualised learning programs have become a focus in our school and it's up to the teachers, working with the parents, and maybe the ESL teacher to formulate these learning plans.

Kerry: She's got some great ideas, and what would you like to work with her on?

Teacher: Her structure I think.

Kerry: Yeah Before meetings we will do assessments, we might do work samples, look at some reading levels, and the classroom teacher, ESL teacher, the school learning support officer in Dhari Arabic, the school counsellor, AP may be involved in the meeting, and together we develop a program, we share ideas, and it's so great, because everyone's on the same page. We'll team teach that together

Teacher: I'll particularly focus on the social stuff with her.

Teacher: We are pinpointing the reading and spelling to work on at the moment.

Teacher: The second page there, building up her public speaking skills and her confidence.

[End of transcript]

Communicate with relevant staff

Communicating relevant information about refugee students assists their teachers to better understand the behaviours and learning needs of their students.

Each school should establish a distribution list for essential information about newly enrolled students. This list could include the school counsellor, school executive, welfare team, year adviser, class teachers, EAL/D teachers and careers and transition advisers as appropriate.

Before distributing information, schools should establish procedures to ensure that information is treated confidentially and the privacy of students and their families is protected.


  • DoE


  • EAL D
  • Teaching

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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