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Tuesday, 31 July 2018 07:01

What is Support Learning?

Support Learning

What is Support Learning?


Support learning assists children (with or without learning differences) in developing their learning skills and abilities. Support learning is designed to tap into each child's strengths and help address concepts that the child has difficulty with or misunderstands at school. It helps children learn and develop their current abilities. It is not just for children who have learning challenges; it is for every child. Support learning helps a child understand their own abilities and develop their academic skills to function at their optimal learning capacity in the learning environment. Support learning is usually offered in small groups or individually.

The importance of Support Learning

Support learning has become invaluable due to the increase in classroom sizes and changing school outlines, which impact on each child differently. It gives children the opportunity to reach their peak performance levels and not be hindered by their difficulties. It does not ‘cure’ challenges; it works at helping the child use their strengths to work with their challenges, thereby not allowing their challenges to hold them back.

Why is it more than just teaching?

Support learning is more than just teaching, as it looks at individual learning styles. It does not focus on  teaching, but assists learners in understanding and applying concepts. It is an enrichment process and helps the child to understand who they are, building self-confidence and helping children to learn in a safe environment. Support learning also helps to identify more specific and personalised difficulties that may present in a child. Those parents looking for specific teaching or assistance with homework should look at options such as tutoring or facilitation.

Does Support Learning replace other forms of Professional help?

Healthcare professionals such as Educational Psychologists, Clinical Psychologists, Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists are just a few of the highly valued support professionals able to assist in a child’s development.

Support learning at no stage replaces professional therapy. It assists children prior, during and after professional therapy. Professional healthcare therapy focuses on specific developmental areas. Healthcare professionals investigate the holistic child, but they focus on specific difficulties and challenges. It is diagnostic and uses interventions to assist a child.

The importance and role of teachers

In large classes or group environments it is challenging to identify and cater to every child’s specific needs. Support learning helps teachers understand and support individual learners in a group environment. Teachers are vital to support learning as they offer different opinions, views and advice. A child’s performance varies between school, home and during professional therapy sessions or other interventions. It is important to recognise that your child's personality, actions and behaviours are influenced by the various environments.

I commend the work teachers do and in today's educational milieu, the challenges they face are huge. Parents and other professionals have a role to play too. A child’s development involves teamwork and is not the sole responsibility of the teacher.


Let us support South African teachers by being their team, giving them the chance to fulfil their potential and function. Just imagine - would you be able to teach a class of 30 - 40 learners with no assistance? I doubt I would. It’s all about teamwork. Support learning adds to the team and gives each child a stronger support system.

The role of the parent

Understandably, in today's world where often both parents are working, and many single parents, time is of the essence. However, it is crucial that you spend time with your child every day: revise school work and discuss their day, play with your child and engage in cultural activities. Children learn from their parents, you are their guide in society. Please do not underestimate your role.

Support learning vs tutoring

            What is the difference?

Tutoring is when your child is guided and helped by someone to complete their homework. This may also involve reviewing and explaining new concepts at school, or building your child's knowledge of certain subjects you select, such as Maths. Tutors tend to be either teachers, ex-teachers or other students.

Support Learning does not focus on homework or specific grade level material. It looks at assisting a child to reach their full capacity in the classroom, developing skills so that they can adapt better to the classroom, discovering their optimal learning techniques and occasionally looking at concepts covered in school (especially if your child has "hiccups" in their school knowledge). Support learning is usually performed by a variety of different individuals, who have different educational, academic, professional and personal backgrounds and have academic experience in skills development.

There are similarities; both aim to assist the child to cope in the classroom, and to understand how to apply the knowledge that is taught. They both offer a tremendous amount of support to learners.

            Key differences?

Tutoring can take place over a short or long period, but it does not teach the child to study or learn independently. It develops a child's academic knowledge according to their grade level. Support learning is long-term and teaches the child skills to apply at school and in their life. It aims to assist in study methods, grade knowledge and independent learning. Support learning returns to the level the child was first comfortable at before reaching the required grade level. Children with learning challenges find support learning beneficial and will often participate in long-term programs.

            How do you choose?

Understanding the above allows you to know which one is the best fit for your child's needs. Frequently, it is beneficial to use both facilities. It is a very personal decision but knowing the place of both will help you make an informed decision.

Should I look at support learning for my child? 

If any of the below sounds familiar then please consider looking into support learning.

  • difficulties in grasping concepts at school
  • differences in social and emotional development
  • performance not reflecting their potential
  • finds learning in group environments challenging
  • children presenting with learning challenges
  • gifted or 2E
  • children who are highly creative