Medowie Christian School Speech Pathology Program a First In NSW

Program participants front: Abe Junho Chung. back Natalie Tsoutsouras and Amy Barwick. Please note this image was taken prior to social distancing requirements and before the program entered the virtual world.


STUDENTS from Medowie Christian School participated in an unusual program working with three Bachelor of Speech Pathology students, two from the University of Sydney and one from the University of Newcastle, who have spent six weeks at Medowie Christian School for their fourth-year internship.

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The program is believed to be a first for NSW with the university students embedded in the Prep to Year 12 learning environment for the full six-week internship.

The program was instigated by Medowie Christian School’s Director of Literacy and Learning Engagement Kathryn Thorburn, who holds dual qualifications in both speech pathology and education, she floated the concept to speech pathology program staff from both universities and “they were extremely keen”.

Kathryn Thorburn told News Of The Area, ““It is a common topic of discussion that a collaborative partnership based in schools would make teachers and speech pathologists have a far greater impact for school age students.

She said currently in NSW public schools, speech pathologists were not employed directly, despite this occurring in most other states.

“If school age students receive speech pathology support at schools it will be in a pull out model where the external speech pathologist visits the school and works with the student essentially in a clinic setting at school,” Mrs Thorburn said.

“Newcastle University also run a Speech Pathology in Schools program which allows second-year students to provide speech pathology intervention in a clinic room at school.” “My familiarity with the language of both education and speech pathology means I am able to support the translation of assessment information into classroom practice.

“Our recent implementation of systematic synthetic phonics using Sounds Write with Decodable readers and Heggerty’s phonemic awareness instruction starting in Prep means our students with language difficulties are being effectively taught just like all of our students and no one is falling through the gaps.”

She said the Speech Pathology university students found the placement invaluable.

“They understand the dynamics of the classroom, what types of support and interventions are most effective and they know how to link this to classroom learning,” she said. “Our staff and students had the benefit of extra team members who brought a fresh perspective and a willingness to learn and work as part of our staff team.”

The final-year University of Sydney students, Natalie Tsoutsouras and Abe Junho Chung, said they enjoyed the unique opportunity.

Abe Junho Chung said: “It was great because at university we learn about everything we need to do but it is just words.
“It’s really great to get a realistic view about what it feels like and how a classroom runs.”

Amy Barwick, a fourth-year Bachelor of Speech Pathology student at the University of Newcastle said the Covid-19 outbreak also meant the students gained valuable insight into treating children virtually.

This program may have been a first in more ways than one but the enthusiasm and results bode well for the experience to be repeated in the future.



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