UNTIL 1965 the Sisters of 4.-.) La Sagesse ran a thriving Independent school in Golders Green. They had over 400 pupils and were recognised by the Ministry of Education.
Then, at the request of the Archdiocese of Westminster, they closed their school and devoted their facilities and equipment instead to a task regarded as urgent and important; providing a Catholic school for slow learners.
'Slow learners' are children who, it is decided, are unsuited to education in an ordinary school, where they cannot get the attention and specialised teaching they need.
At the Montfort House School, the name adopted by the Sisters for their new enterprise, these children can be taught in small classes (usually about 15 to a class), with special attention to their needs, and in a Catholic atmosphere.
But now, six years later, the school has only 80 children, 40 less than capacity.
Why is this? Probably because it is not well enough known; parents in the London area do not know that such a Catholic school exists (there are only two in the country). Nor do they know how to ask for their children to be sent there.
The procedure for diagnosis of slow learners is this. A teacher feels that a child, after one or two years of schooling, Is not learning as fast as he should. He tells the head teacher, who asks the child's parents if they will agree to test by a psychologist. The parents have a right to be present at this test.
Then, if the psychologist provided finds that the child is a 'slow learner,' the parents are notified. At the same time they are told the name of the special school in their area that the child is to attend.
It is at this point that Catholic parents living within reach of Montfort House—that is, in the Inner London Education Authority area—have the right to ask that their child should receive his special schooling in a Catholic school.
Transport and fees are paid for and arranged by the education authority. Children come to Montfort House from as far as Hammersmith.
Parents are sometimes reluctant to admit to themselves what they know to be true, that their child is not progressing as fast as he should.
Teachers are usually the ones to suggest that a child be tested; but sometimes they are too busy to notice in the crowded conditions of many primary schools.
If a teacher does not notice a slow child, the parents them
selves should be prepared to suggest that they be tested. Going to a special school is not a handicap, it is an enormous help to the slow learner, who may have lost all confidence by working beyond his capacity.
If a child at a special school shows such improvement that he could keep up in an ordinary school, then he can always be transferred to one. Every child in a special school has by law to be assessed by a psychologist every year.
Montfort House takes boys from 7 to 11, and girls from 7 to 16. The sooner after 7 a child goes to a special school, in most cases, the better.
It seems hard to believe that there aren't, at the present time, children from Catholic homes in local special schools whose parents would like them to go to a Catholie school.
It is this service that the Sisters of La Sagesse have undertaken at Montfort House.