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19 January 2022
By NICK RIDLEY
Horsham Special School new principal Ben Tait has many fond memories of teaching mainstream and special needs schools in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Mr Tait, 43, said he still had a memory of a former student in the United Kingdom who was deaf and who believed his life would lead to little more than receiving government benefits.
“The school worked with him to build his confidence and to build his sense of ‘self’ to being more than deaf,” he said.
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“He ended up going into sports coaching and became a successful gym instructor of other students who were deaf – it was a joy for him to succeed.”
Mr Tait said the student was an inspiration and a reminder of why he teaches.
Mr Tait has about 20 years of teaching experience and has worked in social environments as a gym instructor.
He was previously Warracknabeal Primary School principal and has taught children with special needs throughout his career.
He has worked with children with a variety of disabilities ranging from cognitive to physical, deafness and blindness.
Teaching at Horsham Special School, which he joined about six months ago, represents the first time he has specialised at a special-needs school.
Horsham Special School provides educational programs for students aged five to 18, who display mild, moderate and severe levels of cognitive, physical, social, emotional, behavioural, sensory and multiple disabilities.
The base criteria to enrol at Horsham Special School is intellectual disability.
Mr Tait said he believed special-
needs schools were not that different compared with mainstream schools.
“I don’t see a difference between a mainstream school and special-needs school, which is to help young people become the best version of themselves,” he said.
“We are fortunate in a special setting because we can set up slightly differently to a mainstream school.
“We have smaller class sizes and we can have a more individualised approach because we have greater staff-to-student ratios.
“We have an ability to really focus on student needs in a more individual way.
“We are fortunate to have a very new school, which is purpose built.
“We have small rooms and we have accessible facilities so that the teaching and learning can be seamless.”
Mr Tait, reflecting on his new role, said it went back to the reason why he started teaching – the joy of being around others when they learn something.
“That is the same for students who have special needs,” he said. “There is a joy of facilitating and being around young people or even adults to help them overcome the difficulties and the challenges they find when being presented with something is quite foreign. That is the essence of all learning.”
Mr Tait said there was a feeling of fulfilment when seeing young people who had additional needs surpass their expectations.
“There is a sense of warmth and satisfaction knowing that you have had a hand in helping people become the best version of themselves,” he said.
Mr Tait replaces former principal Matthew Copping, who left the role in 2020.
Mr Copping took on a role with Country Education Partnership and is now taking a period of extended leave to travel.
Josh Harvey is Horsham Special School assistant principal and was acting principal before Mr Tait’s appointment.
Mr Tait said Mr Harvey had done a great job before his arrival.
“Josh and the team of staff here have done a fantastic job at ensuring high-quality educational programs continued on seamlessly while there was a period with no substantive principal in place,” he said.
“I acknowledge the amazing team of dedicated staff here at Horsham Special School, who have carried the load and ensured the change did not adversely impact the fantastic education programs on offer.”
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