Students on the Joint ESRA/Talia Trust Project in discussion with specialist teacher Sara and school counsellor Shavit

An exciting new project for ESRA, supported by fundraising from the Haifa branch, is running at the Kfar Hanoar Hadati High School in Kfar Hassidim just outside Haifa. It’s a joint venture with The Talia Trust for Children. This is a local not-for-profit organization which was established by the Hyman family in memory of their daughter, Talia, who died aged 21 in a road accident in 2005.

The Talia Trust has funded psycho-didactic assessments of selected students with Specific Learning Difficulties (e.g. dyslexia or dyscalculia) or ADHD, who need special arrangements for Bagrut exams in order to achieve their full potential, but whose parents cannot afford to pay the assessment fee.

ESRA’s role is to fund a remedial Study Skills Course taught by a specialist teacher. The course comprises ten sessions, during which two small groups of students are being taught how to raise their level of reading comprehension; their written expression; and to give them strategies for achieving greater success in tests and exams.

As the ESRA Haifa volunteer, I liaise between the school, our branch, ESRA National and the Talia Trust. I, together with the volunteer from the Talia Trust, have visited the school to meet each of the small groups of Yud Aleph (11th grade) students, working with their teacher, Sara. The school counsellor, Shavit, is also playing a crucial role in ensuring that the students gain the maximum benefit from the skills they are being taught.

This school was established many years ago as a Youth Aliyah school. At present it has 320 pupils (7th to 12th grade), half of whom live in the boarding facilities. Most of the boarders are of Ethiopian background, while most of the day students are from the former Soviet Union. Many are from one-parent families with difficult home circumstances.

We first met some of the pupils near the beginning of the course and it was too soon to assess its impact. However, now, after seven sessions, it’s clear to see the benefits that some of the students are gaining from learning these new strategies. They told us how much easier they are finding it to organize their thoughts, structure an answer, and understand the language of Maths, for example. Several students have achieved pass marks in exams for the first time, and their teachers, particularly in History, Maths, Hebrew Literature and English lessons

 are reporting noticeable progress, not only in their level of attainment but also in their whole attitude towards learning.

We wish this joint project every success as it strives to make a positive impact on these young people’s lives.

Lee Freeman is an ESRA Haifa Volunteer

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