Shiplake College has a reputation for providing support for bright pupils with mild learning difficulties, and every academic year a small number of places are allocated to pupils with these difficulties. These are called Core Places. The initial entrance assessments screen all pupils who wish to come to Shiplake, and when places are offered, pupils are placed into one of three categories; Core, Monitor or Main.


The purpose-built Learning Development Department is situated on the first floor of the revolutionary John Turner Building. The Department provides a first-class environment for pupils to receive additional support, with one large classroom and four seminar rooms all equipped with high-quality technological resources.

All rooms in the Learning Development Department have kindly been sponsored by parents and friends of the College as part of the John Turner fundraising campaign. This will ensure that pupils have access to the best possible learning resources in the years to come.

The Learning Development team is comprised of six dedicated teachers, four with specialist qualifications in assisting children with special educational needs, plus an administrator. All staff undertake regular professional development and share a passion of helping pupils to overcome individual difficulties and achieve their goals whilst at Shiplake.

Core Support 

Academic, social and emotional factors are all taken into account to ensure we are able to provide an appropriate learning environment for each and every pupil. Following assessment and consultation with parents, pupils identified as requiring additional learning support are offered Core places at Shiplake College.

Core pupils receive Core Learning Development Support. This entails dedicated timetabled support in the Learning Development Department, in place of a Modern Foreign Language in Year 9, and in place of one GCSE option subject in Years 10 and 11. Core pupils in Years 9-11 undertake four periods per week of dedicated Learning Development teaching. We believe that quality of grade is better than quantity of exam subjects.

Core support is also available for Sixth Form pupils to receive 1 hour per day of guided study support, based on a university tutoring model. In recognition of pupils’ growing maturity, there is a greater focus on independent learning; students bring the work they have identified as requiring support, and the sessions are student-led, rather than teacher-led. This helps pupils be more independent, and also helps to bridge the gap between support in school and support in Higher Education settings.

Additional Information

Pupils who are in our Monitor category may have had a history of Special Educational Needs, but are now able to function independently without support in class. We know, however, that these pupils may require Examination Access Arrangements, and therefore we keep them monitored in order to ensure that we have the necessary evidence for these arrangements to be put in place.

The majority of pupils are in our Main cohort. Whilst it would be unusual for a pupil to move out of the Core group, all of the groups are fluid in nature, as we take account of how pupils change and develop over time. The promotion of pupils' self-belief, self-esteem and self-confidence, becoming independent learners, is a key aim.

Information about the additional costs associated with Learning Development can be found on our Fees page.

Please note that specific Learning Development is not currently offered to pupils joining our Lower School in Years 7 and 8. If you would like to discuss any element of the learning support we can offer your child, please contact our admissions team.


Year 9

Learning Development in Year 9 is predominantly focussed on core literacy skills. Time is spent working on spelling, punctuation, grammar, reading, comprehension, writing and responding to different texts. Support is also offered to improve study skills, and help pupils manage their workload ahead of the proceeding examination years which they will face.

Numeracy skills are touched upon where required, while pupils can also discuss issues related to prep in any subject. 


Learning Development in Years 10 and 11 is geared towards skills underpinning core GCSE subjects, especially in English. This includes vocabulary enrichment, reading, skimming and scanning, selecting and summarising in pupils’ own words. Boys practise formal and informal writing styles to assist with GCSE coursework. Towards the end of the academic year, teachers and pupils work together to establish effective revision techniques. A revision timetable is agreed to help pupils best prepare for their external examinations.

Sixth Form

Guided study support is offered in Years 12 and 13 to assist pupils with their AS and A2 course content; pupils receive five guided support lessons each week, one per day. Assistance and feedback is given to improve coursework in A Level and BTEC subjects. Approaching Easter and beyond, the focus very much switches to revision to ensure pupils are ready for the summer exams. 

18% of pupils receive Learning Development
Formal initial assessments and careful information gathering facilitate understanding of pupils' individual needs and the provision of an appropriate learning environment.
Annemarie Higgins - Head of Learning Development