STUDENT SUPPORT: Counselling, EAL and Learning Support

ISNS provides support services to student through our Counselling, EAL and Learning Support (SEN) departments.  You may visit their individual pages for more information.

Student Support Policies, Procedures and Levels of Support

Adapted from Nanjing International School’s Learning Support Handbook, September 2018  

The Student Support Team (SST) at ISNS works to help students reach their full potential as successful, empowered learners within an inclusive educational environment. 

The ISNS Student Support Team (SST) includes: 

  • Head of Student Support
  • Learning Support Teachers
  • PYP Literacy Coordinator
  • PYP Math/Numeracy Coordinator 
  • Counsellors
  • EAL Team  

Admission of Students with Exceptionalities 

Information Required for Admission 

  • A current school report, plus the final school reports from the previous two school years 
  • An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or similar Learning Support Plan from the previous school (if applicable) 
  • A psycho-educational assessment (if applicable) 
  • Standardized test scores 

All student information contained in admissions files is confidential and will be shared with discretion and professionalism. 

Parental disclosure: In order for us to understand each student’s learning profile and to plan appropriate educational opportunities, we require that parents disclose essential information related to their child’s learning at the time of their application. We appreciate open and transparent dialogue that occurs between home and school.  

The Admissions Process 

  • The Admissions Office collects and compiles complete application documents from the family, previous schools, and any other related organizations or professionals.
  • If there is an indication that the student has special needs, the file is sent to the Principal and the relevant Student Support Team members for review and discussion.
  • After collection of additional information and/or further discussion, the Principal makes a recommendation regarding admission to ISNS.
  • The Head of School makes the final admission decision. 

In order to maintain an effective student-teacher ratio and ensure service of high quality, we offer a limited amount of space for students with special needs. 

Students with significant intellectual, physical, behavioral, emotional and/or psychological challenges requiring intensive one-on-one support (Tier 3) cannot be supported by ISNS. ISNS only accepts students with mild to moderate learning needs (i.e. learning disabilities, ADHD, mild autism, etc.).  

Referral Process 

“The referral process is undertaken when there is a recognition that there may be issues surrounding a child’s learning that require the collective attention of a group of educators (specialists and generalists alike). It is not “a transfer of responsibility from the classroom teacher to the Learning Support teacher”.  (A Practical Guide for School Leaders: K. Pelletier, K. Bartlett, W. Powell, O. Kusuma-Powell). 

  • When a classroom teacher has ongoing concerns about a student’s learning, language, literacy, math, or social-emotional needs, they begin by following the pre-referral process specific to their division.  The SST and the teacher will review the case.
  • The SST will meet with the teacher.  Together they will set up in-class interventions and documentation. This step will be documented through ManageBac to inform parents. 
  • After four to six weeks, the SST and classroom teacher will examine the data and either continue the intervention if there has been progress or try a new intervention. The Managebac notes will be updated and a meeting with parents is required to let them know of concerns. 
  • After six to eight weeks of Tier 2 intervention, the SST and teacher meet again to review progress. If progress has been made, the child will begin a new round oof Tier 2 interventions or return to receiving classroom interventions. If little or no progress has been made, the SST will meet to discuss the need for external expertise to gauge whether the child needs learning support for a diagnosed condition. The team will review the data and request that the parents seek support from external expertise if necessary. 
  • A request for external testing will be made via a formal letter of referral on school letterhead for the parent to take to the external agency. The letter should be signed by the Head of Student Support, principal or administrator, and the parent(s). A copy of the letter of referral is placed in the student’s file. Only members of the Student Support Team can recommend external testing. 
  • After this meeting, the SST will provide intensive and long-term interventions while waiting for the external assessment. After the meeting with parents requesting the external assessment, the school will follow up within 6 weeks to track whether it has occurred. If the family fails to schedule and follow through on the assessment, there is a risk the child will be required to leave the school. 

The decision for a student to receive support is made in collaboration with and consent from the parents. 

Referral Process

Discussions concerning medication should only occur based upon recommendations from a professional, for example, a clinical psychologist in an evaluation recommends that the family consider pharmaceutical intervention. Only relevant specialists such as medical practitioners or psychiatrists can recommend medication. 

Levels of Support 

Factors considered when assigning a level of support include: 

  • Student’s academic progress, in relation to grade level expectations 
  • Amount of time student requires Learning Support 
  • Psycho-educational evaluation results 
  • Type of support needed 
  • Other services needed (i.e. OT, PT, SLP, EAL, counseling, etc.) 

Types of external support accessible in Shenzhen or Hong Kong that parents pursue outside of ISNS: 

  • Educational psychologists (various languages) 
  • Speech & Language Therapists (SLP) 
  • Applied Behavioral Therapists (ABT) 
  • Physical Therapists (PT) 

The Learning Support Team primarily provides two tiers of support to students with a diagnosis: 

Tier 1 - Consultant 

Students participate in the same curriculum content as their peers with the same learning outcomes and they benefit from instruction in the classroom but may need accommodations to access and to demonstrate understanding of the curriculum. 

Students may receive support in the following ways: 

  • Informal in-house screenings and assessments  
  • Consultative support from an SST member with classroom teachers 
  • Monitoring and class observations by an SST member 
  • Assistance with technology in class and/or for assessment purposes 
  • A Classroom Accommodation Plan (CAP) or Behavior Plan or Counseling support as needed 
  • External services like ABT, PT, SLP, or tutorial services outside of the regular ISNS school day  

Typically, these students may have a range of achievement on or below grade level but not exceeding one to two years in the Primary Years Program (PYP), and 2-3 years in the Middle Years Program (MYP) in any given learning area. 

Exit criteria: Students are working with an expected level of independence at grade level standards for a sustained period based on common assessments. 

Tier 2 – Targeted Intervention 

Students participate in the same curriculum content as their peers with mostly the same learning outcomes but require accommodations to access and demonstrate understanding of the curriculum. 

Students may receive support in the following ways: 

  • Informal in-house screenings and assessments 
  • Monitoring and class observations by an SST member
  • Consultative support from an SST member with classroom teachers 
  • Assistance with technology in class and/or for assessment purposes 
  • Interventions and/or small group instruction (requiring an Individual Learning Plan (ILP)) 
  • The SST member creates and implements an ILP with the classroom teacher 
  • A Classroom Accommodation Plan (CAP) or Behavior Plan and Counseling support as needed
  • Counseling services as needed 
  • External services like ABT, PT, SLP, or tutorial services outside of the regular ISNS school day 

Typically, these students may have a range of achievement on or below grade level but not exceeding two to three years below grade level in any given learning area. 

Exit criteria: Students who have moved to one to two years below level in the PYP, and 2-3 years grade level standards in the MYP for a sustained period based on common assessments will move to Tier 1 support. If students are working with an expected level of independence at grade level standards for a sustained period based on common assessments, they will exit the support system. 



Universal accommodations are those strategies, technologies or adjustments that enable a student to reach prescribed outcomes and can be used as needed. Universal accommodations do not necessitate an ILP. Justifiable accommodations are documented strategies, technologies or adjustments without which the student would not be able to access the curriculum. These accommodations are documented within an ILP or CAP.

Universal and justified accommodations can be classified under the following domains

  • Presentation
  • Response
  • Setting 
  • Timing/scheduling 

Accommodations may include: 

  • Reading directions aloud
  • Preferred seating
  • Individual or small group testing environment 
  • Extended time for assignments and exams 
  • Extended breaks
  • Use of assistive technology such as a speech-to-text device
  • Use of a scribe
  • Alternative format for demonstrating understanding of material 
  • Instructions broken down into sequential steps 
  • Use of graphic organizers/scaffolds 


A modification is a change made to instruction and or assessment that may adjust the grade level learning or assessment expectations.  Most often, the resulting product is not the same as the student product without modification.  Modifications will be documented in an ILP and on the student's report card. 

Classroom Accommodation Plan: (CAP) 

A document which identifies recommended accommodations for a student to have access to the grade level expected outcomes.  

Individual Learning Plan: (ILP) 

A document which identifies areas in the school setting in which specific goals are to be worked towards by the student.  This will outline supports provided by the teaching team and family that will support the student in reaching grade level outcomes, including academic goals, social/emotional goals and or behavioral goals. This plan will identify recommended accommodations and modifications and is based on class performance, teaching team input, family input and often a diagnosed disability. Any modifications made will be noted in an ILP and in the student's report cards. This plan will be revisited at a minimum of every school year. 

In the Diploma Program (DP), all documentation regarding accommodations required will be forwarded to the IBO, College Board, or ACT. The external agency will ultimately approve or not any accommodations for external tests and exams. IBO published documents such as “Candidates with assessment access requirements” (2013) along with recommendations in external psycho-educational evaluation inform accommodations in a student’s CAP or IEP in the MS and US. 

Transition Between Grade levels or divisions (Lower PYP, Upper PYP, MYP or DP) 

At ISNS, divisions work collaboratively to ensure that student needs are communicated and planned for in a way that facilitates a successful transition to the next division. 

Steps to Transition 

  • The designated SST member compiles detailed information about students receiving support, including CAPs, ILPs, evaluations/reports, strategies, and other relevant data. 
  • If moving to a new grade level, the SST member notifies the new classroom teacher about the case and the new teacher sets up a meeting to review the case with parents, a designated SST member, and administration if needed. If moving to the MYP/DP program, the SST member notifies the relevant MYP/DP SST member and Coordinator about the cases and provides them the necessary documents. 
  • The Student Support team meets with the relevant teachers and administrator to share information about students at the beginning of the school year. 


Confidential information is frequently shared among a student’s team of professionals. The purpose of sharing confidential and sensitive information is to better understand how a student learns.  It is a professional obligation of all ISNS faculty members to protect confidential information. 

Guidelines related to students receiving support: 

  • It is expected that all SST members will remind faculty about the confidentiality of student information.
  • Confidential conversations will take place in secure locations. 
  • Confidential information will not be left in public areas. 
  • Portions of psycho-educational evaluations may be shared only with those teachers currently working with a student and will be maintained in the student’s file.

ISNS will not forward confidential records to other schools or outside agencies without the written consent of the student’s parent/guardian.