The last eight months has been an insightful period where now upon reflection of our past I am able to share a clear vision of our future.
I believe the role of teachers and schools is changing. It is no longer satisfactory for us to simply strive to be a place of academic excellence. We are required to prepare our students to participate and have purpose in a continually changing world. We need to think differently.
We need our students to think differently about who they are and where they fit - not just within our local communities but in the context of our global village.
It is our endeavour as a college to provide our junior students with an outstanding educational program that is centred around high standards of literacy and numeracy.
It is our endeavour to build our middle-school students with the virtues of persistence and resilience; with the skills needed to engage and survive in a competitive, academic and technological world - And help them shape their values and beliefs while being considerate of the views of others.
It is our endeavour to give our senior students a confidence and determination to act and shape the world that will soon belong to them. To provide them with a range of experiences and schools of study that will engage them in learning and assist them in shaping their future.
We need to think differently about how we deliver education. In a new world where information floods every aspect of our lives, our students need to learn discernment and self control. More than ever before our students need to be able critique, evaluate and filter the quality and quantity of information.
So how will our college respond?
Our primary years will focus on a consistent and structured approach to literacy and numeracy. We have already started! In the last three years our national testing results have well exceeded national averages.
Over the last three months our primary staff have been establishing consistent learning policies that will build on students learning from year to year.
One strategy will are using is broadly termed ‘Explicit Instruction’. Explicit instruction is a structured, systematic, and effective methodology for teaching academic skills. We are currently focused on literacy and numeracy skills from kindergarten to year ten.
Over coming months you will see a more consistent and focused approach to spelling, grammar, writing, comprehension and mathematics.
Our middle school programs from years seven to ten will extend strategically to develop our students personal responsibility to learning.
We have recently incorporated study periods in the secondary timetable to provide students time to practise personal management skills learned in our subject: Life and Living
We are developing Life and Living to equip students with practical tools to manage themselves and be clever learners. Students will be learning skills in engaging people in a business environment, understanding their legal obligations as a young adult and considering the challenges they may face in post-compulsory learning or the workplace.
We have restructured our timetable and subjects to ensure the highest quality curriculum is delivered to students which allows more flexible movement between levels. This means that a student in a ‘B’ stream mathematics class has the capacity to move into an ‘A’ stream should his or her results change through hard work.
Our teachers are now teaching in their major teaching area. This means students are receiving the best instruction from the best teachers.
It is our intention to inform students and parents of senior school options, earlier - This means students in year eight and nine will have a clear picture of how their current performance will impact the choices available to them later. The purpose of this pathway model provides students with clarity and will ensure that all students will have ability to succeed in senior school.
Currently we are developing a backward map of student results in year eleven and twelve subjects and comparing these to the results of the same students in year seven to ten. This means that students will be able to select subject choices in senior secondary based on their hard work and results in years seven to ten.
This will not be used to only allow our highest students to join high-level academic subjects. Rather we are using real data to determine the likelihood of success in any subjects a student chooses.
The advantage of a student having direction earlier in their high-school career will provide them with clear targets and help them to be able to select their pathway choices.
I am asking teachers to think differently about teaching and learning. We intend on broadening the subject selections for students in year eleven and twelve. This year we have been developing a learning system called ‘Excel Learning’.
Excel is our acronym for Expert, collaborative learning. The concept of Excel leverages on the collaboration between our system of schools.
A significant issue for most secondary schools is their inability to run a broad range of classes because of the limited number of students in those classes.
Subjects that were previously unavailable to our students will be able to be accessed through the Excel learning system.
Unlike online e-learning where students simply complete course material with limited instruction, our students will have access to the the most expert teachers from across our whole association regardless of which school they attend.
A practical example could be a Southern Hills Christian College students enrolling in Geography, a subject currently not available here. If the subject was being taught at Swan or Ellenbrook Christian College; Our student could be tutored by one of our humanities teachers here at the college and taught by a teacher at Ellenbrook. I believe this model provides ‘the best of both worlds’ for our students. It also opens up a whole range of possibilities for the future for subject choice.
We are also intending on taking advantage of our investment in the Swan Trade Training Centre and provide our students with access to new facilities and courses at the Swan campus for one day a week in year eleven and twelve.
While practical components will be undertaken at the centre, our students will work on other subjects here at Southern Hills. We are currently investigating certificate pre-apprenticeship courses in electrical, engineering, carpentry and hospitality. We are also investigating the possibility of offering a certificate level course in nursing.
Senior students would complete any English, mathematics, business or design units at Southern Hills Christian College and commute to and from the Trade Training Centre on the Friday. In future years we are hoping to consider other subject areas for our students.
To cater for wider subject opportunities, I believe our college needs to expand to a double-class primary school and triple-class secondary school. I am hoping to build our early years classes into double-classes, hopefully starting in 2016. I hope to provide an opportunity to expand our secondary school from two to three classes of year seven.
This is not a suggestion that there will be no rules. Rather Southern Hills Christian college is a place where students will begin to view themselves in an adult - young adult relationship; a place that fosters the notion of ‘other-person centredness’.
This won’t happen by accident. It will come from a purposeful decision to act differently; built on the relationships established through the day to day life of the college and taught through the amazing outdoor activities, the academic learning program and camps.
These include our community service activities such as the Red Cross Cadets, and the purposeful and life-changing events such as Karrawung and Philippines Leavers to Leaders program.
We wish to expand on our range of extra curricular-activities to provide more opportunities for children to develop a broad range of skills and allowing them to discover their God given gifts and talents.
In 2016 we will be providing a scholarship program for year five students in music. This program will allow students to be able to select instruments, have access to tutors and become part of a college band.
This program will continue with the into the secondary school. It is hoped in the near future we would be able to provide Certificate Level music courses in year eleven and twelve.
It is also our vision to establish the Southern Spirit Sport Club. There are already a range of extra-curricular sport activities on offer. We hoping to bring our extra-curricular sporting activities together and expand the sporting options in our college. For example, we are currently working with the Armadale Christian Football Club to consider options to grow soccer within our college.
Last term we started our Science Academy. In the future we will be looking at possibilities in robotics, technology and drama.
We are also proud to announce that from the beginning of 2016 the Swan Christian Education Association Institute of Teaching and learning will partner with Tabor Adelaide to establish a teaching campus in Perth that will offer degree level teacher training courses with a distinctly Christian approach.
Initially our association will be offering a four year Bachelor of Education and a two year Master of Teaching in Primary school education.
I ask that you share your stories of what makes us a college that offers a better Christian Education. One that encourages our students, teachers and parents to think and act differently.