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Dean of Curriculum Term Two Update

School News

As the Semester One, 2017 draws to a close, we have had the opportunity to reflect upon what has been a very productive time at Southern Hills Christian College.

This semester has seen a change in the leadership structure which, in turn, has kick-started the redevelopment and regrowth of the school. Over the last ten weeks, we have reached some incredible milestones.

Our new Principal, Mr Paul Beacham, began this term by outlining our two core focal points; to provide the best quality Christian education possible and to provide the best quality pastoral care we can for our students. If we focus on those two aspects, we can feel confident that we are serving our parent community to the best of our ability. Mr Beacham has always worked on this premise over his nineteen year career at Southern Hills, and he has a reputation amongst our community to for always providing an excellent level of service as an educational leader.

The College has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to put together the policies and procedures in place to develop these core areas. As a College we have received a huge amount of support from SCEA, the educational association that we are a part of. Being part of this group of seven schools has allowed us to access a huge range of expertise and knowledge. We hope that some of the changes we have made will become more visible to you as we continue to move forward.

We have reviewed our timetables, looking for better opportunities to develop our lessons. We were very mindful of the positive impact that maintaining the same teacher within the subject or class has on curriculum development. Therefore, the small restructuring we have done for next term has resulted in better stability and consistency of teachers for each year group.

Within the primary school, we have been continuing our successful teaching and learning strategies for English and Mathematics using our ‘Learning Journey’ and, particularly over the last few weeks, we have seen a rise in student performance, especially in the area of academic writing. Some of these strategies have even been attracting the attention of various other independent schools across the region. This positive affirmation has given our staff a huge confidence boost.

Each class has also created a writing display which will celebrate the most recent piece of writing for each student. Please feel free to drop by your child’s class to have a look at what they are doing and how well they are progressing.

We are also beginning to develop a more cross-curricular and integrated approach to our learning. This means that the students will acquire a deeper level of understanding and will be able to learn through themes and topics. They will also have opportunities to mix with other classes – this results in both social and academic improvements for our students. An example this term was with the Year One and Two students. They had a five week project learning about Aboriginal culture. They created artwork, stories and even had a day in the bush. It was a hugely enriching experience for them and it was a topic they will now remember for many years to come. Look out for these opportunities next term, including Book Week, which will run on the week beginning 20th August 2017. We have some exciting ideas planned for this.

We are also in the process of developing the classroom environment within the primary block. Along with re-painting the building, we have installed new air-conditioning units, shelving and storage. This will immediately make the classrooms more inviting and comfortable. Further down the line, we hope to continue this refurbishment with new carpets and other facility upgrades.

Within the secondary school, we have made some positive changes. At the start of this term, we began our push for academic success with the introduction of Reading Focus, Writing Focus and Mathematics Focus groups.

This was aimed at Year Seven, Eight and Nine students who were struggling to access the age-expected curriculum. These students have been working, in small groups, through an intense program to accelerate their learning and bring them back to the expected level.

We are thrilled to announce that several of our students have already reached this standard and will now be returning to mainstream class. A huge congratulations to those students and the teaching staff who have been working so diligently with them.

We also restructured the exam process with the students in Years Seven, Eight, Nine and Ten. After reviewing the way it had been done in previous years, we decided that it was important to formalise the structure to help focus the students and to give them an opportunity to experience a formal exam situation, which will put them in good standing for Years Eleven, Twelve and beyond. We transformed the gymnasium into an examination room and all students sat their exams together, invigilated by teaching staff. The manner in which the students approached this was fantastic. They responded very well to the structure and took the examination process very seriously. We took feedback from both staff and students about this process and we will review how we can develop it even further to make the experience as positive as possible while getting the best performance out of our students.

The College has also been given special funding from SCEA to develop and our Science Laboratory. Work will begin over the holidays. This will allow us to provide a much more effective Science program from Years Seven to Twelve.

Moving forward, I would also like to share with you some of the concepts we will be developing as we continue to make improvements to our learning experience. The teaching staff will return to school on Monday 17th July 2017 for a ‘Professional Development’ day. During this day we will begin to develop our new academic vision. Over the coming months the staff are going to explore three key questions:

  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • How do we organise our learning?
  • How well are we achieving our aims?

We will start with the first question, ‘What are we trying to achieve?’ At this point we are going to build the profile of a ‘Southern Hills’ student. We are going to discuss what we would like them to have in their head, heart and hands. By this, we mean, knowledge and understanding (head), values, attributes and attitudes (heart), skills and trades (hands). Once this profile has been built, it will give us a clear vision of what we want to achieve. Then, we can move on to how we would like to achieve it. If you have any thoughts or ideas on this, we would greatly value your input. Please share your thoughts by emailing me andrew.johnston@southernhills.wa.edu.au

We have created a small ‘Data Analysis’ team. This team which comprises of four members of staff from various parts of the college will meet once a week to analyse a wide range of academic data from in class assessments and exams to NAPLAN, OLNA and PAT scores. We will be looking for general trends in the data so that we can celebrate and share our success as well as find and investigate areas in which we clearly need to develop as a staff. This, in turn, will lead to a more meticulous scrutiny of our performance as we continue to work towards academic excellence.

We are working with other members of SCEA’s ICT team as we develop Parent Lounge as a valuable source of information and communication for you. You will already have seen the various benefits of this tool as it allows you to (1)instantly update medical and contact information, (2)give permission for excursions, (3)access reports and (4) book parent meetings. We are now going be receiving further training to allow us to give you even more information about what is being taught, assessment and assignment dates and deadlines and a progressive marks book which will give you a regular update on your child’s performance. We will keep you updated as we learn more about what parent lounge can do.

I would like to finish this message off with a huge thank you to the parent community who have rallied round us this term and offered your time and support.

The Heartbeat Café, operating from the gym foyer on a Wednesday morning, has grown rapidly over the last ten weeks and has become a great place for parents and staff to meet, chat and enjoy a coffee. The parents who have helped run this have given up a huge amount of their time to make this a success. The money generated from this will be put back into the school in a variety of ways.

Likewise, thankyou to the parents who have volunteered your time to help run events, support the teachers with reading or by sharing any other skills and improve the facilities within the school. You are helping to enrich the lives of the students here as well as helping us to grow a sense of community.

We have also had an increased interest from the parent community in becoming a part of the Parent Committee. This is a clear indication of your loyalty and support which we value dearly.

If you are interested in becoming more involved with the school in any capacity or feel you have a particular skill you would like to share with us, please contact Giles Creelman on giles.creelman@scea.wa.edu.au

Thank you for being part of our wonderful term. We wish you a peaceful and restful break and look forward to seeing you on Tuesday 18th July 2017.

God Bless

 

Andrew Johnston

Dean of Curriculum