What makes a great school?

By Amanda Bertschinger,

  Filed under: Education, Junior School

I cannot believe it is Week 8 and the Term is more than half over! Time is certainly flying by and there is a genuine buzz in the Junior School, and in my mind, this is a sign of a vibrant and purposeful learning environment. I can evidence this statement by the way students in every year level enthusiastically and openly discuss their learning when I enter classrooms with prospective parents. During these impromptu visits, the children clearly articulate the “learning intention” for the lesson and the associated success criteria, as well as some well thought-out ideas to further improve this already great School.

Last Friday saw students in Years 3-6 compete in our annual Swimming Carnival at the Adelaide Aquatic Centre in North Adelaide. This event highlighted not only the talented students at St John’s Grammar, but also the wonderful community that exists. I was extremely impressed with the number of parents in attendance on the day and their willingness to assist with the running of a very successful carnival and of course, the delightful lunch that was served to students at the conclusion of the carnival. A special thank you to Mr Simon Laube and his dedicated team for their organisation of this event and the Junior School staff for assisting on the day. The list of age champions and wrap up of the day is here.

Improvement is the focus of our agenda this year and we as a Junior School are working tirelessly to ensure we stand by our commitment of providing “First Class Service” to our families. As a leadership team, we have been reviewing all of our current practices and offering, thinking about future possibilities for the Junior School to enhance student learning.  Below is a snapshot of what we believe great schools do:

  • Provide an exciting, challenging and enriching curriculum through which students pursue critical thinking and problem solving in a variety of contexts
  • Maintain high expectations of students through a clearly defined set of standards, adding to the tone and character of the school and its members
  • Create a breadth of opportunity for individuals and groups to ensure a balanced education for all
  • Foster a culture in which students readily accept responsibility and value the service of others, enabled by a diversity of leadership experiences
  • Prepare students to engage with their peers, contribute to their community and take their place in the world
  • Provide fit-for-purpose facilities to support the high quality education of every student

However, academic achievement cannot be authentic if students do not also feel a sense of wellbeing and personal efficacy. Schools must play a role in nurturing the spiritual, moral, ethical, emotional, cultural, social and physical development of its students. There is an inextricable link between student wellbeing and connectedness, and success in the classroom. In fact, if we only produce high academic achievement in students and nothing else, then we will have failed our students. We aim to produce well-rounded, kind and caring individuals who are suitably equipped to lead fulfilling and productive lives and thrive in all that they choose to do.

To enable this to happen, our incredibly talented teachers spend hours each week meticulously planning and preparing lessons, ensuring that all curriculum areas are differentiated and cater for student’s interests and needs to engage them effectively in their learning and experience success. This is high on our improvement agenda and is continually monitored to ensure we are meeting the needs of all. We have systems and processes in place to accurately record and track student achievement and our Student Review Team meet regularly to ensure all students are fully supported in both Home group and Specialist lessons. I feel extremely confident that we are providing a “First Class” experience for students in all curriculum areas each and every day. However, my thinking about the whole school day has been challenged of late, particularly scheduled Recess and Lunch breaks each day and what this means for children. Social development is crucial for all students (and adults) and this is an area targeted in our improvement agenda. The Student Representative Council (SRC) highlighted the need for additional activities and areas for student movement during these breaks. They requested opportunities to interact and play with like-minded students from a range of year levels and have the flexibility of physical activities or those that foster creativity, critical thinking or collaboration.

I am pleased to announce that during the Term 1 break our campus grounds will undergo a well-deserved upgrade and new areas for student movement will be constructed to cater for the many and varied interests of our children. These areas will provide further opportunities for students to play and socialise outside of the formal learning environment and further develop friendships. There have been many articles written about the importance of play and socialisation of students in schools and later in this newsletter, our Upper Primary Curriculum Coordinator, Bronwyn Sharp, will further outline our commitment to providing first class service to our community.

I look forward to a positive end to Term 1 and am looking forward to seeing as many parents and friends of St Johns Grammar at Belair National Park next Thursday for our annual Sports Day.

Student Safety – Reminder

At St John’s Grammar, we take student safety and wellbeing extremely seriously. As such, we would like to create a database of students who walk or ride to and from school. We particularly want to know the days in which individuals have parental permission to leave the campus at the end of the school day to travel home unaccompanied. This process will enable us to confidently account for students at the conclusion of the school day.

Students who walk or ride home will receive a luggage disk to display on their school bags indicating day/s they can walk or ride home.

Please email sbray@stjohns.sa.edu.au relevant information as soon as possible.

Simon McKenzie

Head of Junior School