From the Principal

In a changing world, does school also need to change?


The world is changing and many schools are either ignoring the changes and the impact of them on their students or trying to keep up with proven best practice that reflects the world our students will emerge into on graduation.

SCAS takes its responsibilities seriously and, while keeping the best of traditional education, seeks to ensure that our families are offered world’s best teaching and learning.

According to an ex-student of SCAS, the Principal’s job was to walk around causing trouble for him, then sitting in the office thinking up new ways of making trouble for him – then walking around getting him into even more trouble. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Walking and sitting do make a significant part of my day and it is often the sitting that ends up making things happen. Yes, office work can be full of forms, phone calls and meetings but it can also be a time to look into the future.

Sitting in my office is when I:

  • search for better ways for the school to function,
  • read about the very best in the world and figure out how to apply it to SCAS
  • research new ways of teaching and assessing
  • figure out what we can improve and how we can do it.

Recently, Mr Bruce Little, Head of Primary School dropped some readings from his AIS leadership course on my desk. The article “Ten Ideas for 21st Century Education” took my fancy and was devoured the same evening.

The authors of the article predicted that there would be three responses to this set of examples of how schools are evolving:

  1. these are really inspiring
  2. these sound great but they would never happen in my town/country
  3. enough with the innovation! We educate children perfectly well already.

Now, I am something of an educational pedant (e.g. I hate it when newspapers, advertisers etc. cannot or will not use an apostrophe correctly) and place immense value on students being given a full and functional education on the basics such as literacy and numeracy.

But I also place an incredible emphasis on ensuring that our school provides its students with opportunities to develop the skills that will assist in securing employment, careers and success in their post school lives.

So, for those who are willing to poke around in the recesses of the mind of a principal who chose the option #1 response, here are some of the innovations from  “Ten Ideas for 21st Century Education”  we that we might consider so that we are able to serve our students’ future needs and development:

  • In the School of One program, students are assigned groups based on skill level and learning style and then participate in a variety of skill-building activities including direct instruction with teachers, small group work with peers, and online tutoring.  Students are assessed daily to determine whether they have mastered a skill or need more time on that skill. Daily assessments are then used to determine what each student will work on the following class day.

  • The Architectural Foundation of San Francisco has created the Build San Francisco Institute, a half day high school program for students interested in design, construction, engineering and architecture. The Build San Francisco Institute is a unique community educational partnership, involving AFSF, San Francisco Unified School District and more than two dozen major San Francisco firms. The program combines a rigorous academic program with mentorships in the partner firms, so that students not only gain new knowledge, but also have the immediate experience of applying that knowledge in a real world setting.

The mission of the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco is to enhance the awareness and appreciation of architecture and the design process in the local community.”

  • Fife Peer Learning: Primary school children teaching other children Maths may seem quite an unorthodox idea but Fife pupils have been proving that, within the correct setting, it is a very effective tool for learning.Fife Council Education Service has been working with Dundee and Durham universities for nearly two years to pilot a research project on peer learning, an innovative way of learning where pupils are supported and encouraged to learn by their peers.It is hoped that the pupils involved in peer learning will develop higher order skills in mathematics and reading based on the principle that, by explaining things to others, pupils gain a fuller understanding of the subject themselves. Through the process of explaining to a peer, communication and confidence grows in the pupils who are doing the tutoring.
  • High Tech High: The focus was on inner-city high schools using school-to-work strategies, including internships and other forms of field work, as a leverage for whole-school change. The findings of the NUHS were summarized in guides centered on six design principles. The school is virtually textbook-free. HTH is structured around four design principles:
    • personalization
    • adult world connection
    • common intellectual mission
    • teacher as designer

  • Children at D1 (NZ)  see the inner city as their classroom. They eat in cafes, exercise in The Square, play in parks, and learn alongside business experts. Our children send a powerful message to the wider community, ‘We are here and we belong’. Trust licences are available for all Year 6, 7 and 8 children. The Trust Licence gives the children the ability to move out into the city community in groups of three or more. The children that have a Trust Licence have participated in a comprehensive programme of risk management. They are able to demonstrate safety skills within the city, understand how to seek help, can communicate appropriately and are able to practice the core beliefs and values of the school. These children complete a risk management form that contains all the information about the trip that they have planned and are about to embark on. The children take a cell phone with them and call in to say they have arrived at their destination and telephone again as they are leaving to return to D1. This gives the senior students of D1 the opportunity to interact with the community in real and valuable ways and be able to make learning that is personal to the individual or small group a reality
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