Friday 7 November 2014

School Improvement

Over the course of 2014, staff at the College have actively pursued peer observation programs and ‘instructional rounds’ in order to improve classroom practice via structured feedback. Part of a School Improvement Program, both of these activities have been pioneered in high performing educational jurisdictions throughout the world and are consistent with best practice in contemporary education. Peer observation involves teachers being paired to observe particular aspects of classroom practice including questioning techniques, differentiation of curriculum, classroom management, student feedback, lesson design and delivery. From these observations, constructive feedback is given and adjustments are made either to individual practice or to faculty emphases. Instructional rounds is a project brokered by Sydney University, where teachers from both Shore School and Saint Ignatius’ College, respectively, make structured observations of each other’s teaching to critique and improve practice. While both projects were piloted in 2014 on a faculty basis, they will be expanded in 2015 to embrace a wider cross section of the school community. Both of these initiatives dovetail into the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) Standards, which are being rolled out across the nation to improve educational outcomes and efficacy through annual reviews and goal setting. The teaching profession is in a state of significant change as schools develop infrastructures to accommodate the standards, and to apply research data and practices to their own contexts to improve teaching and learning.

A new page in the College’s rich history was enacted on Sunday with the New Parents and Students Mass, which involved all families entering the College in 2015. Predominantly made up of boys entering Years 5 and 7, there was a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement about the partnership we are entering into with the families who join a vibrant and dynamic community formed in the charism of Saint Ignatius. It presents a strong statement about Catholic culture, that the first time new families gather as a group is to celebrate the Eucharist and to share the moment as a community. The forum also provided opportunity to share some key messages, particularly those associated with the character of the College and features of the educational program. Between now and late January the force of expectation will continue to grow as the boys progressively make the transition to Riverview, as so many other young men have over the course of the last 135 years. Collectively, as a school community, we wish them well in all that lies ahead.

Fundraising has featured prominently across another busy year of barbeques, cake stalls, P&F events and school initiated activities. On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of attending the P&F Annual General Meeting, where the year’s events were reviewed in preparation for 2015. It was with great pride that outgoing President Jeanmaree informed that the P&F will donate $115,000 to the College . Much of the sum was attributable to the very successfulRiverview Royale held earlier in the year, while other events and activities accounted for $20,000 of that sum. Last year the funds underwrote the purchase of the 28-seater bus as well as a bursary. The decision this year is, in addition to the bursary, to purchase buggies for first aid and boarding which will improve safety, amenity and mobility, especially for the boys who incur injuries throughout the year. Many thanks are extended to Jeanmaree for her outstanding work as President and best wishes are forwarded to Denise Wilson who takes up the mantle of leadership in 2015.

A number of other aspects of the educational program are currently making their presence felt:

Aptly named The Challenge, the boys in Year 9 headed off on Monday for their personal development program, which involves a variety of activities and events. These will be progressively reported on during the course of the coming weeks, particularly the more physically demanding components of the program.

Junior Theatresports took out first place in their most recent outing at Shore School on Friday and they will compete in the Grand Final at Newington on 14 November. I am very pleased to confirm that all Riverview Theatresports teams have made the Grand Final—unheard of!

Last weekend 30 Indigenous boys travelled with their mentors for a busy weekend of water skiing, martial arts, spotlighting and riding motorbikes. The boys regarded the motorbike riding as ‘awesome’ and were amazed to see the karate expert chop a baseball bat with his foot and five concrete blocks with his fist – great learning and community building.
On Wednesday, Old Scholar of St Aloysius’ and Federal Treasurer, Mr Joe Hockey MP, visited Riverview and spoke with great insight and passion to the boys at the Hot Potato Shop. Aside from many messages associated with the economy, Mr Hockey spoke at great length about the importance of values and how they shaped the person he has become.

On the main campus the intensity of the assessment schedule is reaching its zenith. The final HSC Examination was held on Wednesday, while Year 8 exams have been concertinaed into the Ramsay Hall for the rest of the week. Across on Therry Campus the boys in Year 7 have been undertaking their end of semester examinations to complete their first year in high school. Next week, the Ramsay Hall will host Year 10 examinations, instrumental in finalising subject choices for the HSC over the coming two years. And, with just 17 days of classes remaining before Speech Day, the dusk of 2014 is coming into view. I encourage the boys to keep their heads down and intensity up as they move to embrace the magis—that core element of Ignatian spirituality that asks for a deep commitment to all things, in order to achieve to their maximum potential.

Dr Paul Hine