Whilst the end of term finished very quickly due to Cyclone Debbie, we were lucky enough to still enjoy the Year 4 to 6 Musical, Alice in Wonderland Jnr early in the final week. Our students did a marvelous job and entertained audience members over three performances.
I was lucky enough to be present for the final performance and was amazed at how well our students performed on stage. They were confident, sang beautifully, danced with style and made me laugh many times with the delivery of their lines. Allowing students the opportunity to develop these skills is vitally important and it was wonderful to see that over 100 students took advantage of this opportunity.
Planning a musical is a huge task and anyone who has done this before knows that from the early planning stages, as a director, you live and breathe the musical, often waking in the middle of the night with pictures of set designs, reciting lines in your sleep and planning choreography moves. I would like to thank four staff in particular who helped make this year’s musical the success it was – Miss Black, Mrs Weintrop, Ms Rosentreter and Miss McMillan. Along with a number of other staff who have assisted, I am most grateful for their contribution.
Earlier in the term, I was very fortunate to receive a grant from the Independent Primary School Heads of Australia (IPSHA) which allowed me the opportunity to travel to Finland and spend a week touring Finnish schools. At the time I was away, there was a lot of news around the success of the Finnish system and I was looking forward to the opportunity to witness this for myself.
As per Finnish law, the government takes responsibility for education of students and this is provided at no cost (except through taxes) to all students up to Year 12. Regardless of which political party is in power, there is a common agreement that education is a priority policies do not chop and change as new parties come into power. Children start school at six years of age, and a play based approach is incorporated, particularly in the early years. At the end of Year 9, students then choose whether they move into the University stream for Years 10 to 12 or the Vocational Education stream. For me, this was what I was most impressed with. To see how schools were set up in this manner was great! As we have been told, no standardized testing takes place until the end of Year 12 and this is only for those students who are enrolled in the University track. This matriculation exam allows entry into university and the course of choice. However, unlike here, students must complete four exams but can choose to complete up to 11 if they wish. They can also choose the timing of when they take these exams, within given timeframes.
I was of course interested to visit and witness first hand, Primary School settings and I was lucky enough to visit three different schools over the week. Certainly the way the ‘system’ has evolved is excellent; however, inside the classrooms, and regarding the practice that I saw, I was a little surprised. With everything we have heard about the Finnish Education system being inquiry based, I found myself comparing what I was seeing to what we do here at Somerset College. I came away feeling very confident in what we have in place here. Our classroom environments, in most instances, were more inviting and promoted collaboration in a more effective way and certainly the teaching strategies put in place by our teachers promoted more of an inquiry approach that what I saw in the classrooms I visited.
When talking with teachers in these schools, I did get a sense of how important trust is and how teachers in Finland are given a great amount of respect for what they do. I think this trust and respect for teachers, and for the profession, is something I would hope to see, not only across Somerset College but across the teaching profession here in Australia. Teachers in Finland have the ability to get on with their job of teaching students because they are not having to defend the decisions they are making in relation to the way they teach or the results they are giving. Their professional judgement is taken on board and parents have the belief and trust in them that they will do the job they have chosen to do and they will do it well. We are very lucky here at Somerset, due to the fact that I believe the vast majority of our parent body has this trust and respect for the work our teachers do with their children. You have shown that you have this trust because your child is enrolled at the College. We will always do the best we can for your children, and working with you, as the parents, is an important step in us achieving this goal.
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