With many innovative and strategic appointments of staff in the key learning areas of English, Science, Maths and Social Science, Somerville House is set to build on academic results, securing them a place amongst the top performing girls’ schools in Queensland for 2018.
With a specific focus on the Middle School, the School has recently appointed four Middle School Curriculum Co-ordinators in key learning areas, and an Assistant Dean of Literacy, Learning and Development. These key staff members work behind the scenes tailoring and revising educational programs to support individual student needs.
Supervising the new appointments is Dean of Teaching, Learning and Innovation, Ms Laura Duffield, and Dean of Academic Planning, Ms Jo Bennett. Ms Duffield spoke of how these new positions support teachers and Heads of Year in the Middle School to further develop students’ academic success and prepare their transition into learning in the Senior School.
“Somerville House has been working for two to three years in reviewing and revising all the programs in the Middle School in light of the current changes to education in Queensland,” Ms Duffield said.
“These new roles are designed to support teachers and implement programs to lift students’ literacy, numeracy and optimise learning to ensure they are equipped with the skills needed for the Senior School,” she said.
Noting the introduction of the new Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) and syllabuses replacing the OP system in 2020, Ms Duffield spoke of some of the foundational skills staff have identified in the new syllabuses, and implications for effective, Middle School learning.
“What will be an important foundation for the new QCE, and syllabuses for the new QCE, are essential ‘thinking processes’, called cognitive verbs,” Ms Duffield said.
“Our teachers in the core subjects in the Middle School are beginning to implement a vocabulary program – a key, initial step in rolling out literacy strategies to support student learning,” she said.
“This is to make sure students are ready for Senior School, and they have the maturity of language and the skills required for success in the new QCE system.”
Supporting both teachers and students with pathways to meet their academic potential is Assistant Dean of Literacy, Learning and Development, Mrs Michelle Taylor. Mrs Taylor has been working to implement numerous strategies to maximise student growth and support teachers to ensure the consistency of quality teaching practices.
“My role is all about helping each student to maximise her learning,” Mrs Taylor said.
“It is about working with teachers and parents to expand each student’s growth; from students who struggle with accessing aspects of the curriculum, all the way across and through social and emotional concerns that students have,” she said.
Identifying the many gifted and talented students at Somerville House and offering them opportunities to engage in challenging Co-Curricular activities, is another aspect of the role Mrs Taylor is passionate about.
“We support students who are gifted and talented by making sure that we extend them, so they are discovering where their potential lies and the limits of what they currently know and where they possibly go to,” she said.
“We have the Da Vinci Competition coming up as well as the Churchie Literature competition, and for the first time this year we are entering a team in the World Scholar’s Cup.”
Mrs Taylor went onto explain that a further facet of her role is making sure the learning development department runs seamlessly from the Junior School into the Middle and Senior Schools.
“The other role I play is to make sure that every student has a pathway through Somerville House, where she can find her feet and meet her potential,” Mrs Taylor said.
“We individualise these pathways because we understand that one size doesn’t fit all,” she said.
“It is my job to make sure we are giving teachers the tools to meet the students where they are at so that we can support them and further their academic achievement.”
Mrs Taylor’s role also works closely with the Dean of Academic Planning, Ms Jo Bennett, using ACER PAT testing and NAPLAN data to track the individual academic progression of students throughout the Middle School.
“Through ACER PAT and NAPLAN results, there is the hard evidence to back up the fact we know we are growing our students and we are doing that in each of the phases of their learning, and that’s our ultimate aim,” Mrs Taylor said.
With particular expertise in data analysis, Ms Bennett spoke of the long-term vision to see various lines of data providing the whole picture of each student, tracking their academic journey from the point of entry through to graduation. It is the compilation of different data – NAPLAN outcomes, ACER Pat testing, and subject outcomes over time - that helps teachers and staff form a better understanding of their students as individuals.
“We take information that we have at hand to look at what our students have done in the past and how that can best position them for the best chance of success in their learning,” Ms Bennett said.
“If there are any misalignment's across different data sources, then that can be used as a flag for intervention; a call to action to help students who require learning development, as well as identify gifted and talented students who may need further enrichment activities,” Ms Bennett said.
“What we are most interested in is how that journey looks for our individual students; to be able to measure growth on an individual student level,” said Ms Bennett.
“We look at where the individual student has come from and her previous history and think about how we can make sure she is maximising her opportunities for the greatest academic success,” she said.
Incoming Principal, Mrs Kim Kiepe, fully supports the recent appointments, which support the School's long-standing tradition of academic excellence.
“Academic rigour will be enhanced by these initiatives, enabling our teachers and Heads of Year to develop our students’ aspirations and the skills needed to chart successful futures,” Mrs Kiepe said.