Tunesi talks to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com about why he continues to drive change at this 30-year-old school…
It’s difficult to create that sense of community in a larger school but we are very focused on doing that. We effectively run six smaller schools within one big school; in each year level we have five teachers and 150 students, so that’s like a small primary school in itself. We focus on that family feel in the year groups, so parents have direct points of contact and children feel part of that smaller family. We don’t want six silos though, so we focus on communication and progression between the year groups.
It works because the PYP is fairly flexible and has a broad framework. We’ve done a lot of research around the work of Martin Seligman and Positive Education, which is coming out of many schools in Australia. We’re looking at using a positive ethos to help children approach school and the elimination of that fear of failure. So, children learn through making mistakes and enjoy what they’re doing; there needs to be a good balance between the academic and wellbeing.
We’re also focused on learning through play, particularly in the lower school. We are looking at bringing in structured and free play as a medium of instruction in the curriculum; children are also learning Mandarin through play. In the upper school, we have inquiry time or so-called ‘i-time’, which is much more inquiry than play-based. This is about students learning from their own personal interests, while simultaneously continuing with their core learning.
Children have to enjoy what they’re doing in the six years that they are with us – it gives them the foundation to be keen and effective learners.
We’ve focused on student wellbeing and the ‘can-do’ attitude for a while. For a long time, we’ve been trying to imbue the belief that it’s okay to make mistakes – and it’s key to learn from these mistakes.
Most recently, we’ve introduced physical activity breaks or mind breaks, such as Jump Jam sessions between lessons, and we’re teaching the children about brain psychology. We’re also changing our behaviour management policy to a positive relationships policy, and work with our parent community to develop an understanding that behaviour is a skill that children have to learn.