Meet the Head, ESF Sha Tin Junior, Perry TunesI

WhichSchoolAdvisor meets Perry Tunesi, the principal of Sha Tin Junior school, who has dedicated 30 years of his teaching career to the English Schools Foundation (ESF).
Meet the Head, ESF Sha Tin Junior, Perry TunesI
By Carli Allan
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Perry Tunesi has a long history of working in the English Schools Foundation (ESF) group. Since joining the ESF in 1988 as a class teacher at Quarry Bay School, he has worked at four of the group’s nine primary schools; this included 10 years as principal at Peak School. Tunesi is currently entering his 10th year as principal at Sha Tin Junior school, a popular primary school in the New Territories – and his enthusiasm for education shows no signs of waning.

Read our full review of Sha Tin Junior here
Get the 'Experience' - the WSA walk through, here

Tunesi talks to about why he continues to drive change at this 30-year-old school…

Sha Tin Junior is one of ESF’s largest primary schools with a student body of 900. How are you creating a welcoming learning environment for your five to 10-year olds?

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.

Teaching at STJ is guided by the philosophy of Positive Education. How does this work alongside the IB Primary Years Programme?

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.

STJ is taking part in ESF’s new wellbeing survey, an online questionnaire to assess the well-being of your school community. Why is this so important to the growth of the school?

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.

Read our full review of Sha Tin Junior here
Get the 'Experience' - the WSA walk through, here

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