Schools that Excel article

Posted 24-Oct-2020

Schools that Excel: how the southern stars shine

An excerpt from Madeleine Heffernan’s article in The Age, 15 April 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has not only given students mighty lessons about viruses, exponential growth and supply and demand – at Star of the Sea College, it's an opportunity for growth.

Principal Mary O'Connor said students had noted that the switch to online learning would make the transition to university easier, and teachers were reminding students they are living through history.

Star of the Sea Principal Mary O'Connor with College Co-Captains Macy O’Sullivan (left) and Julia Fullard.

"Many people talk about what happened in the Depression, their great-grandparents might have talked about that, or what happened in the war," said Ms O'Connor. "So [students will be] using the opportunity that they’re going to have to learn from home to think about what they might be learning about their own learning, and how to focus."

Ms O'Connor has sought to cultivate a growth mindset among students since joining the Catholic girls' school in 2017.

"The culture of school has changed, where the girls have the self-belief that they can get a really good result, that they are going to get the best out of themselves, that the staff are there to support their learning and really help them," she said.

The proof is in the pudding. The percentage of students with a study score above 40 has almost doubled from 8.8 per cent in 2015 to 16.9 per cent last year. Star's median study score rose from 33 to 35 in the same period.

These improvements have led to The Age crowning Star of the Sea its Schools that Excel non-government school winner for Melbourne's south.

She said she took a forensic approach to improving the Brighton school. Class time was reduced from 75 minutes to 60 to enable students to see their teachers more frequently. This was prioritised over other activities, such as festivals and excursion, to give students continuity. Teachers were encouraged to become VCE assessors, to see what best practice looks like.

Excerpt from Madeleine Heffernan’s article in The Age, 15 April 2020

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