Welcome to the Annual General Meeting of the Montessori School. Thank you all for coming. This is our report for 2015 and what an interesting year it has been in our very special school.
We know that our school is different, but I think sometimes we do not value our differences enough. It seems to me that the Montessori aspects of our school — the absence of rewards and punishments, the beautiful materials, the hands-on, active learning, the scientific approach, the multi-age groupings, the freedom to choose your own work, to work at your own pace — may only be a part of our difference. From our observations of other early childhood environments and from the direct experience of teachers, we can be confident that there are very few, if any, environments that are as calm, happy and peaceful as our school. Our rooms are quiet, calm, working environments.
In this school, we are educating for life. This is an environment that shows you how to learn — not one that simply teaches you what you need to know to pass a test. We are building strong and capable personalities who are able to work — and to work with others. Children develop a ‘can-do’ confidence here.
At a time when the jobs of the future have not yet been invented, or even thought of, it is fundamental capacities and attitudes that are important. Sir Ken Robinson, knighted for his contribution to the arts and education in Britain, is an international advisor on education. He has spoken extensively on the future of education, and his TED talk ‘How schools kill creativity’ in particular is very interesting and essential listening for those with a commitment to education. Our school is the kind of place that he would see as providing optimal opportunities for ‘divergent thinking’ — lateral, not linear thinking because we have those calm, quiet working environments, where children have the freedom to follow their interests and satisfy their curiosity.
We should be proud and rejoice in this difference, our uniqueness!!
One of the big pleasures last year was our participation in the Joondalup Lantern Parade. As is often the case, preparation and anticipation is a large part of the excitement and pleasure. The Parade itself was wonderful - and, as ever, our children rose to the occasion beautifully. Everyone, from the youngest child to all the adults, brought a great mixture of calmness and excitement, so that enjoyment was high, while drama was low. Some of us were disappointed that real candles were not permitted, but it was a very relaxed and pleasant occasion. We tend to take for granted the easy and natural manner of the children in public, but many comment on this remarkably ‘good’ behaviour. This was a great experience for the children, and indeed all of us, to remember.
The Family Scitech night was also again a wonderful experience for all — only Montessori families were present for the night and the children had easy and comfortable access to the exhibitions and activities. The success of this evening meant that this will become an annual event for our school.
Last year we worked to increase the variety of sporting activities and skills in the primary. Kids n Sport provided formal sessions with the students which were enjoyed by all. Upper primary students had sporting sessions with their peers at Chrysalis Montessori School. This joint venture was much enjoyed by the students and was a great Montessori community sharing event. We plan to continue these exchanges for mutual benefit and pleasure.
The annual whole school walk around Lake Goolellal was again another very pleasurable activity – one that is always shared with parents. This long walk increases our familiarity with our surrounding area and though it is quite an effort for the youngest children all managed well. Also taking place in Spring were the walks that each group takes around our own bushland. These are shorter walks that each group undertakes with their parents – a quiet, comfortable stroll to enjoy and appreciate our own very well cared for bushland.
Another whole-school occasion is the annual IB Art Exhibition which is organised by the senior students for the IB Art students display their work. An afternoon tea prepared by the students is included as means of raising funds for the bi-annual Thailand trip. It is always a very pleasurable exhibition with a wide variety of excellent work stimulating admiration and interest and discussion.
The Pre-IB and IB Year One students undertake a trip to Thailand each two years and 2015 was therefore the culmination of two years of hard work for those students, who work to earn and also raise the funds needed to pay for their trip. This work is a major part of the Montessori adolescent curriculum – work towards becoming an economic and social member of a society. All the work is done by the students, from planning events, working out costs, managing their budgets, creating invoices and pricing, to performing the work itself, whether it be sweeping the floors of the school or conducting a high profile community event like the annual Quiz Night.
Although the Quiz Night was not as well attended as in past years, it was a very enjoyable evening, with carefully prepared questions and great snacks and prizes! The annual play this year was The Good Soul of Szechuan by Bertholt Brecht. This was a great production, with imaginative sets, costumes and the enthusiastic engagement of the students.
The school always holds several events each year for parents to learn more about Montessori education and our school. Pre-Primary, Primary and Secondary Orientation mornings were held to assist parents’ appreciation of our wonderful environments. A special component of the Understanding Your Child Through Montessori which is held at the beginning of each year, was the Parenting Workshop run by Yaelle Grinberg, graduate of our school who has combined study in Montessori, psychology and counselling to develop a very practical approach to parenting.
We also held a Montessori Information Morning in May to provide a forum for the wider community to learn more about Montessori environments. This was very well attended and visitors spent the morning hearing about Montessori education and talking to teachers. At such forums there is always a very interesting exchange of information between staff and visitors new to our school and Montessori. They seem intrigued by the simple, logical methods we use to develop the whole child.
Our staff are always working to maintain these very special Montessori environments. Last year we began work on our Montessori Fidelity — small research projects to ensure that our practices remain solid and focussed on promoting the independence of our students though a classic Montessori balance of freedom and responsibility. Our school also hosted a Montessori Australia Foundation workshop on handwriting and all pre-primary and primary teachers attended this very interesting series of presentations.
Teachers also worked hard last year to incorporate the Montessori National Curriculum into our own school curriculum and documentation. This is very much a work in progress, under continued review and amendment. In 2015, the school was mandated by the state Education Minister to implement a Protective Behaviours curriculum and this has now been incorporated into our documentation, planning and practice.
In 2015, teaching staff spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the implementation of the National Quality Standards, mandated for 2016. These standards were designed to ensure that there is a high quality of care for all children in the early years across Australia. There were some elements in the implementation of the NQS in West Australian that were a little different to the rest of Australia. To prepare for full implementation, our school undertook an audit of early childhood environments and practice and wrote a Quality improvement Plan. Most of the elements included in the National Quality Standards were already in existence at the school so our school meets or exceeds the standards.
The school also undertakes an audit of the whole school and writes a Quality Improvement Plan as part of our participation in the Montessori Quality Assurance Program administered by the Montessori Australia Foundation. We were the first registered in this national scheme, which aims to ensure that a high level of Montessori experience is achieved in Montessori educational environments. The Montessori Australia Foundation has continued to assist Montessori schools in Australia with advice, professional development and political influence.
A major element of quality improvement for the school was with the installation of air-conditioning in the Shammai which was made possible by the generosity of parents with their fundraising efforts. Air-conditioning has provided a much more comfortable experience for the IB students during their final examinations in the ever increasing heat of November.
We were also very grateful for the enormous amount of assistance provided by a parent engineer, Len Legge, who organised and supervised the completion of extensive drainage work on the hardcourt.
We are very pleased to inform parents that last year the Department of Education Services also recognised our high-quality Montessori environment and extended our registration till 2017.
Our school has experienced some change in 2015 and we have said farewell to both administration and teaching staff members who have moved to other interests. We also welcomed new staff members both to the administration and to the teaching staffs. Last year Principal succession planning was effected with the resignation of Bobbie Beasley and the transition of MaryAnne D’Souza to the Co-Principalship.
We would like to especially thank all members of staff for their huge efforts last year – we are fortunate to have such dedicated and committed people working with our children.
We are also fortunate to have committed and energetic parents who have helped the school in so many different ways – with fundraising, with the newssheet, with donations of books and materials, with work in the grounds and bushland, organising and assisting with school events – and we are very grateful for their generous efforts.
The work on the Out of School Hours Care service commenced in 2015 with the determined efforts of a group of parents. We appreciate their contribution to the school community. The school was also able to provide a venue for the Montessori Playgroup, which has enabled it to expand the number of sessions.
Our school is a very lively place with a great deal of activity inside and outside the rooms. We are delighted that more of what happens in the school will now be seen on the school’s new website. Debby Duburguet has worked tirelessly with Alison Grondein throughout 2015 to organise the renovation of the website and undertake the training necessary to administer it. We try to share with parents everything that happens in the school and we are certain that the website will make this easier. In our small school, we are proud to be able to make much of our communication face-to-face and while this is the most effective and positive means in most circumstances, the website and Internet provides us with huge benefits in speed and range. Help me to do it myself means talking and working together for all of us, adults and students.
This has been an interesting year, as we have said, but like all other years, it has been a productive year with a clear focus on the development of our children through a classic Montessori education.