Learning Program Built on Firm Foundations

When excited St Catherine’s School students entered their new Junior School building for the first time in July this year, it was after months of watching the structure take shape. They observed as the strong foundations developed, which were then expertly built upon with both the physical structure and the inner workings, to ensure the result was the best it could be. And while the young students may not see the metaphorical significance of the new building, it’s a place they quickly learned to love, says Catherine Samuel, deputy head of Junior School. “Our new building reflects
the values of St Catherine’s and what we believe is integral to girls’ education. We want them to be critical and creative thinkers.”

In the Junior School the aim is for students to build strong foundations in literacy as they learn to read, so that in turn they can transfer and apply these skills to read to learn. “Reading draws upon many skills that need to be developed at the same time,’’ Ms Samuel says. ‘‘Research has shown that for students to be successful readers it is essential that they develop strong foundations in
phonics. We use explicit phonics programs and regularly assess each student – carefully monitoring progress and identifying students who may have difficulties.”

The Junior School delivers a robust reading program from Prep through to Year 6 that incorporates reading sessions aimed at building comprehension and developing vocabulary through specialist classes. Students can also join reading groups and participate in public speaking activities. “Our goal is to foster a love of reading in every student.”

As with literacy, the Junior School’s mathematics program aims to start building students’ confidence and interest in mathematics early. “Our maths program is centred upon the internationally
recognised program, PRIMEMathematics, which supports our aim to develop students’ thinking and understanding in mathematics,’’ Ms Samuel says. ‘‘We want to encourage students to explore possibilities and develop bold problem-solving approaches and skills. ‘‘When students have greater confidence, they give themselves the freedom to take risks in learning and engage in trial-and-error processes that are fundamental in acquiring knowledge in mathematics.”

In Prep and Year 1, there is a focus on hands-on activities using many different materials to ensure maths learning has a strong foundation. There are other opportunities for students to engage in mathematics activities through less obvious activities, such as the school’s morningSTEMclasses and the chess program that grows students’ mathematics capabilities creatively. “Chess brings together logical and sequential thinking, building on their analytical reasoning skills. The strategy and tactics required reinforces mathematics concepts,” adds MsSamuel.”There are mathematics competitions for girls to participate in, and from Year 2, a mathematics extension program for those who have a particular love and interest in the subject. “A Year 9 mathematics teacher oversees the Maths Masters program as they’re working at a high level. It’s a lovely connection between the Junior and Senior schools.”

Many students begin their education in the School’s Early Learning Centre and Ms Samuel says St Catherine’s ensures the transition from ELC to Prep is seamless and comfortable for all students.
“We aim to provide a nurturing environment for students through our wellbeing program that provides a holistic approach to the personal, social, emotional and physical wellbeing of our girls.”

The Age - Foundations of Learning

Sunday 21 October

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