November 1, 2018
Caloundra City Private School creating character
Caloundra City Private School combines excellent teaching, individualised education, experiential learning and character development to mould their students into high quality people, starting right from the beginning in their early learning program.
An international pilot, a sales manager, a teacher and a UN Youth Ambassador walk into a school. No, there’s no punchline here; this was just the calibre of Caloundra City Private School (CCPS) alumni who recently came together to catch up with Principal Dr Dirk Wellham.
“They’re outstanding people who’ve achieved an awful lot since they graduated in Year 12,” says Dirk. “The young graduates from our school have done amazing things already.”
He speaks of his alumni as if they are lifelong friends of whom he is immensely proud.
“You know they’re going to be successful, whether it’s working for Ford or being a teacher or being a British Airlines pilot or a plumber. They’re good people who have good characteristics.”
While academic achievement is obviously important at the school (they are the number one performing school in NAPLAN on the Sunshine Coast), it’s the development of relevant characteristics that’s integral to the overall success of students at CCPS. Confidence, Resilience, Organisation, Persistence and Sociability are the school’s character traits of choice and are immediately apparent when you meet a CCPS student; past or present.
“Schools like ours have a responsibility to go against what’s fashionable and what is average in the world. We have to actually be better than that.”
“Character is hard to measure, but when you meet people like that you can see it straight away,” says Dirk.
He attributes the strong character of the alumni to the early learning they experienced at the school. He believes their early learning program provides students with the building blocks for a successful future.
“Our early learning years are the building blocks for the sorts of people they become as confident, resilient, organised, persistent and social,” he explains.
Furthermore, his PHD has collected data that confirms the longer students are at a quality school, the better their academic results will be.
“It starts in the early learning years and the longer you’re at a school like ours the better you are, not just in academic results (that’s just a small part of it) but more about your ability to communicate with other people and empathise and be successful in a range of different ways,” he explains.
The emphasis on these character traits combined with the dedication and attention to detail of the teachers has resulted in the number one NAPLAN results on the Sunshine Coast. CCPS teachers use the hard data from NAPLAN to hone in on each and every child’s abilities. They use these results to see where students might not be doing so well and provide them with the necessary support to build up each student’s confidence. Dirk says the result is students who feel good about their learning.
“What our Junior School is about and why our measured academic results are so strong in terms of NAPLAN is because we have really good relationships with our parents – that is, our teachers communicating really closely with our parents.
“The teachers are really high quality and they’re experienced and they’re dedicated and have really good attention to detail. So the nature of the learning program (what’s measured in NAPLAN) is it’s fun and the children enjoy their peers, coming to school and they enjoy their learning.”
Dirk sites John Hattie, one of the key players in Australian Government policy formulation, who emphasises the importance of relationships between teachers and their students. Specific and detailed feedback between teachers and students creates high academic results, and this is evident in CCPS’s early learning program.
“The quality of the teachers means that the children are getting lots of really good detail and attentive care, helping them to learn in a fun and happy sort of way,” he says.
Dirk believes that all schools have an obligation to help students exceed their expectations, which at CCPS, is resulting in such a wide range of success in the graduates. Instead of pigeonholing students into academic boxes they offer experiential learning, particularly in the early learning program. Students have access to a permaculture garden and beehive, which allows them to grow, pick, eat and sell their own produce. It’s holistic learning that is then applied to NAPLAN studies and results in high achievement of their students.
The school also believes in teachers teaching teachers. Dirk says that each teacher contributes and brings knowledge they have learned from elsewhere to explore the best ways to learn.
“Schools like ours have a responsibility to go against what’s fashionable and what is average in the world. We have to actually be better than that,” he says.
CCPS is helping to develop confident, empathetic young people who are anything but average and are finding success in their chosen fields and are what Principal Dr Dirk Wellham describes as high quality people.