The right level of challenge

‘Why I want my (child) to experience frustration and failure at school’ is the title of a recently published article written by the *mother of a high school student with very strong academic ability. [*Megan Blandford  6 May 2019]

With Semester 1 Reports in the final stages of completion, I draw parent attention to the ‘student reflection statements’ that are on the first pages of all K-12 Reports – where students summarise or comment on personal highlights – in learning, and / or in School experience. Invariably the comment is about an area of improvement that has required persistent effort to achieve – or about a new opportunity or responsibility. For our most able students, teachers are sometimes surprised to note that they have little to say about ‘business as usual’ in terms of academic achievement where they are excelling – and are more likely to comment on a course where they have had to work hard to improve or to understand.

I believe that our students have learned to value what ‘best practice’ education requires – ‘the right level of challenge for them’ in all courses – regardless of their academic standard or starting point, and the importance of appropriate frustration in the learning process for students regardless of their ability, so that students become resilient, agile learners.

This is a core reason why all teachers of Gib Gate and Frensham are trained in teaching of Gifted and Talented students (UNSW courses, annually) and why student engagement with their teachers in negotiation of Personalised Learning Plans or support, to achieve agreed goals, is highly motivating.

In any Frensham Schools cohort (P-12), we would expect on average to have at least 20% of students entering the School with extremely high ability or disposition in one or more areas of the curriculum (i.e. meeting Gifted and Talented criteria) and a similar percentage of students who need support to access the core curriculum. However, the measure of our success – is what happens next...

In terms of HSC outcomes (Tertiary Entrance ranking – ATAR) we anticipate that around 40% of students will achieve top 10% results on a national HSC scale, and that 85% will be ranked at the 70+ percentile – in an academic context where we consider that essential to ‘success’ is the experience of failure and frustration - so that students learn to persist, to try things they might not be good at immediately, and to feel a sense of real achievement in surprising themselves, when understanding is achieved.’

Student highlights – excerpts from Semester 1 Reports:

Year 4:

  • Persuasive Writing – but I would still like to improve so that it is more interesting for the reader;
  • English, because I have learned in Writing how to use strong modality;
  • Independent Reading, because I have been able to catch up on my reading goals;
  • Maths, because I have learned many more strategies to solve problems and have improved so much;
  • Science, because of all the new learning for me.

Year 6:

  • I liked working on Maths Space because you can practise any topic or sub-topic you like and your teacher can set challenging questions;
  • I have been challenged to write stories to the best of my ability – and I think I did; I never thought I would read a biography but I love them now;
  • I was engrossed in an independent project that I was assigned (in HSIE);
  • I love Mathematics because it engages my brain and makes me think carefully about strategies.

Year 8:

  • being challenged in Latin
  • exploring new painting styles in Visual Arts
  • developing knowledge and understanding in Maths
  • learning to code in Technology
  • studying Shakespeare; conducting my Student Research Project in Science

Year 6: Final Word – about essential challenge: I believe school is more than a place you learn your subjects and socialise. I believe it is a place where you learn more about yourself, the things you love and how far you can push yourself to reach your goals. This semester has covered all these things.

See: Gib Gate News for more about Reports

See. For interest: ‘Listen to the children. This is what ‘good’ teaching looks like to them’ by Claire Golledge (November 2018) https://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?p=3410 

Acknowledgement to:

  • All who joined us for the Frensham Schools Birthday (click link to see the Birthday images) celebrations and Services, including the Birthday Play, offering generous feedback to teachers and students on the preparation and quality of contribution made by so many. 
  • We are very grateful for Ms Harriet Hooke’s willingness to offer time to prepare Tiny Tonaya from Daffodil Downs as a new Frensham Schools (miniature pony) mascot – a highlight of our combined Service on Friday for all students of Gib Gate Frensham and Sturt.
  • ‘The Music’ of the weekend drew an outpouring of praise for Michael Spencer, Emily Sinden, Sabine Madden and Anne Graham – and we know there is high demand for recordings of what was performed...so that is now under consideration, to see what can be achieved.
  • Frensham Madrigals, who will compete this weekend in Sydney in The John Lamble Foundation Australasian Championship For Youth Choirs (19 & Under);
  • Recent Girdle recipients: Adelaide Darvall (Drama), India Shead (Public Speaking), Olivia Swires (Service - Clubbe Hall), Sarah Jancewicz (Music), Gina McGinnis (Community Service);
  • Recent Iris recipients: Elvira Berzins (Academic Excellence), Imogen Senior (Academic Excellence and Service);
  • Australian Brain Bee Challenge state finalist Caitlin Quinn (Year 10) – placed in the ‘top ten’ of the competition;  
  • Ginger Kennett (Year 11) awarded (NSW) State Age Champion 13-17years at the 25th NSW State Vaulting Championships
  • Year 8 award recipients for Computational and Algorithmic Thinking (CAT): Distinction: Bella Cay, Elise Davies, Sarah-Joy Day, Megan Syme; Credit: Monique Andersson, Matilda Damiani, Sophie Hassall, Emilie McMurtrie, Eliza Mulligan, Summer Oxley, Edie Staniforth;
  • Ella Pernice (Year 12) for her presentation to Year 9 of her United Nation Youth Ambassador experience as part of the Jamieson Programme;
  • Sophie Mortlock (Year 7)  for her continued success in Figure Skating at state level;
  • McGrath Foundation Volunteers of the Week - Brodie van Egmond, Abigail Clark and Mabel Gowland (Year 11), featured for their fundraising in costume at the SCG for the Pink Test;
  • Regional Plain English Speaking Highly Commended Award recipient - Georgia Shakeshaft (Year 10).

Ginger Kennett (Year 11) – 25th NSW State Vaulting Championships

Work Experience – Year 10 – thank you to parents for your support!

Year 10 is off campus on Work Experience for the final week of term, with an extended week taking them to the end of Friday 28 June (a day after the rest of the School completes Term 1.)

We see this opportunity as a valuable experience for Year 10 to gain insight into a vocation in which they have a particular interest and to provide some understanding of the expectations of an employer and the responsibilities of an employee.

We are very grateful to parents in and beyond Year 10, 2019 who have assisted our girls to secure placements, including some who have been offering this opportunity over a number of years.

Julie Gillick
Head of Frensham

Head of Frensham Schools