I opened Kimberley Park State School in 1985. A multi-age structure was established to ensure that children were taught according to individual needs rather than the date on their birth certificate.
To explain the above, the grade number of a child – e.g. Grade 8 – is a better indicator of difference rather than sameness. That is, in Grade 8, expect an eight year range in ability. Some children will still have difficulty with reading, while others read as well as year 12 students. The education system attempted to come to grips with this reality in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Sadly enough, the defenders of the ‘one size fits all’ teaching are now on the ascendancy, with their fanciful notions of returning to a Golden Age that never existed. This retreat is being enforced through a national testing program, Naplan. Of course, ‘all at once’ teaching can be defended by the claim of teaching to the average child. This defence is easily dismissed when it is pointed out that about 4 out of 30 children are average in most learning areas. The question then arises: “What do you do with the other 26?”
Multi-age teaching is very demanding in terms of the teacher’s time and energy. It has also been proven to be very successful academically.
It is reasonable to assume that all children profit from teaching which is tailored to the individual ability of each child.
My days at my previous school, Kimberley Park State School, were marked by the often extraordinary results achieved by students. Children achieved results in such competitions as Excellence Expo, the Queensland Mathematics Competition, Tidy Schools, Tournament of Minds and National Environmental Awards which may never by equalled. The suggestion that a high school could function equally as well was made by a parent in 1992 and an eight year campaign saw Kimberley College established in 2000.
Parents are welcome to visit the school at any time.
It is a difficult task for parents to choose a school for their children. I read once that parents should check three things about the school being evaluated:
- Are the children happy? (ask them)
- Are the toilets clean?
- Can you hear laughter from the staffroom?
- …. And don’t trust principals. They put more spin on their words than a top class bowler
I won’t take the last bit of advice above, so I’m offering my ten most strongly held beliefs about education.
1. In mainstream education, children undergo a lengthy indoctrination to ensure they become compliant consumers. This process reveals little valuing of democratic ideals or the individual worth of the child.
2. The careful and deliberate teaching of analytical thinking helps to ensure that children can detect efforts to colonise their minds by advertisers, power brokers and the privileged.
3. Testing should be used to improve teaching, not to ‘prove’ that student A is ‘better’ than student B.
4. Intelligence has always been confused with memory. The ‘best’ results come from the students with the ‘best’ memory. Teachers teach what is tested and memorization then displaces the teaching of thinking as the primary aim of education.
5. Students need to develop a moral intelligence which enables them to question values promoted by the media on behalf of the powerful. Young people appreciate an environment where they are able to exercise judgement without the fear of ridicule or intimidation.
6. Too much bullying is met with silence or indifference. Silence never favours the victim. Our anti-bullying policy is based on action, not harm minimization – whatever that is.
7. Children do not learn best in a classroom characterized by authoritarianism. Just authority is a prerequisite to good teaching. Authoritarianism leads to displays of ill temper by the teachers, poor modelling of manners and bullying.
8. Choice between high quality options should be a feature of all learning. It would be ‘good’ if everybody could be ‘good’ at everything but sometimes it’s really satisfying to be able to demonstrate what you can do with competence and enjoyment.
9. Teaching should be imaginative, exciting, fair, reasoned, sensitive, empathetic, responsive, thoughtful, and rewarding. It should never be ego driven.
10. The wrong people are now in charge of the education future of our children. Politicians, in response to the demands of the Murdoch press, are implementing practices that are known to retard the growth of children. ‘Naplan’ national testing is based on a fraudulent set of figures concocted by the New York school system and the national curriculum is a disaster. It’s time for teachers and principals to take back control.
Kimberley College Ltd