A MESSAGE FROM THE PRINCIPAL

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FOURTH WEEK OF ADVENT: TRUST IN GOD’S PEACE

Finally, in the fourth week of Advent, the Gospel reading begins our reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation – how it is that the Messiah came to be with us. The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective. The way that Joseph and Mary face the difficult circumstances of the birth of Jesus tells us about their faith in God. Joseph follows the instructions of the angel who comes to him in a dream to not be afraid. Joseph and Mary both trust in God’s plan for them even though they cannot see what will become of them. To harness the power of love and conquer violence, we need courage and faith like that of Joseph and Mary.

Dear God,

the harvest is plenty and the labourers are few.

Your people long for peace,

they thirst for justice.

Send into our midst women and men

whose hearts can embrace the entire world.

Send into our midst young and old,

from all your beloved cultures and races,

Who offer their arms to lift up the lowly and oppressed.

Send into our midst new peacemakers

Who will walk with the powerless,

as well as those in power

To proclaim your teaching and

To witness against hate, greed, fear and strife.

Create us anew as your peacemakers, O God,

And send us your peace. Amen

 

 

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Staff Farewells

At the end of the year, we say goodbye to some of our teachers and support staff, as they move onto another phase of their lives and careers.

Firstly, we would like to farewell permanent members of staff:

  • Maria Lambert (Visual Arts)
  • Gail Ferrier (Bursar)
  • Con Raptis (English Coordinator)
  • Viviene Gereige (Vocational Learning Coordinator)

Maria was a member of the Bethany Community since its founding in 1993. In fact, she worked at St Joseph’s Kogarah since 1989.  Her 26 years of dedicated and outstanding service to our community will be sorely missed and we wish her well in her move to the South Coast. Gail joined the support staff of the College in 1999 and has been with us for 18 years. As a Bursar, she has served both parents and the College. Her accuracy, prudence and financial acuity have served us well. She is looking forward to another chapter of her life now and we wish her well. Con and Viviene will also leave the College at the end of this year and we thank them for their contribution to curriculum development in the College and the growth in our academic success.

We would also like to thank the following members of staff who have concluded their temporary, contractual periods at the College:

  • Bolton, Jordan
  • Boutros, Christiana
  • Culleton, Brian
  • Roberts, Stefanovych
  • Sullivan, Jane

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Parent Satisfaction Survey 2016

Thank you very much to everyone who completed the Parent Satisfaction Survey this term.  In total, 135 responses were received.  The greatest affirmations were that 93% of respondents identified that their daughter felt safe at the College and that 75% felt that they were very satisfied with the College.

Overall, the results are a strong affirmation of our values and programs and are invaluable in identifying areas for development. The Leadership team will analyse and discuss the detailed response data during our professional development days next week. We noted that 32% of respondents were unsure about the College’s strategies for dealing with the diverse needs of its students and 33% were unsure that the College has high academic standards.  Though each teaching program includes strategies for differentiation for gifted, core and learning support students, this is not being communicated strongly enough to our students.  We cannot take this for granted and it is important to have teachers articulate the differentiation they are implementing daily.   

In 2016, we identified that our Anti-Bullying strategies needed improvement in the timeliness and effectiveness of implementation.  We were disappointed to see the respondents’ advice around this with the results for the statement Bullying is dealt with in a timely and effective manner recorded at 56%, a dip from the 62% result in 2015. We will target this area in 2017.

We are especially grateful for the improvement in perception of our academic standards with the response to The College has high academic standards at 62%. We have worked very hard at this and would like to have an improved result in 2017.  There was also a positive response to the statement around friendliness and approachability of the Leadership Team at 80% and the office staff at 89%. We clearly don’t get it right all the time but we will strive to have our personal interactions be positive and professional.

Later this term, all staff will analyse the responses from this survey and identify what we can take from it about your perceptions of our work.   While there is a very pleasing commendation of the College, the greatest value is in data that helps us make Bethany even better.

 

 

 

Overall Results

Parent Satisfaction Survey 2016

% Agree

% Neutral

% Disagree

1. My child/ren are happy at the College.

78

17

5

2. My child/ren feel safe at Bethany College.

93

5

2

3. My child/ren are interested and engaged in their learning at the College.

79

17

4

4. The College provides a value for money education for my child/ren.

68

24

8

5. The College caters well for the diverse needs of its students.

63

32

5

6. The College has high academic standards. 

62

33

5

7. The College has appropriate facilities to support its educational programs.

73

20

7

8. The College facilities are clean and well-maintained.

84

14

2

9. The College grounds are clean and well-presented.

91

8

1

10. The peer environment at Bethany is positive.

70

26

4

11. Bullying is dealt with in a timely and effective manner at the College.

56

39

5

12. The College maintains high standards of student behaviour in and out of the classroom.

76

20

4

13. The uniform of the College is practical and presents well.

80

15

5

14. The College maintains high standards of presentation and uniform for students.

86

8

6

15. The teachers of the College are knowledgeable and competent in their roles.

61

31

8

16. The teachers at Bethany are caring and take a genuine interest in the well-being and education of my child/ren.

71

23

6

17. The College provides a good range of subject offerings.

76

18

6

18. The College offers a good range of co-curricular activities such as the instrumental music and sport programs.

85

11

4

19. The staff of the College present well and dress appropriately and professionally.

86

14

0

20. The administration staff are welcoming, friendly and approachable.

89

9

2

21. The members of the Leadership Team are welcoming, friendly and approachable.

80

19

1

22. I am very satisfied with the College.

72

23

5

 

Further steps taken in regard to addressing Parent Feedback

  • Microwaves: The new wiring has been completed for the installation of six microwaves for student use in 2017, one microwave for each Year Group. This area will be managed by SRC representatives and will address the current congestion. We could not address this until now as it required the attention of an electrician to meet WHS standards.
  • Student Bathrooms: In 2017, Senior school girls (10-12) will be using the Marian Building bathrooms. This will alleviate congestion near the Canteen.
  • Air-Conditioning: The Sophia Building is now fully air-conditioned. It has been in use from the start of Term 4 and was especially rushed to cater for our HSC students. We thank the P & F for assisting with part of the budget for this. We will focus in raising funds to air-condition the Theatrette and Penola Building in the future/
  • Changes to Assessment: I recently foreshadowed our school’s priority in reducing the number of summative assessments (tests) to one per semester, that is, two per annum, per subject. Some parents have commented that they would like to know why.

The Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW (BOSTES) has advised schools and the community (through media releases) about changes to the HSC to be implemented in HSC 2020 (from and including Year 9 (2017)).

 

WHAT EVIDENCE SUPPORTS THE DECISION TO REDUCE NUMBER OF SUMMATIVE TASKS?

  • OECD research shows that effective in-school assessments give students better feedback to improve their learning, particularly among struggling students.
  • Research from Hong Kong shows fewer and more targeted assessment tasks are more effective in giving feedback to teachers and students about their strengths and weaknesses. Hong Kong and Scotland have restructured their school-based assessment tasks to reflect this best practice
  • Limiting the number of assessments will allow more time for teaching and learning, and reduce excessive stress and pressure on students.
  • Geoff Masters of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) encourages alternatives to exam-style assessments in schools to challenge students in different areas, and allow more opportunities to apply, rather than recite, knowledge.

In order to best prepare our students for their HSC, we are adopting these strategies for Years 7 to 10 next year.

 

CURRENT STATE

FUTURE STATE

Assessment tasks focus on essays and written exams

Students receive a wide variety of assessment tasks, such as presentations and speeches, projects, in-class problem solving, starting with English, Mathematics, Science and History

Take-home essays and test questions tend to replicate HSC examination questions

School-based assessment tasks evaluate the knowledge and skills not assessed in the end-of-year written HSC exams

Students report excessive stress. From a student’s perspective, school assessments can be relentless, repetitive and stressful

Assessment tasks are capped to reduce relentless pressure and allow students more opportunities to demonstrate what they know

Too many assessments reduce the time students have to build a depth of understanding in a subject

 

A reduction in assessment tasks creates opportunities for

deeper learning by students

Small numbers of students engage in negative practices such as plagiarism and cheating in school-based assessments

The cap on assessment tasks to reduce excessive student stress, coupled with tougher school-based assessment guidelines, reduces opportunities for plagiarism and cheating

 

 

We need to prepare our girls for an HSC which will have re-designed assessment tasks.

  • The redesigned exam questions will be less predictable and test a student’s application of knowledge and skills.
  • There will be fewer options in subjects allowing more probing essay questions, testing students’ in-depth analysis and problem-solving skills.
  • Reducing the predictability of exam questions will discourage practices such as pre-prepared responses and ghost-writing by tutors, and provide a more reliable indication of students’ ability.
  • The Australian Council for Educational Research highlights the need for assessment practices including exams that test necessary workplace skills, including working collaboratively, using technology, communicating and solving problems.

University of Wollongong STEM Camp

Congratulations to Joeme Severino and Georgia McGilchrist who have been successfully accepted into the University of Wollongong STEM camp for girls 2017 as a result of their outstanding academic achievement and passion in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We trust that Joeme and Georgia enjoy the experience and benefit from the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of STEM, later sharing their insights with their peers here at Bethany College.

 

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Community News

We keep the following families in our prayers;

  • The Kondos family who have struggled through the fourth anniversary of the loss of their daughter, sister and our sister Nicola (who would have been in Year 11 this year). It was lovely to see the girls with their splashes of purple on Nicola’s anniversary (8 December).
  • Miss Lisa Field, and her family, as her father passed away this week after battling illness.

 

 

School Reports: Some suggestions for disappointed families

The end of the year has arrived and for teachers, kids and parents alike, that means one thing – report time. Teachers across Australia have been busy creating reports for nearly 4 million school students. Each report is filled out according to different guidelines and curricula, as well as differing degrees of flexibility.

But what about parents? What guidelines, if any, can help prepare you to respond in the right way when you receive your child’s report card – especially if your child isn’t doing as well as you might like? A recent University of Michigan study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, offers some useful advice.

Researchers asked parents of nearly 500 US children how they would respond if their 11- to 13-year-old child brought home a report card with lower-than-expected grades or progress. They sorted those responses into two broad categories – “punitive” vs “proactive” – and then investigated whether the parents’ responses predicted better or worse school results five years later.

The study found that children whose parents said they would respond by lecturing, punishing or restricting their child’s social activities actually had lower levels of literacy and maths achievement by the end of high school. The main reason that “punitive parenting” strategies like those are unlikely to work is that they do not directly address the underlying problems that lead to the poor result. For example, the researchers argue, limiting social activities is only likely to improve school performance if going to too many social events is the reason underlying the poor performance. Perhaps just as importantly, parents who use punitive parenting practices may inadvertently deny their children the opportunity to learn the very skills and knowledge they require to improve their grades. Even worse, punitive strategies may increase children’s sense of frustration and aversion to school work.

On the positive side, the University of Michigan study and others have shown that children growing up in a cognitively stimulating home environment – characterised by things like access to books, musical instruments, and trips to the museum – are likely to show higher levels of achievement in reading and maths in high school. Other evidence also points to the value of creating a less punitive and more nurturing environment with warm, consistent and responsive parenting, though still with limits and boundaries for their children. Such an environment not only stands to enhance your child’s academic achievements, but many aspects of their biological, social, emotional and behavioural development too.

 Other research has shown the importance of giving and seeking specific feedback from an external source, such as a parent or teacher, on what good performance is, how their current performance relates to the ideal standard, and how they can act to close that gap. Teachers are a great source of information so that parents can understand the reasons behind their child’s poor performance, and not make faulty attributions about the underlying cause. So- it is vitally important that parents and their children should take the opportunity to attend the Parent/Teacher/Student interviews. It may be the last day of school but it is invaluable to get feedback.

And no matter how bad the report card might be, don’t fall into the easy trap of taking out your child’s poor performance on us. We, as teachers,  are not only there to help, but are an important ally in helping improve your child’s school performance. Engage in co-operative and constructive collaboration with us that is built on mutual respect and understanding.

It is important to note that there are plenty of other factors that can predict academic success: genes, parents’ level of education, the age of parents when a child is born, school infrastructure and teacher performance. Some of these factors can’t be changed, but many can. The challenge for parents is to tune in to those things that can be changed and act on them accordingly.

Three tips to remember at report time:

  1. When unexpected or poor results come in, research shows that reacting with frustration, anger, lecturing or punishment isn’t the best way to get better results.
  2. Consistent and responsive parenting will do more good than a punitive approach.
  3. Give and seek specific feedback on your daughter’s progress – especially the reasons behind any unexpected results.

 

Our mantra:

“Girls can do anything.
Bethany girls can do everything!*
(*except divide by zero)”
 
 
Vicki Lavorato
Principal