Building happy, healthy and confident children in the water at Blue Dolphin Swim

Building happy, healthy and confident children in the water at Blue Dolphin Swim

blue dolphin swim adelaide

Building happy, healthy and confident children in the water at Blue Dolphin Swim

WORDS: Lesley Rudd Founder/Owner & Tara Hanias Director/Owner

With our combined 50 years in this wonderful industry, the fundamental proposition is our ability to self-survive in water. It’s a complex skill to teach because of the level of coordination involved and our natural survival instinct kicks in and sets us up to drown. Before anyone can become a competitive swimmer, they need to know how to maximise their own protection.

blue dolphin swim

Water safety and learning how to learn

The most powerful thing we can teach our children is to enter the water, turn around, get to the side and climb out. In this way, even very small kids can take control of their body in the water and their own survival. Ideally, young people already have a solid swimming practice by their school years. Forming healthy habits and behaviours that adhere to water safety ideals and learning how to learn is also great practice for a child’s educational journey.

Swimming during formative years not only assists with early childhood development, it further provides a precious bonding experience between carer and child.

blue dolphin swim

Overcoming fears and taking control of instincts

Our survival instinct gets us to do 2 things: hold onto our air and put our head up where the air is. Together, these 2 things set us up to drown. Teaching through to the subconscious level enables us to overcome our fears and consciously take control of our instincts. If we are fearful, we cannot learn as our only concern is our own survival!

Young people need guidance in a nurturing and trauma-free way to overcome their fear, because no one learns when they are afraid. For this reason, the core skills we promote at Blue Dolphin Swim Centre are body and head positioning as well as controlling the exchange of air. These skills allow children to feel in control and confident before they learn about propulsion. If you have not learnt to exhale under the water and ascend for a pop-up breath before putting your head under again, the window to take that breath is not there and you will need to take that next breath underwater. Looking up to get the air also puts the body into a vertical position which means we cannot swim forward. So, the timing of taking a breath in conjunction with controlling our body position is crucial for survival in the water.

blue dolphin swim

We cannot underestimate how complex the teaching of swimming is. Supervision is the most important thing we can teach our parents and caregivers. Learning to swim takes time and practice to teach our brain to co-ordinate 5 things together. For children to master body control in an aquatic environment to maximise their efficiency, propulsion and rest phases is a process best achieved through a commitment to quality education, practice and assessment. All the skills we teach are firmly centred on safety from learning efficient swim strokes to treading water, tows, rescue techniques and water ways safety talks.

blue dolphin swim

Quality child-led education

Blue Dolphin Swim Centre’s framework model is child-led in a nurturing and trauma-free environment. We are family-focussed, respectful and supportive. Our unique facility is founded on standards of excellence and safety. We are family owned and community-based with values centred on education, superior customer service and cleanliness as well as being informed by a continuously improved program. Our skilled, passionate and qualified teachers use proven teaching methods that have been complimented by elite coaches.

blue dolphin swim

Skill based training

We cater for babies from 4 months through to teenagers of 16 years and our philosophy is skills, rather than age-based, which translates into children working at their own pace and being promoted to higher levels whatever their age. In our progressive program one skill leads into another and a solid foundation is built to complement a students’ learning journey. We are always monitoring growth and ensuring readiness for the next progression by regular reward-based assessment for the next level and our parents informed every step of the way. We commit to students progressing in a timely manner and we provide 1-on- 1 assistance when necessary. Most importantly through our passion we instil a love of swimming that leads to all manner of aquatic activities for life.

blue dolphin swim

Forming healthy habits and behaviours

With reference to ‘The Griffith University Report’ (Jorgensen, 2012), clear findings show that children who can swim significantly outperform their non-swimming peers in terms of visual and gross motor skills, oral expression and the academic achievement of literacy, numeracy and mathematical reasoning.

After nearly 5 decades in this industry, extensive travel, study and experience we shout from the rooftops, ‘why wouldn’t you teach your children to swim!’ Your child’s aquatic education provides them with opportunities for fun, safety and aquatic independence they will appreciate for their lifetime – and may even save their life.

Blue Dolphin Swim Centre, Happy Valley

blue dolphin swim

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Packing great lunchboxes the easy way!

Packing great lunchboxes the easy way!

packing great lunchboxes

Packing great lunchboxes the easy way!

WORDS: Kylie Archer @kidgredients

When it comes to packing the over 2000 school lunches you’ll make for your child during their school journey, there are some ways you can make it simpler, yummier and more fun!

packing good school lunchboxes


Otherwise known as the most important tool in lunch making, the lunchbox really determines what you can pack, how fresh it will stay and whether lunch gets eaten.

I have to send crunch and sip (fruit and veggies only), recess and lunch every day, so we use three containers per child. Having tried many lunchboxes, I have a few favourites.

  • Yumbox Panino: Super versatile and perfect for kids who want to keep their crackers separate from their yoghurt. It’s leakproof for wet food – think the consistency of apple sauce – and works for kids up to around 12 years of age. I use the Yumbox MiniSnack for recess. yumbox.com.au
  • B-Box: Great for kids who like whole pieces of fruit, we use their smaller containers for crunch and sip. bbox.com.au
  • Boxi: Great for older kids (or kids who have all their food for the day in one box) and super hot climates as it contains an ice brick that goes under the food. boxi.com.au
  • PlanetBox Rover: Great for avoiding plastics but still having a bento style lunch, match it with a cooler bag and you’ve got plastic free lunches. biome.com.au/808-planetbox

packing great school lunches


No matter what lunchbox you get, the lunch the kids eat is only as good as your ice bricks!

We love the Arctic Zone Cooler Bags (from Mini Hippo) or Montii Co Cooler Bags. Ideally we need to keep food between 1–4 degrees and the best way to do this is to store it in the fridge until it goes into the cooler bag.

Teach kids how to open and close their lunch bags and make sure they close them securely between meals.


If the kids love a hot lunch, then a thermos is a good investment – just make sure to prep it with boiling water for 5 minutes, then empty and add the food when it’s too hot to heat. This means it will be the perfect temperature by lunch time.

Don’t forget to pack a fork or spoon!

lunchbox prep


Things like carrots, cucumbers, capsicums, celery, can all be prepped in advance and kept in the fridge in water. This helps with variety too, as you don’t have to finish every veggie on the same day in the lunchbox.

Cut fruit is more likely to be eaten in our household, so I chop apples, watermelon, oranges, pears, strawberries, the lot! We use qukes as the kids like them better than whole cucumbers.

Soak apple slices in cold water before popping into the lunchbox. Pop a paper towel under wet fruits like watermelon so they don’t leak. If your kids like yoghurt in their lunchboxes, consider reusable yoghurt pouches to save dollars!

freezer lunches


By utilising your freezer and making lunchbox snacks in batches, you will have more variety on hand and won’t ever be panicked to fill the lunchboxes in the morning.

Kids quickly get sick of something if they have it every day for a week, so make a batch of something like scrolls, freeze and pull them out when needed, so as to avoid lunchbox boredom.

Some freezer friendly ideas:

  • scrolls
  • bliss balls
  • slices
  • cakes
  • muesli bars
  • mini pizzas
  • muffins
  • zucchini slice
  • mini frittatas
  • mini quiches
  • …and even cookies!

It’s simple to make lunches easier and rely less on packet food when you take the time to get prepped in advance.

easy lunchbox recipes


Lunch boxes are not the place to experiment with a new food that hasn’t been tested at home!

Make a habit of trying new stuff out with the kids, rather than just putting it into the box and hoping for the best.

Some of the most popular things that my kids always want in their lunchbox:

Ham and Cheese Pizza Scrolls


Caramel and chocolate Bliss Balls


Amazing Whole Apple Food Processor Cake



At the end of the day, if the kids don’t eat everything, it’s annoying, but it could simply mean you have overpacked, or that there was something on at school that was more interesting than lunch! Ask them why it wasn’t all finished, and if at all possible, get them to finish it for afternoon tea!

For a never ending supply of lunch box ideas and kid friendly fare, head to Kylie’s Instagram:


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Best on Ground: Super Coach Jenny Williams on developing Junior Athletes

Best on Ground: Super Coach Jenny Williams on developing Junior Athletes


Best on Ground: Super Coach Jenny Williams on developing Junior Athletes

Words: Jenny Williams Dip T B.Ed Grad Dip Psych, B.BSc. MPsych (Organisational)

Another day of being a sports driver. 

Be it practice or games, Mums, Dads and caregivers all over the country spend much of their free time transporting their children to sporting grounds. Their children’s experience of sport/dance can range from fun and great learning, through to anxiety, boredom or even bursts of anger. 

This article is a challenge to parents. To make you aware that the quality of experiences and people who surround your children will impact on their lives and give them more joy or direction than any number of junior trophies.

My name is Jenny Williams and I would like to offer a unique perspective on childrens’ sporting experience coming from a background of being daughter of a champion (Dad’s name is on a stand at Adelaide Oval), an elite athlete myself (SA Sports Hall of Fame), a 30 year career of elite coaching adults, even longer coaching juniors, a PE teacher of 35 years and now a Performance and Organisational Psychologist.

Many parents or junior sports coaches have the best intentions in developing those they coach. Many are on their L Plates, having little coaching experience other than perhaps playing the game themselves. As we know in business, just being a worker does not necessarily make one a good boss and yet we often sit passively watching our children’s experiences with a variety of coaches.

The importance of winning

If sport is always about the child’s improvement or friendship, then children would still be playing as young adults but somehow the importance of keeping score, winning and our own adult egos can get in the way. We produce a few champions but many, many more drop-out never experiencing a lifetime of joy from teams, friendships and movement.

There are so many aspects to developing amazing, resilient, driven young athletes but most attention is given to technical or physical training. Psychological and social training tends to be what you luck into or out of. Very little time is given – other than perhaps goal setting and team development days – which are often taken by non-experts.

In helping my athletes of all ages, I use a Hoberman sphere to outline the STAR they would like to be. This star can be expanded to be huge or be pushed together to indicate feeling very, very small.


hoberman sphere

At the centre of the STAR is a mass that is labelled CARE. Care about others, care about yourself and care about the RESULT. To be a larger star and a happy healthy individual, each of these aspects must be part of our everyday experience. As a junior, the care for themselves (in terms of development) and care for others should be of paramount importance over the RESULT in most cases.

How can we help improve the Physical, Technical, Psychological and Social sectors at every training? Do they have a coach or know an Expert who can help them to the level they want to attain?  How can they help others in their team or maybe even their parents or siblings at home? If you want to set many children on a path to depression, make all of the experiences about them or expect perfection at games and life. If we also make the result so important without teaching how to regulate emotion, then we are facilitating anger as a response to losing.

I will also mention that as an elite coach although the RESULT is my ultimate aim, WINNING is much more likely if I have spent my time CARING about my athletes as people and performers, by learning about their lives, loves and how to get them to play their best.

Becoming a STAR

The next aspect for the child is to examine what other factors can make their star grow or shrink.

Firstly, this can be internal talk. This is often the worry about making mistakes. Worry can cripple performance before it starts and leads to lack of sleep, and anxiety that far outweighs the contest level. If athletes have genuinely tried their hardest then they must learn to let the mistake go and simply GET THE NEXT ONE.

The second major factor in the size of the STAR external. It is those who surround the star every day. The opinions that they see or hear. Using the Hoberman sphere it is simple for athletes of all ages to react to a variety of factors. Examples of responses from athletes when holding the sphere are Mum :bigger, dad: smaller, maths teacher: bigger, coach: much smaller , some friends bigger, some smaller.

The athlete (even younger children) starts to understand two things. First the expertise level of the opinions they hear and secondly that no one should make you feel smaller. When I have parents or coaches in the room, they see it is the child that counts. Make them bigger, they keep playing. The more they keep training and playing the better they get. Make them smaller and enjoyment disappears and sooner or later they give up, often never to return. In terms of friends, if they don’t make the child feel bigger they are also not the friends they need.

Post-game feedback

Parents who are not experts (many hours of playing/coaching with good feedback) are given instructions that they can only give their child one or two pieces of information after a game. If their child is to be a champion, it isn’t parental drive that will make it happen but rather the child themselves. We often laugh that not giving an hour of instruction on the drive home is hard on some parents but believe me it makes life so much easier for the child. If a coach always sits the child on the bench or is negative and critical, we have conversations about changing teams and if there are mean girls or bullies dominating the group then we look at how to cope in the short term and then move to a new group.

Challenges under a psychologically safe background really help build resilience and should be encouraged but brutal feedback or negativity in an atmosphere that lacks CARE will damage fragile confidence and self worth.

In my years as a PE teacher or coach of juniors, I would hope that in every session the following four aspects were part of every session.

  1. Fun (it makes hard work feel easier) 
  2. Raise the heart rate to get a fitness benefit  
  3. Learn and practise something new
  4. Connect with others, say please, thank you

Now in reaching optimal performance, I would add, Entropy, Bell Curves, The Flow diagram, Controlling Breaths, Slow decision making, Feedback Quality, Challenges and finding the most amazing passionate experts in every aspect to help improvement. No grumps allowed.

Succeed by making each other better

My life has been blessed and as an elite athlete I won 41 out of 45 League, National and International Finals. I have many trophies but as I tell my athletes… they never ring, call or send me birthday messages. What adorns my walls and is a major part of my sporting highlight tape are the pictures of my teammates and our lives together. We won because we cared not only about the RESULT but because by making each other better and genuinely caring about each other’s lives, we loved the hard work and training.  

My quest as I age is to fast track those I teach.

Jenny’s book, Think, Prepare, Play like a Champion is available online: 


RRP $74.95

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THE FUTURE SOUNDS GOOD at St Peter’s Woodlands

THE FUTURE SOUNDS GOOD at St Peter’s Woodlands

Musical Futures Program St Peters Woodlands

THE FUTURE SOUNDS GOOD at St Peter’s Woodlands

What do G Flip, Dave Grohl and Elton John have in common? They are all self taught musicians who learnt to rock out on their own terms.

In classrooms around the world, music books are being banished, drums are taking over from the flute, and a spirit of energy and engagement is replacing rigidity.

Musical Futures SPW


The Musical Futures program started in the UK as a way of engaging with difficult teens, and has now spread to students of all ages globally.

According to Michelle Lewis, Arts Teacher at St Peter’s Woodlands Grammar School in Glenelg — a Musical Futures Champion school — the success of the program starts with the simple premise that music should be fun.

“As soon as we introduced the program it changed the relationship teachers, parents and most importantly students have with music at our school,” she said.

“Like many schools, our teaching was pretty formal and was seen as great for extra-curricular activities like choirs and musicals, rather than a really important part of education,” Michelle said. “The Musical Futures approach to teaching music is really refreshing because it’s about trying different instruments and styles. There’s a lot of student choice and this leads to more enthusiasm and positivity.”

musical futures program st peters woodlands


In the Musical Futures program, all music is worthy and treated equally.

The program introduces a range of instruments associated with rock bands — guitars, drums and keyboards — but it also introduces singing, composition, DJ skills and production — as well as still being open to classical instruments.

“Our students are digitally savvy these days. If they want to find out something, they jump on their tablets and watch a video on YouTube. They are very competent in self-directed learning,” said Michelle.

“In the same way, our lessons now are very flexible. Students can try many instruments, they can work with different groups of friends and they can create the kind of music they enjoy,” she said.

musical futures program spw

According to Head of The Arts, Mark DeLaine, while the program is great fun and motivational, there is also evidence that shows how effective music is for developing children’s brains and helping them with speech and literacy.

“There’s a fantastic body of work from music educator and researcher Dr Anita Collins which shows that children from newborns to teenagers benefit from learning and listening to music, that it can grow and stretch young brains,” Mark said.

“You can see it in action at school, from very young children learning new words through song, right up to the older children stretching their brains to try new music, to learn new skills and collaborate in different ways.”

As an International Baccalaureate World School the Musical Futures program sits brilliantly within the IB PYP inquiry approach to learning.

musical futures spw


As one of just a few Musical Futures Champion Schools in South Australia, both Michelle and Mark have been astonished by the results at St Peter’s Woodlands.

“Last year we had 173 students in the junior school musical which we offer for students in Reception to Year 3. It meant one in three students took part. It was slightly crazy, but so encouraging to see how much the students are enjoying music!” Mark said.

“This year we’ve had 72 students audition for the 19 main roles in the senior musical. We have more than 80 of our youngest students take part in Junior Glee every week, and our Year 7 cohort write, compose and perform their own graduation song.

“High schools are also giving us feedback that our old scholars are leading the way in the area of music. Making music more engaging has paid off.”

musical futures program spw

What has been a surprise to both Mark and Michelle is that the popularity of rock instruments and musicals has not been at the expense of more classical instruments.

“We still have lots of students learning piano, violin, flute. They take part in their individual tutoring, and can bring those skills to the music lessons. Those students are used as experts, leading class workshops, while still benefiting from trying new things with their friends,” Mark said.

musical futures spw


The success of the Musical Futures program at St Peter’s Woodlands is regularly shared with other schools around the state. Recently twenty teachers took part in a workshop run by Michelle to impart her knowledge and passion for the program.

“The program isn’t just fun for students, it’s really vibrant and exciting for teachers too, and that’s the way the program is taught. It’s about being ten all over again and grabbing a guitar and having a go,” Michelle said.

“Seeing the teachers let go of their rigid musical upbringing and get back to the pure joy of music is brilliant!”

Book a personal tour or find out more info:

Jo Gray, Enrolments Manager

St Peter’s Woodlands, 39 Partridge St, Glenelg
(08) 8295 4317

IMAGES: Meaghan Coles

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WESTMINSTER SCHOOL: Where students can achieve more than they thought possible

WESTMINSTER SCHOOL: Where students can achieve more than they thought possible

Westminster School

WESTMINSTER SCHOOL: Where students can achieve more than they thought possible

In today’s rapid and ever-changing world, leading independent school Westminster recognises the importance of empowering students to lead their own classroom learning journey while connecting them to real-world experiences. It’s these foundations, coupled with quality pedagogy, community connection and new state-of-the-art campus facilities, that are central to its commitment of encouraging each individual to achieve more than they thought possible.

Westminster School


With innovation in learning at the heart of the school’s curriculum delivery, the breadth and quality of Westminster’s coeducational learning program provides countless opportunities for students to try new things and discover genuine interests. The outcome is students who graduate with exceptional skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving.

A new Year 7 FUSS (The Future is Us) learning program underway at the school shines a spotlight on Westminster’s innovative approach to curriculum delivery. It encourages students to take responsible risks, develop a robust approach to problem solving while challenging their critical and creative thinking skills. With each problem focused on ‘tricky’ real-world problems, FUSS has been specially designed to give students greater agency and build resilience. Through program input from leading global authority for creativity and innovation, Charles Leadbeater, one of the projects underway enables students to develop a prototype solution to help clear waterways of rubbish, as powered by a Sphero Bolt robot they code and test in the school’s swimming pool.

“It’s amazing watching the students work together to problem solve and develop their creative thinking with a connection to the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development,” says Coding and Robotics teacher, Ross Willoughby.

Westminster School


As a leading independent school, Westminster offers exceptional education evidenced in the strong academic performance of students. This is further demonstrated by the school’s commitment to, and investment in, exceptional teaching practices with many of its faculty on the journey to being accredited as Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers (HALT).

“Our teachers are dedicated to being the best they can be and have the added support of lead pedagogy coach, Angela Phillips,” says Principal Simon Shepherd.

As a result, Angela feels ongoing professional development is important for teachers, especially with rapidly developing technologies. Teachers need to be ahead of the curve in terms of how students are interacting, learning or evolving in line with the technology that is at their fingertips.

“Educational theorists expound that teachers should know their impact in order to offer the best education. There is no doubt that our teachers are aware of their impact and meaningfully strive to make it long-lasting and positive,” says Principal Shepherd.

Westminster school


Westminster is an active and inclusive community that champions being kind, courageous, mindful and curious.

“We are so fortunate here at Westminster. Our engaged and supportive community is like no other, we’re so much more than a school, and that is evidenced by the meaningful connections and lifelong networks established,” adds Principal Shepherd.

With sprawling campus grounds including boarding facilities, an operating farm, indoor swimming centre, 1000 seat theatre, multiple dance studios, sporting ovals and superior sports training facilities, students have the space to learn and grow.

Offering schooling from Early Learning through to Year 12, students can seamlessly transition year to year surrounded by their peers and established networks.

The sense of connection will be extended even further with the opening of the school’s new Cultural Centre in early 2022.

Westminster School


As a top South Australian school, Westminster is set apart by the visionary evolution of its facilities. This includes the recent transformation of the campus heart underway with the building of a new Cultural Centre scheduled for completion in early 2022.

Adjoining its renowned auditorium, the Michael Murray Centre for Performing Arts, the Centre will include advanced performing arts, music and drama studios, a library with collaboration spaces, a cafe facing the playing fields and a 250-seat dining hall open to students and families.

Westminster school

Westminster school

The dining space will serve weekday lunch to all students, including boarders, while the onsite cafe will find a ready audience in parents, community groups and visitors, during performances and sporting matches.
Simon explains, “Similar to a university, students will be able to access and study from the Centre for longer periods of time. This includes having the option to book tutoring or continue studies on campus after school hours, giving working parents reassurance that their child is in good hands,”

“We want Westminster to really be a home away from home for our students and their families,” Westminster also recently opened a new Creative Arts and Digital Media Centre, which is the final piece of its three-storey, Inquiry and Innovation Hub STEAM precinct. Further stages include a new Year 12 Centre that will commence construction later this year and an outdoor social space with its own amphitheatre.

Discover the unique qualities of Westminster with a personalised tour from Early Learning to Year 12, we welcome families to come and see just how much Westminster has to offer. Through a personalised tour we can tailor your journey, sharing the areas that matter most to the needs and interests of your child.

Westminster School, 1-24 Alison Ave, Marion
(08) 8276 0276


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The indivisible link between literacy and mathematics

The indivisible link between literacy and mathematics

Seymour College

The indivisible link between literacy and mathematics

WORDS: Katharyn Cullen, Head of Junior School at Seymour College

Another educational debate? It’s time to stand strong

In the last few weeks, ‘Maths Wars’ headlines have dominated the national educational conversation providing a new debate for educational leaders to weigh in on.

ACARA’s new draft curriculum advocates for inquiry approaches to mathematics where students problem solve, create, build, explore, and model during their lessons. With a significant body of evidence saying inquiry or discovery learning is less effective than teacher-led teaching, school leaders seem to be debating whether students should be taught algorithms and procedural knowledge explicitly, or given the freedom to solve authentic, real-world problems for themselves.

A heavy debate ensues when schools try to deliver one thing, one program and one standardised education for all students.

seymour college

In the Seymour College Junior School, our approach to mathematics education is executed with an unwavering commitment to best practice for each learner.

John Hattie’s meta-analysis of thousands of research papers outlines that high expectations from a teacher, and a teacher’s belief that they can have a positive impact on a child’s learning are two of the most significant factors in a child’s academic improvement. There is no debate about that.

At Seymour College we believe fundamentally that:

  1. There is no such thing as being born with a ‘maths’ brain, and no such thing as being born without one. Our students are consistently given positive messages about their potential and ability because we know that all students can achieve high levels of mathematics if they are given high level opportunities. The way that teachers create learning experiences to allow each student to reach their potential is by far the most important part of their job.
  2. The most significant influence on learning is the feedback provided by a teacher with the intention to take the student beyond their own perceived performance ability. That is, pushing them to become better than they think they are.
  3. If a child is struggling, they are saying one thing, “show me another way”. The support and differentiation we offer is underpinned by the latest research surrounding brain flexibility and plasticity. This research has shown the incredibly capacity of brains to grow and change in a really short space of time.

Targeted Small Learning Groups

We teach mathematics as an exciting, open, creative, and multi-dimensional subject beginning with initiating problems which provide a context for our students to dive into real and authentic mathematics. This sparks a curiosity for the topic in which they are about to cover, by providing a purpose in an engaging and fun way. The teachers are then able to identify where they need to pitch their explicit teaching to for their individual small groups, based on authentic assessment and observations.

As an introduction to Multiplication and Division, students were given the task of being an architect. They had to build ‘array’ cities, drawing a city skyline, with multiple buildings and towers, including all the windows, set in an array type pattern. Students had to write the equation at the bottom of each building, explaining how they calculated the number of windows. Students had the opportunity to record their thinking using post-it notes and pencils, or using the Show-me app, so that they could verbally explain their reasoning.

Teachers monitored how students grouped their windows and how they counted their collections. Did the students use effective strategies for multiplication and division? Did they understand the term “array”? Did the way they shaped their towers affect their ability to multiply by one- or two-digit numbers? It was also an interesting opportunity to see which students felt confident in their knowledge of their timetables. If the students encountered a need-to-know method, or required focus on algorithms or times tables, our teachers taught this to them within the context of their learning.

Therefore, our students understand how to choose and adapt different methods and to hold mathematical discussions.

Australia’s declining academic performance is old news

The Gonski review into the quality of Australian schooling highlighted declining academic performance which is “widespread and equivalent to a generation of Australian school children falling short of their full learning potential”. The report identified that Australian student outcomes have declined in reading, science, and mathematics, across every socio- economic quartile and in all school- sectors: government, Catholic and independent.

This matches the decline in Australia’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results, where students are performing two years behind their peers in the world’s best performing countries. Australian students are the equivalent of 1½ years behind top-performer Singapore’s students in science; a year behind them in reading; and 2⅓ years behind them in maths.

The biggest difference in performance is in Mathematics, but why?

The indivisible link between literacy and mathematics

Comparing example questions from 2003 and 2012 PISA Mathematics papers show that students are not performing poorly because they cannot comprehend what they are reading.

Dr Misty Adoniou from the University of Canberra posits that students are performing poorly because they have poor vocabularies and cannot follow sentences that employ more complex language structures. Take a look at the examples below.

This is a Mathematics question from the 2003 PISA paper:

KC maths article pic 1


And this is a Mathematics question from the 2012 PISA paper:

KC maths article pic 2

What is the key difference? The number of words, the vocabulary and the reading comprehension which is required for these students to unpack these mathematical questions.

Yes, results show that Australia is underperforming internationally in Mathematics, but what is getting harder isn’t mathematical concepts, it is the vocabulary, complex sentence structures and language which has changed.

Strong foundations of English and Mathematics

At Seymour College Junior School, we are not engaging in this debate. We know that strong foundations in English and Mathematics are the keystone of a quality primary education, and as a result, we begin small group learning from Reception. We proactively focus on developing the deep comprehension skills of students, and provide rich, explicit teaching based on the individual needs of our students.

Katharyn Cullen
Head of Junior School



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