Why Kingswood College?
I want to share with you some of the work we have been doing at the College over the past 18 months, in reviewing our plans and programs and thinking about our future.
Using an independent researcher, we sought feedback from a number of current and future families about their reasons for choosing Kingswood College as the education partner for their children. Lengthy interviews were held individually and in groups, and the feedback confirmed clearly for us that the values and priorities we are committed to are strongly shared by our whole community.
The overarching message from our community was loud and clear: the sense of belonging – and as a result, we implemented the ‘Belong’ focus for our branding, and have received very strong affirmation for this both in and beyond the College community. In discussing what it means to commit to a Kingswood College education, we speak with prospective families about a package, rather than a single point of difference. There are ten key parts to this, and I want to share them with you.
- We know our students
- Lifelong learning
- Personal Best
- Social conscience
- Learning spaces
- Physical activity
We believe that young people whose lives will likely touch the twenty-second century should learn as they live – in the company of males and females. Single sex schooling evolved when women and men were being prepared for very different gender based work and lives – and this is no longer the case. Outdated and selective studies comparing the performance of girls and boys in academic outcomes abound, and often fail to acknowledge that the key influences on outcomes in this country are in fact parent background and education; secondly that on average, regardless of the school, girls attain higher average scores than boys. Believe me I would be delighted to discuss in detail the issues surrounding single sex and coeducation at length – do not hesitate to be in touch should you wish to do so!
Kingswood College is proud to be a genuinely coeducational school, with improvement in our gender balance across the College from 34% girls in 2011 to 46% girls in 2017.
Our Year 12 students, year on year, tell me that what they most value about being at Kingswood College is the sense of belonging to a small community, where they know others and are known. This is at the heart of the sense of belonging which brings extraordinarily obvious as well as largely unseen benefits. Studies into the wellbeing of young people and risk factors often note the breakdown in sense of community and belonging in our modern world and large cities – many people feel disconnected. Our students experience a sense of being part of something bigger than themselves, and have every opportunity to contribute their unique gifts and talents. So too with parents. The benefits of participating in our community events offer families a sense of connectedness, and the opportunity to get to know other families with whom their children will be associated through school and in all likelihood, throughout life.
Our Parents and Friends Association (PFA) conducted a review of programs and purpose during 2016, and it is clear that parents are keen to be involved in a mix of both whole school and some smaller events during the year. Start and end of year drinks; the International Women’s Day Dinner; the whole school parent event each August, and then smaller scale year level or school section based activities provide a range of options. So too the Kingswood Talks parent support sessions, and PFA meetings.
We know our students
Being a community of around 620 students, we have every opportunity to get to know each other really well, over the longer term. Looking at the life journey of a student through their years of schooling is amazing, and as educators this is a great privilege. Because we know our students and their unique mix of talents, we can work with them more effectively to help them be their best selves, to value their strengths, and to support them to thrive in a world of constant change. This is at the heart of belonging in our community.
While many schools focus only on the academic scores attained during formal schooling, Kingswood College takes the long view – that learning needs to be a lifelong pursuit, and that young people need to be equipped to learn throughout their lives, and understand their capacity to do so. Hence our commitment to ThinkPlus, the program that helps each of us better understand how we learn. Part of this includes our belief in developing a growth mindset – where we learn valuable lessons from both triumph and defeat; that struggle is part of learning and of life; that we can develop our potential through effort. This in turn is part of our greater commitment to Positive Education – building on our strengths.
We value learning in its broadest sense, as our Model for Learning clearly demonstrates. Our model is based on our values (Respect, Integrity, Compassion and Responsibility); seeks a holistic education of the mind, body, heart and spirit, so that our young people are curious, courageous, creative, confident, caring and collaborative. And the people in our model demonstrate our belief that education has a deeply social purpose, and that we work in a three way partnership between teachers, students and parents.
More than ever, we need to be concerned about the wellbeing of young people. In the end, as parents, what we want for our children is for them to be healthy and happy. The statistics on the wellbeing of young people in Australia are increasingly alarming, including:
- 1 in 4 has a mental health condition
- 1 in 6 experiences anxiety
- 1 in 16 is experiencing depression
- Suicide is now the biggest killer of young people
As a society we cannot afford to ignore the wellbeing of our young people, and this is why it is a fundamental part of our educational commitment – helping young people to thrive in a rapidly changing world. This includes the real world of relationships, and the cyber world. We are committed to helping young people understand the factors which contribute to and detract from their own wellbeing, and to practise them as a community.
Studies of happiness are very clear – those who live the most fulfilled lives are those who are able to contribute to the lives of others. We provide these opportunities through our Community Based Learning programs locally, nationally and globally. We want our young people to firmly grasp that in helping others to live better lives, they also contribute to their own wellbeing and satisfaction.
We welcome families from many different cultural backgrounds. While we are proudly a school in association with the Uniting Church in Australia, we welcome people of many faiths and no faith. We are greatly enriched by the contribution of different people with different stories who join and contribute to our community. This is particularly celebrated in whole school assemblies and days including Harmony Day, and NAIDOC Day – but we also aim to celebrate each individual’s uniqueness every day.
Every one of us is different. What represents success and accomplishment for one person is often very different from another of the same age or experience. Knowing our students, and understanding when something is an achievement, or a disappointment, helps us to set clear and reachable goals for our young people. Alongside Personal Best, we also celebrate excellence in achievements in many different avenues of pursuit – in classrooms, on the sports field, supporting others, leading others, and making a difference in the world.
Helping young people to see themselves as part of something much bigger, and enabling them to make a tangible positive difference in our world, is vital. Our Community Based Learning Program supports the development of our students’ collective and individual social conscience. In practical ways, this makes our world a better place. This is a key area of our learning commitment that we will continue to evolve.
Kingswood College buildings have always had strong, purposeful design. The Learning Lounges throughout the College demonstrate our commitment to community and coming together. We are in the process of reviewing how our indoor and outdoor spaces are furnished and organised, to ensure that we continue to offer contemporary learning opportunities for all our young people – and our staff – from the ELC through to VCE. Now that we have a pedestrian precinct campus, the redevelopment of the driveway areas into outdoor learning spaces and informal areas will be a focus.
Again the research is clear. Physical activity contributes to the wellbeing of the mind, body, heart and spirit. We want our young people involved in regular physical activity. Our involvement in weekday sports associations also provides students with the chance to be part of a team, and to learn all that goes with that: training together, working towards a common goal, being gracious in victory and generous in defeat, and learning from experience.
In recent years we have partnered with Kelly Sports in the Junior School to offer more options of physically active games after school. In Middle School introducing sports training for our Eastern Independent Schools of Melbourne (EISM) sports association teams has also directly increased physical activity time for our students, and increased their sense of belonging to a team.
We are not and will not be a Saturday Sport school. This is for a number of reasons: students who enjoy sport should have opportunities to play in local competitions if they wish; students at the College frequently form teams based on their Kingswood College friendship group, and compete locally in a range of sports.
In closing, these 10 key parts form the hallmarks of what make a Kingswood College education a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Collectively, they live out our commitment to a broad, holistic, student-centred education of the mind, body, heart and spirit in a community setting, designed to help our young people become their best selves and make a positive difference in the world.
Central to the success of this bold ambition is our partnership with families. Thank you for your commitment and support, and for your belief in the bigger picture of educating young people to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
The size of our community, as well as its nature, helps us all to feel that we belong.