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A Word from our Principal - achievement vs learning

It was wonderful to see our girls return from their June break, to see their smiling faces and chat with them about their holidays. Every girl I spoke to reports that they enjoyed their holidays. Pleasingly, they also said they were happy to be back and we agree it is lovely to have them again at school. I would also like to commend our girls on how good they look – they are wearing their uniforms with pride and they look fantastic!

Despite the restrictions, and the fact we are still awaiting the return of a few of our girls from North Queensland, the start of Term 3 has also felt a little closer to ‘normal’. We have been blessed with beautiful weather this week, allowing our Years 11 and 12 girls to enjoy a relaxed, fun sports carnival and providing ideal conditions for our primary students’ athletics day. I want to congratulate the girls on their enthusiastic participation and also acknowledge the girls in Years 7 to 10 who have had to compete in their athletics events during lunches and PE lessons. Whilst it was disappointing not to be able to have our parents as spectators, I would like to pass on my appreciation to our parents for their understanding.

Schools have been given permission to commence assemblies again and this week we started with a celebration of learning by the awarding of Colours. Rather than talk about grades, I spoke to the girls about the importance of the process of learning. Whilst grades do reflect the degree of proficiency shown in a subject, they do not necessarily reflect how much learning took place. One student may have had to do a significant amount of learning to attain an A; another may have already had proficiency in that area, so limited learning may have occurred.

There is no doubt that grades are an important measurement of performance, and they fulfil a function for entry to some university and some career pathways. I want the girls to value grades and get their best possible academic results. But I don’t want a focus on grades to detract from learning. If we are creating lifelong learners, we need them to understand that their focus must be on the learning that occurs, not the grade that results.

A student who is learning-focussed is prepared to experiment, to take risks and to engage in divergent thinking. This is the type of environment where innovation occurs. It’s an environment where students can be genuinely curious and authentically excited by the challenge of finding connections between their current knowledge and new understandings. By operating within this sort of environment, they experience the true joy of learning.

Unfortunately, many students avoid this type of learning as it can be hard. It takes us out of our comfort zones into what we call a ‘learning pit’ (James Nottingham, 2007) where we can feel uncomfortable and even overwhelmed. But this environment also encourages learners to ask questions, try new things, reflect and develop metacognition. It is this process that allows them to develop their abilities and deepen their understandings.

I want to commend all our students who attained Full and Half Colours. I know these girls and I know they worked hard. I know they made sacrifices to study, to engage in their learning and to be their best. They were prepared to push themselves and willing to dedicate time, effort and emotions into their learning.

At our assembly, I asked our girls to challenge themselves this semester to look beyond the grade and think about the skills and abilities they want to learn and develop. At the end of this year, I’d like them to be able to reflect on their achievements but mostly to be proud of how they have challenged themselves to take risks, ask questions and be open to trying new things. Most importantly, I look forward to seeing the energy and enthusiasm for their learning that I am sure they will unlock in the process.

Academic success takes time, heart, grit, resilience and self-belief. I know our girls have what it takes to succeed, and I know our staff will give generously and selflessly to support them in their learning – I wish all of our girls well in their learning this semester and I look forward to observing them as learners when I visit classrooms throughout the rest of the year.

Year 12s

Term 3 will be a busy and important term for our seniors. There are a number of events planned, sport and cultural pursuits are returning but we’re also in the build up to the end of their senior phase of schooling, most particularly their Unit 4 assessment and external examination preparation. It will be important that Year 12s manage their time and priorities and seek help early if needed. Dr Fry, Mr Cheers and I are all available wherever we can help and I am sure this offer of support will be extended by every member of staff.

The Year 12 formal is scheduled for Friday, 28 August. The Rockhampton Leagues Club has confirmed our booking and advised they have the requisite COVID safe plan in place to ensure all guests can attend safely. We are working with them to understand the requirements and finalise the arrangements and I have invited Year 12s to volunteer to be part of a planning committee to have some input into the way the evening will run. Yesterday we were advised by the Leagues Club that they can host a large enough group to allow all our girls to bring a partner as well as two parent/guardian guests. Further information about the evening, and the requirements for meeting our COVID responsibilities, will be communicated with Year 12 families in due course.

Mrs Deanne Johnston




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