This week Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) released a report entitled The Value of Independent Schools. Queensland has a tripartite education system consisting of state, Catholic and independent schools. Independent schools have been a key contributor to Queensland’s educational sector for over 150 years and, at 128 years’ old, Girls Grammar is one of the eight longest serving independent schools in Queensland, in itself something to be proud of.
Today there are 1723 schools in Queensland, the majority of which are government schools. This large number ensures that all students have access to education, however, it is the independent schools, with their increased autonomy, that have greater freedom to respond to the specific challenges facing their communities and their families.
Within the article, ISQ raises a number of key points about the value of independent schools and my article this week reflects on these points in relation to Girls Grammar:
Parental choice and diversity – the independent sector is characterised by diversity, allowing parents to find a school that caters to their children, their values and their needs. 55% of independent schools have fewer than 500 students, an appealing feature for many parents who would like their children educated in a smaller school where specialised and personalised learning are more likely to occur. Girls Grammar has always been a smaller school, and this is an important part of our culture. We offer smaller class sizes, where girls have greater access to teachers. Our girls build deeper relationships, not only with teachers but with all staff and with each other. They are known and cared for, acknowledged for their individual strengths and supported in their growth areas. Strong support networks and personalized attention are hallmarks of small schools like Girls Grammar, ensuring students do not go unnoticed.
Community connections - Independent schools make strong connections within the community and Girls Grammar is a good reflection of this. Our Year 12s, in their yellow berets, are a recognisable component of Rockhampton’s ANZAC Day dawn service, our Head Girls deliver a speech at the Rats of Tobruk memorial every year and our students march in the street parade. Our Food and Textiles students make Boomerang bags which are very much appreciated by charities such as Ronald McDonald House or the local Food Bank and they participate in fundraising events such as Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea each year. Our senior art students have painted murals and displayed artwork around town, our younger girls have made papier-mache bats which are on display for visitors to The Caves and our Musical draws a good crowd every year. We emphasise interaction with community charities, participating in events such as Relay for Life, Day for Daniel and Funky Hair Day. By doing these things, Girls Grammar not only builds supportive relationships with groups within our community but promotes a sense of community responsibility. Our parents, friends and Old Girls strengthen this community connection. The Girls Grammar Race Day has been a key community social event for the past 18 years and our P&F annually organise and run fun community events like Bulls ‘n’ Barrels.
Valued learning institutions – Independent schools attain results that are comparable to the world’s best educational institutions. Girls Grammar has been a well-respected institution, not just in Rockhampton but across Queensland, for almost 130 years. We are among the highest performing Central Queensland schools for NAPLAN, with all year levels attaining above state average in all areas. Many Year 12 students prepare for tertiary studies by commencing university studies during Year 12 or engaging in programs such as the University of Queensland’s Young Scholar’s Program. Over 95% of our graduates receive QTAC offers and go on to study at universities across Queensland and around the world. Our Old Girls have achieved success in all fields, many establishing themselves as leaders in traditionally male dominated professions. Our girls benefit from our strong network of Old Girls, who generously give of their time, wisdom and experience to mentor and guide current students.
Education Innovation – the autonomy of independent schools creates the ideal conditions for education innovation. Students today increasingly face higher levels of complexity and dynamism in their learning and Girls Grammar’s teachers work closely with students to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge, skills and competencies they will need to thrive in a changing, increasingly global world today. As an independent school, Girls Grammar has the freedom to try new evidence-based ideas and technology and to incorporate what works best into student learning and wellbeing programs.
Our Care Mentor Program facilities both the personal and academic care of students. The program nurtures students’ understanding of themselves and the community into which they are emerging. Through a holistic approach to education, which integrates academic care with wellbeing, we create clever, confident and connected young women.
Girls Grammar values the important role of parental engagement in students’ learning and development, recognising that how parents support learning at home has a bigger impact on academic outcomes than participation in school-based activities. Parents are warmly welcomed into the school and open communication is encouraged.
Independent schools continue to inspire a love of learning, value for education and enrichment in the lives of their students. At Girls Grammar, we do this in partnership with our parents and with other members of the community. The full report is available at https://rms.isq.qld.edu.au/files/Weblive_CorpDocs/The%20Value%20of%20Independent%20Schools_2020.pdf
Mrs Deanne Johnston