The McDonald College: a high-performance education

When I’m performing it’s like I’m so much more confident. In that moment, I don’t have any worries in the world. It’s like heaven. I love it.Meg Mac, chart-topping singer-songwriter and graduate of The McDonald College

Does that sound like your child? Do you want to support your child’s natural abilities but find it hard to fit lessons/training/auditions around school and homework? If so, The McDonald College in Sydney’s Inner West might be the solution to your dilemma.

Peak performers … The McDonald College has a strong dance program including ballet, modern and musical theatre streams.

Centrally located in North Strathfield, the independent co-ed performing arts school nurtures talented students from years 3 to 12.

Its unique immersive approach emphasises academic excellence while allowing students to pursue their passions for two hours every day with dedicated tuition in either acting, ballet, dance, music, musical theatre or elite tennis. With all the coaching provided in-school, students can focus intensively on their training free of the demands involved in commuting to far-flung extra-curricular activities.

To develop their gifts fully, students often need to perform or compete at an elite level. The McDonald College offers students flexible schedules to help them meet their out-of-school commitments while ensuring that they maintain their academic studies.

Many students have the gift of natural ability but require specialised support to convert their gifts into the talent necessary for outstanding performance.

Reaching for the stars … The McDonald College offers specialised support to help students hone their gifts into talents.

These students do best when their exceptional qualities are cultivated and sympathetically managed says principal Maxine Kohler.

“Gifted and talented children are uniquely special and are often acutely aware of their difference in relation to their peers.

“Teaching these students requires a deep understanding of the personality traits that feed their creativity,” she says.

The school’s success is evident in the achievements of its performing arts alumni including pop star Meg Mac, Romper Stomper star Sophie Lowe and Heath Ledger scholarship winner Mojean Aria.

In 2013, the college added tennis to its roster of specialist programs partnering with Voyager Tennis Academy. With two international championship wins this year, the school won the NSW Tennis Award for Most Outstanding School.

Focus … The McDonald College is the Most Outstanding School in the state as awarded by NSW Tennis.

Powering every star is a deep well of creativity. In supporting and celebrating this characteristic the college produces not only excellent performers but high academic achievers well prepared for the modern workplace.

Once considered the preserve of artists, performers and advertisers, creativity is of increasing practical value throughout our fast-changing global economy.

At the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, it was named, along with critical thinking and complex problem solving, as one of the three primary skills requisite for success in the next decade.

With the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence entailed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, humankind’s unique creative capacity is of greater importance than ever, the WEF predicts in its 2016 The Future of Jobs report.

“Creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need. With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes,” the WEF says.

21st century skills … creativity will be the key to success in the next decade, says the World Economic Forum.

This WEF’s prognosis is borne out by Year 10 acting student and entrepreneur Ali Kitinas who, at 16, is believed to be the nation’s youngest CEO.

Her beauty product company Freedom Scrub recycles coffee grounds to produce an ethical and sustainable skin cleanser. A portion of the profits is donated to the Hope Foundation Hospital providing health and medical services to impoverished children in Kolkata, India.

The social enterprise has attracted wide media attention and Ali counts Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson as a mentor but performance remains her first love.

“I’m a very passionate performer, but I always knew that it would be really hard to gain financial security in that field,” she told Mamamia. “That’s why I went into business, so that I could have the financial security to pursue my other passions.”

Talented, accomplished and ambitious: Ali’s self-assured dynamism is emblematic of the The McDonald College ethos.

“Our environment is supportive and nurturing of creativity enabling us to graduate students that are lateral thinkers and excited about life beyond school. Whether their chosen career is on the stage as a performer or in the world of medicine, law or global business, our students are confident communicators, distinguished leaders and diverse role models,” says Principal Kohler.

References:

Meg Mac interview – Poncho TV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQQaw8MJpkU

Iconic Australian film Romper Stomper to be recharged as Stan original TV series — Media release, Screen Australia, August 1, 2017
https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/sa/media-centre/news/2017/08-01-stan-romper-stomper-starts-production

Mojean Aria awarded 2017 Heath Ledger Scholarship — Inside Film, June 2, 2017
https://www.if.com.au/Mojean-Aria-awarded-2017-Heath-Ledger-Scholarship/

The 10 skills you need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution — Alex Gray, World Economic Forum website, January 19, 2016
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/

At 16, Ali Kitinas is Australia’s youngest CEO (and her mum’s boss) — Belinda Jepsen, Mamamia, June 15, 2017
http://www.mamamia.com.au/ali-kitinas-16-year-old-ceo/

NEGS riding high

Field day … For girls who love horses, there’s no place like NEGS. Credit: NEGS

Situated in picturesque Armidale, NEGS offers young women an excellent education in a healthy country setting.

Founded in 1895, the school’s 50-hectare campus is a vibrant mix of heritage architecture and new facilities, including state-of-the-art science laboratories, two undercover Olympic-sized arenas, a working farm, and a national-standard Equestrian Centre.

As an Independent Anglican school, NEGS offers a safe, progressive environment embodying Christian values. Its Positive Education ethos supports every student’s wellbeing so she can reach her own level of personal and academic achievement.

Amongst its proudest accomplishments, is the school’s outstanding equestrian program having produced national and Olympic champions.

 

Unique opportunity … NEGS hosts Australia’s only Polocrosse Academy for girls. Credit: NEGS

This year, NEGS has attained a new milestone, fielding its biggest representation ever at the Australian Interschools Championships with 10 students in the country’s foremost children’s equestrian competition.

NEGS girls will represent New South Wales and the Northern Territory, competing in every discipline: jumping, dressage, eventing, combined training and show horse riding, as part of the largest team in the national contest.

The school credits its recent appointment of Olympic Equestrian Imtiaz Anees as a driving force behind NEGS’ success. Since 2015, he’s been building on the school’s customised training programs for horse and rider to produce ever greater outcomes.

Working with fellow coach, elite equestrian Rachelle Hirst, Mr Anees has implemented a coach mentoring program to support all the school’s riders to realise their full potential competitively and recreationally.

“The selection in these teams is a credit to the hard work the girls have put into their riding to rise above the thousands of other students in their states,” NEGS principal Mary Anne Evans said. “It is also a testament to the dedication and commitment of our coaches.”

“A number of students come to NEGS with aspirations to become competitive riders on a state and national level, and NEGS aims to nurture their ambitions through our state-of-the-art training and fitness programs and extensive competition schedules,” she said.

Best of both worlds … NEGS offers cutting edge facilities in an idyllic country setting. Credit: NEGS

With Australia’s only girls’ Polocrosse Academy as well, riding sports of every ilk are championed at NEGS as are horse management skills and animal welfare.

Beyond sport, opportunities for extension and enrichment are offered in all subjects. Students in the Year 9 and 10 Scholars Program can study an area of interest in greater depth, working both independently on chosen projects and with teacher guidance. Where students need extra attention the school offers one-on-one and small group learning support.

Senior students can select from a broad range of academic and vocational subjects, providing a solid foundation for post-school opportunities.

An all-round education is central to the NEGS philosophy and the school has found that its keen athletes tend to bring the same discipline to class work with excellent results.

As the school says of its Polocrosse Academy: “Horse and rider fitness, health, welfare and resilience training sees the girls working together and individually before and after school. The structured schedule enables students to focus on their academic studies and grow as a player. Each student in the program has reported a marked improvement in their academic performance since commencing the training program at NEGS.”

As the saying goes: healthy body, healthy mind. At NEGS, girls are given every opportunity to achieve peak performance physically and intellectually.

To learn more about NEGS visit the Hills School Expo on Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Staff from NEGS and many other independent schools serving the Hills area will be available to answer all your questions and offer you a deeper insight into their schools’ unique qualities.

This is an unrivaled opportunity to find the right school for your child.

The Hills School Expo
Where: Federation Pavilion, Castle Hill Showground, Showground Road, Castle Hill
When: Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10, 2017
Time: 10am to 4pm both days
Cost: Free admission
Parking: Parking is free and plentiful at Federation Pavilion
Contact: Dorothy Willoughby on 0412 233 742

The independent school advantage: student engagement

From girls to Renaissance women … nurturing student engagement is central to Wenona School’s teaching practice.

Disruptive behaviour, talking back, schoolwork avoidance. These are some of the telltale signs of a disengaged student. Media headlines tend to highlight extreme misbehaviour in schools but low-intensity resistance to learning is far more common — and equally problematic.

A recent Grattan Institute report found that up to 40 per cent of Australian students are effectively tuned out in any given year. The consequences for their education and that of their fellow students are dire.

Disengaged students quickly fall behind with their performance trailing their peers by up to two years, on average. The difficulty of teaching children with insufficient base knowledge is stressful for teachers and hinders the progress of the entire class, the report found.

Study authors Peter Goss and Julie Sonnemann have called for urgent reforms. Their recommendations are two-fold: augmented teacher training that incorporates specific classroom management strategies and the development of techniques to establish a constructive learning environment in the classroom.

The overall aim of teaching should be learning — now and into the future, say the researchers.

“The teacher’s ambition should not necessarily be a quiet classroom, but a genuinely productive class. The broader aims are to help students feel comfortable, be confident in their own abilities, be willing to participate and make mistakes, and be keen to challenge themselves in learning.

And effective teaching goes further: creating an environment that not only makes learning possible now, but also teaches attitudes and behaviours that enhance learning and success in later life. Student skills in self-regulation, such as self-monitoring and self-evaluation, are vital for life-long learning,” the report states.

International research bears out these findings. The UK’s Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has assessed the impact of various components of the educational experience on learning outcomes based on worldwide evidence. Assessing everything from physical aspects such as the built environment and digital technology to parental involvement and teaching methods, the results show that teaching children meta-cognition skills such as reasoning and self-evaluation are the most effective strategies for improving engagement and lifting academic results.

As EEF chief executive Kevan Collins told Quartz, “Getting children to think and talk about their own learning more explicitly can be one of the most effective ways to improve academic outcomes.”

Independent schools are well aware of the benefits of this teaching style and have fully embraced it.

An exemplar is the Renaissance Woman educational framework found at North Sydney’s Wenona School. The school says this holistic practice is “modelled on the Socratic method of teaching, a form of cooperative dialogue and debate that encourages critical thinking; there are no ‘right answers’ in the course. The point is to consider, contemplate and question.

Strengthening student engagement is of primary importance at Wenona. “We explore ways to enhance our girls’ engagement and connectedness, including providing opportunities for them to learn to be present with themselves without distraction. Encouraging this capacity for reflection and self-awareness promotes self-confidence and a stronger sense of identity, building all-important resilience.”

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has found that independent schools have the most deeply engaged students and this is due to the nature of the schools themselves.

Family background and a student’s inherent motivation play a significant role but on the centrality of schools, ACER is unequivocal: “It does matter which school a student attends,” the organisation says. This, ACER explains, is because the highest levels of engagement are found in schools where “students believe that their school has a good school climate, that is one where they have high quality teachers, effective discipline, high levels of student learning and a positive school spirit.”

Research shows that academic achievement is closely correlated with student engagement. “There is a mutually reinforcing relationship between engagement, wellbeing and outcomes. Engaged students do better and doing better increases engagement,” says the NSW Government’s Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation.

The excellent HSC results attained by independent schools throughout the state are testament to the positive learning climate found in these schools and the deep engagement they cultivate in students.

To learn more about what makes independent schools so successful, visit the North Shore School Expo, August 5-6, at the Concourse in Chatswood.

 

References:

Engaging Students: Creating Classrooms that Improve Learning — Peter Goss and Julie Sonneman, The Grattan Institute, February 2017
https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Engaging-students-creating-classrooms-that-improve-learning.pdf

Teaching and Learning Toolkit — Education Endowment Foundation, 2017
https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/resources/teaching-learning-toolkit

We’re asking kids all the wrong questions in school — Jenny Anderson, Quartz, July 7, 2017
https://qz.com/1022656/teaching-kids-reason-in-school-boosts-their-math-and-english-scores/

Student engagement with school: individual and school level influences — Sue Fullerton, ACER, July 2002
http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1030&context=lsay_research

Student Wellbeing — Literature review, Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, NSW Education and Communities, May 2015.
http://wellbeingaustralia.com.au/wba/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/student_wellbeing_litreview_v6.pdf