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5 June 2015

(originally published in the Queenwood newsletter)




Our girls will soon have to make some very important and exciting decisions about the future, and our Information Evening next Thursday will hopefully give girls and parents some guidance along the way.  This information evening will be followed up with individual interviews with each girl early next term to help them decide the path they are going to choose.   Whether to choose the HSC or the IB – I know from many conversations with students and parents that this question has been on the mind of a number of girls for a while now.  Whilst I am a strong advocate for the IB myself (and unashamedly biased in its favour), please rest assured that you will get a very balanced overview of both qualifications and their respective subject offerings during that evening. 


My personal objective for the evening will be to defuse the myth that I am praising the IB at the expense of the HSC – nothing could be further from the truth!  All that matters in order to deliver strong lessons and make an impact on our students is that we care deeply about our subjects and that we keep abreast of the latest research and findings.  The best teachers, whether they teach HSC or IB, are usually those who never stop learning, staff who read up on articles on their subject areas and ideally beyond.  The lessons I remember best from my school days are the ones where the teacher deviated from the syllabus or the topic of the day and suddenly dived into something they themselves felt really passionate about, whether or not it had direct relevance to “prescribed content” or not.


My strong stance with regard to the IB is simply based on my deep involvement with this superb qualification for the past 12 years, first as teacher and then as Senior Examiner.  When embedded properly, the IB encapsulates many of my personal values with its insistence on independent learning, academic rigour and integrity, global outlook, philosophical foundation and commitment to creativity, action and service.  It is a philosophy in itself rather than a curriculum and it very much encourages the enjoyment of learning for its own sake.  Students very quickly sharpen their critical thinking skills, and at the moment I can honestly say that I am blown away by the quality of speeches delivered by the Year 11 IB girls on topics as diverse as Genetic Engineering, the Justifications for Surveillance versus the Right to Privacy or the potential conflicts between Ethics and Law when sentencing criminals.


Many of the qualities that are needed to succeed in the senior years are honed at holistic schools from an early stage, whether through public debates, speaking competitions, Maths, Languages or Science Olympiads, drama or music performances or competitive sports.  All such commitments require stamina, the willingness to engage with a subject beyond the confines of the syllabus, the confidence to get up on stage and be counted and also the resilience to bounce back when there is disappointment rather than success. 


Talking of disappointment and resilience: We will soon start the next round of Prefect elections, so I would like to say to all Year 11 girls:  Watch this space!  As always, we will not be able to appoint everybody to a Prefect role who applies for one, and therefore there will be tears, trials and tribulations along the way.  My advice to the parents would be:  whether or not your daughter will be elected to a Prefect position is of secondary importance.  What is of primary importance is that she will put her skills and the standing she will have as one of the most senior girls in the school to good use in Year 12.  Prefect or not – we welcome all initiatives, ideas, projects and challenges that the girls want to start or enter into.  Very often the best ones come from those who may have ended up disappointed after the elections, but then dust themselves off and start again. 


If your daughter feels hurt about having missed out on one of the most coveted positions, you will do her a disservice by complaining to the school.  This would lead to an increased sense of failure on her part and to a learned helplessness.  Encourage her to continue to contribute and to amaze us all!

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