A future-focused curriculum and ample opportunities for students to build entrepreneurial skills in areas they are passionate about have made St Clare’s College Waverley a Secondary School of the Year – Non-government finalist in the 2021 Australian Education Awards.
According to Principal Kerrie McDiarmid, St Clare’s has gained popularity thanks to this approach, adding more than 200 students to its community in the past four years, including a very healthy waitlist.
“When we engage in this type of learning, often we’ll collapse the curriculum and we’ll allow the girls to work in groups, engaging with experts – teachers or external collaborators,” Mrs McDiarmid said.
“Authentic learning is at the heart of what we do, so the girls have an opportunity to engage in learning that has real-world outcomes” – Kerrie McDiarmid
“We have a staff of like-minded, passionate educators,” Mrs McDiarmid said. “They’re excited by the opportunity to push boundaries and engage students in learning that sits beyond the traditional curriculum.”
Students at St Clare’s are exposed to new technologies and software with Artificial Intelligence. But it is a focus on collaboration, creativity and critical thinking that allows students to make the most of projects on offer and even to suggest their own.
For example, students have collaborated with NASA Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman to create 3D animations of Mars.
They created a documentary about soldiers who died at Fromelles, one of the most devastating battles in Australia’s military history, with Australian author and broadcaster Patrick Lindsay.
They have made short films on issues of homelessness and sustainability for their own social justice-themed film festival, and formed a committee to improve their school’s environmental sustainability.
A student invention to reduce the 1,500 kilograms of plastic waste that is found in stormwater drains each year is now close to patent in the US after an entrepreneur took an interest in the project.
“It is the sense of confidence and achievement students find in projects like these that makes staff excited to come to work,” Mrs McDiarmid said.
“The sense of joy, enthusiasm and passion the girls have for their work – you just can’t beat it.”
“The St Clare’s student is empathetic, she has a critical lens. She is confident and knows her place in the world”
“They’re so proud of themselves and how they can make a positive impact on the world with some of these projects,” Mrs McDiarmid said. “It’s such a rewarding and amazing thing to be part of.”
Mrs McDiarmid said St Clares’ staff are highly collaborative and have developed a clear vision for learning that guides how they teach.
Two new staff roles have been created for staff to support the vision. One for Innovation and Partnerships and another for Integrated Learning, who work closely with the school’s director of teaching and learning to make learning relevant and sustainable.
Next year St Clare’s will begin a co-curricular startup hub. This will later evolve into a focus for elective subjects so that students can continue to work on projects outside of the traditional curriculum.
STUDENT VOICE VALUED
St Clare’s alumni often go back to school to run academic workshops for current students. They tell their former teachers they are grateful for the research, critical thinking, and collaboration skills they honed at school.
“What has been amazing is that it has really boosted student voice and their confidence to be able to come to us with areas of passion,” Mrs McDiarmid said.
“It’s very affirming for us as a school and as a team of educators who have the same vision and the same passion for what education can be.”
Why parents and students love being part of the St Clare’s community:
Year 12 student leader, Kate O’Sullivan, said her school was the definition of a growing, diverse and innovative community.
“Uniting student and staff voices is a priority at St Clare’s, which is why there are constantly new ideas being developed that make us proud to be a St Clare’s girl,” Kate said.
The Australian Education Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of the country’s top performing schools, principals, department heads and teachers.
This year’s winners will be announced on Friday 3 December.
By: JADE RAMIREZ