“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
~ William Butler Yeats
Blue Gum Community School
ANNUAL REPORT 2015
BLUE GUM COMMUNITY SCHOOL
Primary/Middle/High School Campus
114 Maitland Street
Hackett ACT 2602
p: (02) 6230 6776
Blue Gum Community School is an initiative of, and auspiced by, Best-Practice Education Group Ltd, a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. (ABN 67 081 081 423)
Blue Gum Community School is a small community-based, secular independent school offering education programs for 0-16 year olds. Located in Canberra, Australia, Blue Gum is ‘Australian-made’ and named after a robust Australian native eucalypt tree. Our school values our Australian context, environment and inheritance, but connects globally – sharing with, and learning from, educators in other cultures. Blue Gum adopts a personalised, strengths-based approach to education where every student can be a successful, robust learner. Our smallness is our strength – students’ research interests/questions can be explored in-depth; educators can also be flexible in ensuring that the education program responds to contemporary happenings and to the needs/interests of the community, as well as curriculum guidelines. Influential reference points include the Reggio Emilia experience, Big Picture Education, Project-Based Learning, Slow Schooling, Nature Education, Place-Based Education, Positive Psychology etc.
Families choose the school because of our strengths-based educational philosophy and our reputation for offering a personalised approach to learning that is highly responsive to the uniqueness and strengths/needs of each student, and offers learning opportunities imbedded in authentic/real-life experiences and research wherever possible. As a small school with small class sizes, where social/emotional development is as important as academic success, students from a wide range of backgrounds feel safe and can learn at their own pace. Families generally join the school for our Playgroup (0-2 years) and Pre-School (3-5 years) programs, but then value the seamless continuation of our strengths-based educational approach into the primary/middle/high school years. Other students may join the school at a later date e.g. on moving to Canberra after enjoying the benefits of a small community school elsewhere; or after becoming disenchanted with, or disengaged from, traditional schooling options. Because our educational approach has a strong interplay with different layers of community, it particularly suits students/families who are creative independent thinkers (or aspire to be!).
As at the February School Census date in 2015, 73 students (34 females; 39 males) were enrolled in our Pre-School and 98 students (53 females; 45 males) were enrolled in our Primary/Middle/High School.
As required in the ACT jurisdiction, all school classroom teachers employed at Blue Gum Community School possess a 4-year teaching qualification; they are registered with, and satisfy the requirements of, the ACT Teacher Quality Institute (TQI).
School classroom teachers:
Full-time: 5 F; 2 M
Part-time: 5 F; 0 M
Indigenous: 0 F; 0 M
Student attendance rate across the whole school for the whole year
= 95.01% male; 92.48% female
Families are notified daily of student non-attendance, and required to provide written confirmation of non-attendance.
NAPLAN (National Program – Literacy And Numeracy)
See My School website – www.myschool.edu.au – for details of the published averaged Year level results for students who sat the national NAPLAN tests. Please note that minimum student numbers sitting a test must be satisfied before results are published, i.e. at least 5 students must sit a test, to ensure that individual students’ results cannot be identified. NAPLAN results within each Year level are averaged – giving an average across those students. As Blue Gum has very small classes, the average score for a Year level can fluctuate dramatically, depending on the number of students with learning disabilities in that small group. A small group of our students, e.g. 5 students, can produce an average that one year will rank first in the ACT, and the next year will rank last in the ACT, or anywhere in-between, depending on the special needs/capabilities within that group of students. In addition, many families seek to enrol at Blue Gum because of our emphasis on ‘hands-on’ learning, rather than the emphasis on NAPLAN-style worksheets they have encountered at other schools – these students require intensive teacher support to re-discover their love for learning and their willingness to persevere with educational endeavours they find challenging. Blue Gum students sitting successive NAPLAN tests while at Blue Gum show appropriate progress from their first score to their subsequent NAPLAN test score – a more accurate reflection of student progress. As we are a non-selective school, and our high ICSEA score does not accurately reflect our families and our school’s wealth or advantage (due to an ACT-specific problem), comparisons with other deemed ‘similar’ schools (i.e. schools with a similar high ICSEA score that are actually both wealthy and selective), are meaningless and misleading.
PARENTS have an open invitation to speak with their child’s classroom teacher every afternoon; are expected to participate in a 2-way written and oral discussion, including 30-minute Parent/Teacher Meetings to discuss their child’s progress (academic/social/emotional); once-a-Term Class Meetings/Learning Celebrations to share/discuss the learning happening in the classroom with families; once-a-Term Families & Friends of Blue Gum Meetings with the whole school community to discuss generic/school-wide/targeted matters; a Hierarchy of Complaints policy & process for tackling unresolved issues; & an annual School Evaluation process for families.
STUDENTS are active participants daily in negotiating their Class learning opportunities, as well as personal student-initiated alternatives. They have direct access to their Class teacher/s; the Education Directors; and the school’s Executive Director. Students regularly raise questions/ideas with all three.
TEACHERS/EDUCATORS meet weekly, as a group, for Professional Learning discussions; meet weekly, in a trio of classes with a mentoring Education Director, to celebrate achievements and successes, discuss challenges and programming/planning; have one full day release each week for planning/programming etc; participate in an annual written and oral Work Review process, including a lengthy two-way meeting and discussion with Education Directors.
SCHOOL INCOME BY FUNDING SOURCE
Australian Government recurrent funding $426,938
ACT Government recurrent funding $211,065
Fees/charges/parent contributions $751,200
Other private sources $ 19,321 $1,408,524