It has been a very busy and successful school year seeing so many of our students continue to succeed and improve in their learning and academic achievement. Congratulations to all of our students for their efforts and contribution to their school and to their learning throughout this year.
Gymea is a school of wonderful kids, a great sense of community and involvement, of an enthusiastic and supportive staff who are always there willing to go the extra yards and support new initiatives developed by students and with whole school directions. A parent body with a growing drive for involvement in the school and their children’s learning. A community that provides many ways for the school to be a part of what they do and help us do what we do. 2016 has been a successful year for Gymea as we continue to see improvements and have some great stories of achievement in learning, sport, performing arts and in the power of student voice, active citizenship and leadership.
Through much planning and discussions, the work that our teachers have made this year are bringing about improvements to better support our students. Allow me to highlight just a few as they are worth celebrating and indicate the dedication and commitment our staff are making towards their school and our students.
This year we introduced a literacy criteria for assessments that enables all teachers to help hone those key aspects of writing that is required by all courses. The successful implementation of this strategy saw a small team of teachers define rubrics and support to enable all our teachers to engage in this strategy. They are developing a consistent way across the curriculum to provide quality feedback and guidance to students with writing in their course areas. For our students, writing is a necessary skill in life and a critical one for success at the time of their Higher School Certificate.
Our English faculty have embarked on a courageous journey in reprogramming their approach to teaching of English from years 7 to 12. With new syllabuses in English on the horizon, the timing is right and the work and time that English staff have committed this year has been massive but will see a stronger continuum of skills being taught from years 7 to 12. The school’s strategic direction on writing is very obvious within this and will give teachers, students and parents regular and informed advice on not only overall English performance but growth and areas for improvement with writing.
In 2015 we conducted a curriculum evaluation that identified directions with our Accelerated Technology Program and with our Academic Selective Classes. Part of those future directions was to develop deeper understanding of gifted education with our teachers to help them with the work they do in those classes in differentiating learning. This year, 3 staff undertook a mini Certificate of Gifted Education at the University of New South Wales and delivered the equivalency through a school based professional learning program throughout the year. The deeper understanding of gifted and talented education provides our teachers with greater expertise to understand the needs of our students and the curriculum designs they can utilize.
Our HSC Success Program deepened the level of support this year that provided increased workshops for our year 12 students that focused on wellbeing, academic guidance, study skills through to university and business guidance for post school. This year our staff have developed a collaborative approach to enhancing HSC success through professional learning focused on research and strategies that assist in student performance and are working together, sharing ideas with successes across faculties that better engage and support students with their HSC learning. Our Higher School Certificate results have been on a constant rise over the last four years with a 25% increase of students performing in the top bands that qualify for university entrance. The 2016 Higher School Certificate results provided many great stories in course and with individual student achievements.
Our student leadership teams are a fantastic example of student voice in the school as they undertook many initiatives to raise awareness and at times funds for organisations but more so, to capture the involvement of so many students and teachers across the school. Our prefects, environment group, media teams, sound crews, connect2learn student teams and the Student Leadership Assembly are to name a few.
Our connect2learn program continues to grow with student use of electronic devices blended into classrooms particularly in the junior years. We live a digital age that will continue to develop and we believe that we are continuing to move in the right directions with the use of contemporary digital devices to support student learning. At Gymea, lessons are not dominated by the technology, the technology is used to enhance learning experiences. We cannot replace pen and paper and have no desire to do so but we are ensuring our current generation of young learners have the ability to collaborate, communicate and create in a way that without digital technologies, we have been unable to do before. An introduction this year has been the school app, MyGymea that provides students with an app to guide their learning and organisation. The app is individualised with logins for each student and its introduction this year has been very successful. Our students have identified things they would like added to the app and next year we will see more functionality with this fantastic Gymea tool.
Our Design2learn project continues as we transform our learning spaces into much more vibrant and conducive places to teach and learn. We continue to gain attention from schools, universities and organisations because of the gains we have made. This year the University Of Wollongong conducted a research project looking at the ways modern rooms are used as compared to the traditional classrooms of the past. Their research is to help inform the Department of Education plan for its upgrade of high schools just like ours. The experiences and gains we have made in classrooms for our students over the last 4 years is now assisting directions for schools across the state.
A significant undertaking with the Design2Learn project over the last 2 years has been in the creation of our technology centre. This centre not only provides dual platform of Macintosh and PC computers for classes across the school but is designed so that it also provides the ability for students to increasingly collaborate with their projects and learning, undertake a variety of activities that move beyond the computer screen and allow for virtual modelling of networks. The centre is near completion and most of it is currently operational. It will be without a doubt the best computing facility found in any Department high school in NSW. This has been a real school community project, involving the contribution of staff and many students. Our thanks to the P&C for their support in this project including the purchase of a high quality 3D printer that our staff and students were equally excited about.
Our performing Arts kicked started the year with the Create night where music, drama and dance have come together to exhibit and celebrate their talents. Our dance groups have performed so well in local, regional and state events as well as a number of school performances finishing the year off with a well choreographed performance night entitled ‘Out of the Box’. Drama has made a resurgence in student choice in electives next year and this year the year 10 drama elective class presented a theatre production “Living with Lady McBeth”. Our music students have enjoyed the many opportunities to perform at school and within our community at events such as the Kareela Primary school fair and the Gymea Fair. This year’s curriculum review looked at ways to further support music from improving facilities and resources through furthering opportunities to inspire student passion and involvement in music.
This year we ran another successful year of our Head Start to High School program, our unique after school transition program that helps students and parents with a supportive transition into high school. The program was attended by nearly all of our incoming families and allowed our students to experience learning at high school across all key learning areas and our parents with the opportunity to understand our school, what classrooms of 2017 will look like and begin the important partnership with the school. We welcome our incoming Year 7 students for 2017 and their families and trust that the program has them feel comfortable and informed so as to make a positive start with high school.
These are just some of the fantastic programs running at Gymea this year with many more to share. These programs are possible because of the enthusiasm of our kids and the connection they have with their school. It is the excitement we see in our students, in getting involved and growing from these experiences that makes it so worthwhile to teachers who dedicate so much energy and time to see our students enjoy and connect. We are truly very lucky in this school to have such wonderful teachers who go beyond their work in the classroom to support our students.
The opportunities at school, our growing reputation and the successes would not have occurred without the commitment of our teachers and support staff. My thanks to all of them for their personal commitment towards the programs that continue to evolve.
Special thanks to my executive team of Head Teachers and my deputy principals Angela Kay and Victoria Koukoutaris and their roles as relieving principal leading our school during my time on leave. Their leadership in support of student programs ensures that we will continue to be a school in the pursuit of meeting the needs of our current 21st century learners.
To our students, who continually make us proud and excite us with talents, interests and drive that they bring to their learning and to the activities that they have led across the school. Congratulations to all of our students on their achievements this year and taking ownership of their school.
A huge thank you to our parents and families, for your support and partnership in the education of your children. A partnership that we will continue to build and proudly celebrate together.
I wish each and every one of you a very happy, safe and restful holiday and look forward to an exciting and successful 2017.