This week Mr Penson tells us about getting the perfect mix in the classroom.
Ever wondered what steps it takes to build a successful school classroom and specialist structure each year? Well it is actually a bit like using a well trusted family recipe that has been handed down the generations and then adding a few special ingredients to give it your own unique flavour!
Here is what the recipe looks like:
- Start with one base of DEECD funding to determine the size school you can afford to operate. In our case this funding equates to just over 3.6 million dollars and is based on a current enrolment of 489 students.
- Add the equivalent of 20 full time teachers and 3 full time specialist teachers along with a wide range of support staff for specific areas of need such as Literacy Intervention, English Language Support, Canteen, First Aid and Office staff.
- Sift with 66 (yes the actual number!) of parent requests.
- Fold in a broad mix of teacher feedback and suggestions.
- Mix with social and educational needs.
- Add a pinch of gender balance.
- Cover and let settle before heating ready to serve prior to our ½ Transition days on the 9th and 16th December.
Whilst this recipe is a very simplified version of what actually happens it may assist you to understand that the whole process takes quite some time and effort as all masterpieces do!
The planning around our school structure for 2015 began in earnest during the last school holidays when the indicative budget for schools was released. Schools are funded on a per student rate with some additional funding amounts added on a case by case basis for each school. Over the past 4 weeks our school enrolment for 2015 has jumped from as high as 496 and as low as 486. This may not be a massive number of students overall but in monetary terms the difference between these figures is over $70,000…..the cost of a graduate teacher! This is why Principals constantly ask their school communities to let them know if students are leaving or asking families with younger siblings to confirm enrolment before the end of August.
Once the grade structure has been established (which for us will be finalised at our staff meeting this week), we then move into the grade building process. This starts with the establishment of our teaching teams across the school for 2015. Whilst the final decision for this rests with me as the principal, I work closely with my leadership team and the whole staff team (who are also able to outline their individual preferences each year).
Once the whole school team is in place, we then place students into the grades. This is done using several important layers of information: the academic level, social needs and behaviour of each student along with parent and teacher requests and knowledge. In this way we try to build a balance across all the areas that we know can impact on outcomes for students each year.
Overall this grade building process is done over several hours on several different days. It is fine-tuned, checked and double checked by lots of sets of teacher eyes.
During this entire time our staff is focused on ensuring that we build the optimum structure for each grade and level. This involves making some hard decisions, but we make these in the best interest of our students.
As with all best laid plans, once things are ready to go there may be some late changes required. This would be the case if the school enrolment fluctuated with students leaving or arriving at the school with late notice!
Hopefully the recipe delivers a successful school in 2015 and as they say – the proof will be in the pudding!
Master Chef & Principal!