In the current resoundingly supported Early Childhood in-class model for learning in Australia, I thought it might be worthwhile to relook at some of the reasons, parents choose to send their child to a small school like Banksia.
Banksia provides parents with the option of a truly unique, intimate learning environment, that allows children to flourish and helps them to develop foundations that will give them the best chances for succeeding later on in their life’s journey.
This is very apparent when parents return to Banksia to enrol their younger children. They understand that Banksia is not just about academics. Returning families are often aware that Banksia children who enter Year 1 at local schools, are self-assured, academically prepared and equipped with skills that many of their peers do not have. Fundamentally, they recognise the advantages of a very small school.
Small schools such as ours look at the development of the whole child. Parents who are looking for an education that cares about encouraging good character, communication, the ability to problem-solve and creativity, are correct when gravitating towards us. Banksia provides all of this in spades. How then do we do this?
Perhaps the most important aspect of achieving these results is that all the staff at our school, have high expectations of the children, both in and out of the classroom. We begin their learning or development process by ensuring that each and every child experiences a profound level of acceptance. We foster strong relationships with the children and try to maintain regular contact with their parents. We allow the children to feel confident they can make mistakes safely and know they will always get help and support from their teachers. This level of care and comfort allows our children to take risks both socially and academically, which in turn leads to enormous social and emotional development. The educators at Banksia know their students well and can provide the necessary support to meet all their needs.
Of course, the staff in our small school are special in themselves and form an intrinsic asset to the school. It is a special kind of educator who is attracted to teach in a small school and experience great satisfaction within this context. In contrast to perhaps bigger schools, the staff at Banksia work in a highly visible, interconnected environment. Staff have to be highly competent and are expected to perform multiple roles. They must be confident and approachable as there is nowhere to hide. Satisfied educators such as ours, are enthusiastic educators. We enjoy and are passionate about what we do, and consequently our young students are curious and excited about learning.
Our staff form a coherent team who work together to meet the needs of each individual child. Our small school size enables staff to individualise curriculum. Each child’s learning is precisely tailored for them. Standardised curriculum may be too fast or too slow for any one particular child. At Banksia, each child learns at a speed that is comfortable for them and no child is left behind. This results in much better academic outcomes. We provide ongoing support to our students by collaborating with each other all the time. Our professional development is specifically to meet the needs of individual children currently in the class. Montessori materials are made and purchased on exactly the same basis.
Under these conditions, teacher satisfaction at Banksia is high. Educational staff are thus retained for long periods of time, ensuring increased consistency for young children. We ask children to trust us and accept our help. This is not a quick process to build and there are no set time-frames for this process, so consistency and predictability in relationships with Banksia staff allows this trust process to slowly unfold. Interactions that build trust are repeated over time, building stronger relationships and this delivers a rich context for social, emotional learning.
The warmth and closeness of these relationships permit our students to internalise the values of care and respect they see demonstrated by their educators. This, in addition to the mixed aged group within the class, in turn fosters an increased sense of personal responsibility and a feeling of confidence when assisting their peers to problem solve and resolve conflicts. Within Banksia, children from an unusually young age, are given multiple opportunities to develop social, emotional and leadership skills.
And so, it is within this warm and caring context, that families make the decision to send their child to a small school such as ours.
Banksia Montessori School