New Extension & Enrichment approach to 'ignite' minds

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

The words can relate to many aspects of life, and I feel education is an area of high relevance when thinking about what these words mean.  To engage authentic change, we must generate a passion and a real drive to learn.

In 2017 Mr Ivey and the College Executive identified several critical projects that were of benefit to the College.  These projects were to be driven by the staff and offer teachers and parents the opportunity to play a real part in developing key areas of the school.  This approach links closely to the above quote, in that empowering the stakeholders and engaging their passion there is a real opportunity to create something of lasting value.

Extension and Enrichment was an area that the Executive identified as a project, and I was tasked to lead the project.  The journey began in 2017 and in the beginning, we were a group of 5: Mrs Jill Green, Mrs Sue Bambling, Mr Peter Hand, Mr Rob Paterson, and myself.  As we started to plan and decide on a focus, we realised our group was too narrow, and we needed to tap into different areas. Anne Gordon (parent) and Mr Jamie Simmonds (Year 6 teacher) joined the group.

It can be challenging to know where to start, however, following our initial discussions it became clear that we should investigate three key areas:

•    Identify the purpose of Extension and Enrichment

•    Reflect on what we are doing well as a College

•    Reflect on what we are not doing or not doing well

It was an exciting activity and one that required us to research this area of Learning and Teaching.  We shared readings, contacted different schools, reflected on what we were currently doing at St Andrew’s and started to think about areas we could develop.  One clear message that came out of this activity was that at St Andrew’s we do recognise Enrichment and Extension as an essential area of school life, and we concluded that it was not what we were doing, it was how we were doing it!  This may read as a vague statement, but it was one that ignited our thinking.  The word IGNITE  became central to this group and our final proposal.  In the Oxford Dictionary, it means “arouse or inflame (an emotion or a situation).”  In this group, there was no lack of passion or emotion and some firm opinions.  To be objective one must listen to everyone, learn as much as you can about the area being discussed and remain open to all suggestions.  Within this group I felt very much like the novice surrounded by experts, so I took my advice and learned as much as I could, asked as many questions as I could and listened.

The group has worked tirelessly throughout 2018, and we have agreed on a proposal that would place St Andrew’s in an exciting position within this area of school life.  Our proposal centres around the word “Ignite” as we felt we wanted to ignite a real passion in this area that was accessible to a wide range of students.  This would require us to look beyond the two areas of Literacy and Numeracy, revisit differentiation within the classroom and review how we manage the timetable. 

“Ignite: St Andrew’s Talent Development Programme” is where we arrived.  It captures so many areas of school life and the wider areas of the curriculum that can often get overlooked.  From “Ignite” we added another stage, “Ignite Plus”, which offers further opportunities with scholarship support. Our plan is to use Renzulli Learning to build a program for all students from Prep through to Year 10.  The program quickly identifies student academic strength areas, interests, learning styles and preferred modes of expression and then matches each student with a vast array of educational activities and resources.  It requires training of staff and accessing their passions, which might not always be in their teaching area. We are also hoping to tap in to the talent of our parents and members of the local community who can support our students with their own experiences and passion. At its core, this plan builds on the philosophies of Walker Learning in the Primary school and as we cast forward to Year 9, it could be embedded into the projects associated with our Connections program.  Jill Green will be planning this throughout 2019 and our aim is to begin with students in Years 5 and 6 later next year or 2020. 

The journey in arriving at this proposal was not an easy one, and it depended on the team.  We hit many speedbumps and found questions we could not answer.  In persisting we believe that our final proposal is well-thought, challenging and one filled with potential.

It is an exciting space to watch. If we have indeed succeeded with a fabulous new approach to Extension and Enrichment, we hope to have fed the students much more than fish over their time here at St Andrew’s and offered many extended opportunities in Learning and Teaching that embrace this ever-changing world in which we live.

Mr Ben Dean

Deputy Head of Primary (Years 4 - 6)