Dimity Fenwicke – St John’s Junior School

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St John’s Junior School was recently ranked as the top primary school in the region. We speak with Dimity Fenwicke about the school’s expansion of its Transition Program.  




First of all Dimity, what exactly is Transition?

Transition is a program we offer at St John’s for students who are four years old. The program is designed to allow the natural progression of informal learning to the more structured learning environment that formal education requires.

Children are provided with opportunities to use their limitless imaginations as well as developing skills required for the big step into ‘big school’.

A qualified early childhood teacher will guide the children through a personalised program that provides each student with the necessary pre literacy and numeracy skills, which will give them the foundations for successful learning in Kindergarten and the primary years. This also allows the opportunity for students to develop learning patterns sooner than those who have not attended programs such as the Transition program offered at St John’s Co-Educational School.

So how does Transition differ from preschool or early childhood day care?

The St John’s Transition classroom is located in the renovated St John’s Hostel building, designed by noted architect, Horbury Hunt, for St John’s Theological College. It is part of St John’s Co-educational Junior School, which is located on the one site within the greater campus of New England Girls’ School.

For children to learn, it is a known fact that they need to feel secure and comfortable in their learning environment.  We succeed in achieving this goal as the children in Transition are able to utilise the resources of the whole NEGS campus, including the library, a sensory gym, spacious playgrounds, an indoor gymnasium and many other areas within our grounds.

The children are also given a head start on learning as they are introduced to pre-numeracy and pre-literacy concepts not only through hands-on experiences, such as having the opportunity of using interactive whiteboards, but also being in a classroom that is rich in text. Play is a valuable part of our progam, as it provides the children with numerous learning opportunities.

We believe that our program offers the children formal learning advantages, without losing the wonder and magic that is part of early childhood.

How often has Transition been offered, and what are the planned changes?

From the commencement of Term 2, St John’s is offering a five day a week to cater for the needs of students. Current parents and the wider Armidale community will have the option to participate in either the three day program or take advantage of enrolling their child into the five day program for no extra cost.

The expansion of the program allows the Transition students to become exposed to all areas of formal education at St John’s Junior School, as well as becoming a more permanent part of our wonderful school.

It will allow the students to participate in fortnightly assemblies, providing them with the opportunity to gain confidence in performing in public. The children will also have the opportunity to partake in the school’s sporting activities, such as this term’s athletics carnival.

What sort of activities do children do?

The Transition teacher, Mrs Catherine McCann, has the students welcome each new day with songs to say good morning and a day of the week song. They share in discussions and tell news, and they are provided with multi-sensory, pre-literacy and numeracy experiences.

The students are exposed to ‘hands on’ learning, including science experiments, where they are encouraged to predict the outcome of the trial, observe change and discuss the cause and effect of the experiment. Their interests are valued and form part of weekly plans, and therefore it is vital for the classroom teacher to have a flexible approach to learning.

They have opportunities to develop buddies with some of the older children and are able to enhance their learning through shared supported games.

The students are provided with physical education lessons and music lessons with specialist teachers, and they attend swimming lessons at the Rosemarie Glover Swim School.

They also have the opportunity to attend Chapel, which is held in the school’s own Chapel of St Michael and All Angels.

Special guests are also organised to visit the students, such as Helen Evans, who visits fortnightly for story-telling.

St John’s performed very well in the most recent NAPLAN results, didn’t it?

It most certainly did. St John’s was ranked 11th in the state for reading at Year 5 level and made it into the top 100 schools for Writing (20th), Grammar (23rd) and Spelling (97th). The school received an overall ranking of 145th in the state, which we believe is almost 30 places ahead of the next primary school in the region.

What do you put that down to?

St John’s is a unique school, as the staff, parents and students are like a family. The school community all works together to make the learning environment a safe and enjoyable place to learn. As a result, the students are prepared to challenge themselves by taking risks, hence developing the passion to learn.

The staff all work together to provide a high standard of education and are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for the students.

Each year the teachers review the NAPLAN results and discuss how they can improve their own teaching in effort to provide an even more beneficial education for all students.

Thank you Dimity.

This story was published in issue 60 of New England Focus

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