Setting students up to succeed to their best of their ability — not only at school but throughout their lives — is the guiding principle of an independent education.
“Independent schools reward parents’ investment by implanting confidence in students; by supporting young people to meet challenges and thrive; by giving them the ability to maximise their potential by developing the self-awareness of what they can achieve,” says Barker College head Phillip Heath.
With the mandate of a committed school community, independent schools are uniquely positioned to provide the key elements of a good education.
As the saying goes, “the better the teaching, the better the learning.” The professionalism and dedication of teachers at independent schools is reflected in the consistently strong academic results achieved by their students. Last year’s HSC results show that the state’s top 30 non-selective schools are all independent. Dr Tim Hawkes, headmaster at The King’s School in Parramatta, attributes this outstanding result to accountability: “We have to deliver or we will lose enrollments.”
Standards and resilience
Setting high standards and encouraging students to take responsibility for their learning is the key to academic success, says John Hamey, principal at Moriah College in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs; but an independent education is also about character formation. “We have a strong focus on producing excellent academic outcomes,” says Hamey. “We promote a ‘growth mindset’ so students know that all things are achievable and open themselves to new challenges and experiences.”
A nurturing community is at the heart of a values-based education. At St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD, its motto of “Heart, Mind, Life” is a “golden thread” weaving the school together, says Junior School head Rhonda Robson. St Andrew’s “walks the walk, not just talks the talk,” she adds. “People feel that they want to be here and that leads to a stable, thriving student body and staff and the results reflect that.”
Preparation for life after school
Independent schools emphasise leadership and life skills to help children grow into socially and professionally successful adults. Co-curricular programs such as cadets, debating, team sports, community service programs, prefect roles and peer support groups teach students responsibility and prepare them for a productive future. “The development of key values, attitudes and dispositions is a crucial part of our educational intention for every student,” says Dr Peter Lennox, principal at SCEGGS Redlands on Sydney’s Lower North Shore.
Outstanding performing arts and sports programs are a hallmark of independent schools. The study and performance of music is well-supported in independent schools generally and the Great Public Schools (GPS) of New South Wales competition lets students hone their talents in sport, debating and music at an elite level. Exceptional students have a slew of options with most schools offering gifted and talented programs.