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Wellers Hill State School QLD

Wellers Hill is an independent public school in Brisbane. The school has an enrolment of 870 students supported by 60 staff. It has been engaged in the Asia capability journey for the past ten years and has recently taken on the challenge of establishing bilingual classes within the school where 50 percent of the instruction is delivered in Japanese. The school has delivered a highly successful Japanese language programme for many years and sees this project as a logical extension.

Wellers Hill has gradually phased out its German language programme and is now focusing very strongly on Japanese. The school now has three full time Japanese teachers, two of whom deliver bilingual lessons to Year 1 students while the third teaches a Prep class, mainly in English. These are fully qualified and recognised teachers who are not confined to teaching the Japanese language to students. They teach all of the subjects that a classroom teacher is required to cover. The school has been very strategic in resourcing these teachers and is delighted that, as they put the feelers out for additional skilled teachers with Japanese backgrounds, there are a large number of qualified people keen to be involved with the school.

The parents of the 126 Year 1 students in 2014 were able to select the bilingual option for their child and it is a testament to the school's communication with its community that 76 Year 1 students are now enrolled in these classes. The bilingual classes enjoy strong parental support and this has strengthened the school's resolve to provide this option to this year's students as they progress through the school as well as bring on a new set of classes each year.

The school has provided a number of key resources to support this immersion in Japanese language and culture. In addition to the human resources allocated to this pursuit, Wellers Hill has established both a junior and senior Japanese language and culture classroom within the school. These learning spaces are equipped with a range of stimulus materials that can be used to support the teaching of Japanese as well as the inclusion of the studies of Japan in other subject areas.

The leadership at Wellers Hill has made significant use of key partners as the school continues to progress the Asia capability agenda. The school has established a positive and mutually beneficial partnership with the town of Yasugi in the Shimane Prefecture where the Yasugi International Exchange Association has played a pivotal role in facilitating exchange tours between the school and its Japanese partners. The school recognises that parents in the community are critical partners and, in response, has offered awareness building opportunities and language lessons as part of the school programme. Strategic partnerships have also been established with Asia Education Foundation and the Japan Foundation. The school is now looking to join the Queensland-based Japanese Chamber of Commerce.

Wellers Hill provided subsidies for four teachers to participate in AEF's Introduction to Japan study programme in April 2014. This programme provides participants with a unique personal and professional experience of Japan. Participants explored Japan's rich history with visits to places of historical and religious significance and were able to delve into Japan's popular culture with workshops on Manga comics.

As the school continues to establish its bilingual programme, it has taken the opportunity to work with staff on building their awareness of the need to embed the studies of Asia into the broader curriculum. Staff members have been very receptive, with strong support received from Education Queensland. The school's flexibility around workforce planning now that it is part of the Independent Public Schools' initiative has also assisted in driving this project. The school is well aware that the ongoing resourcing of the bilingual programme will take careful long-term planning. The school intends to gradually build its supply of Japanese speaking teachers as current staffing positions are vacated.

Acknowledgements

Image: Wellers Hill State School logo – Wellers Hill State School

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