St Mary's Senior High School NSW
St Mary's Senior High School enrols students in years 11 and 12 from across Sydney. The school has adopted a charter for increasing the range of educational options available to post-compulsory students in Sydney, as well as enhancing their educational outcomes. Students come to St Mary's from a wide range of educational settings, with approximately 50 percent from other government schools and 50 percent from independent and Catholic schools. The school has been striving to ensure that its students develop a global perspective of themselves as learners, employees and citizens. To enable this, it is endeavouring to build staff capacity and awareness.
St Mary's has been on a journey towards Asia capability for the past eight years. The school currently delivers Japanese language on site and offers conversational Mandarin courses to students and staff. Languages instruction is also delivered through the Open High School programme. The first of the school's projects combines curriculum mapping with professional learning for staff members as part of the Leading 21st Century Schools: Engage with Asia (L21CS) Programme. The curriculum mapping exercise involved auditing the Stage 6 curriculum offered by the school and identifying sample learning resources deemed suitable for each area of the curriculum. The school's senior executive coordinated this audit, with faculty heads playing an active investigative role. The aim of this audit was to encourage staff members to discuss the Asia capability agenda and make greater use of available resources in their learning and teaching programmes to include Asia-focused content across the broader curriculum.
The second project, undertaken as part of the L21CS Programme, is the implementation of a Year 11 curriculum initiative aimed at broadening students' perspectives and understanding of Asia, including its history, people, politics and economies. This mentor programme focused on the development of 21st century literacies and utilises the project-based learning approach to provide students with a curriculum that is both transformative and action-orientated. The lead team for this project, which includes the principal, deputy principal, career advisor and mentor teachers, has undertaken a detailed and strategic planning process that sets out clear and achievable aims, a small number of key strategies and a set of key measures to be used to monitor progress. The timelines, responsibilities and resources are also clearly articulated as part of the planning process.
St Mary's Senior High School has been making productive use of strategic partnerships since embarking on its Asia capability journey. One highly successful partnership has been with the University of Western Sydney. Professor Michael Singh has been working closely with the school, particularly to attract Chinese students from the university's Master of Education programme to volunteer at St Mary's for a period of time each year. A sister school relationship, commenced in 2006, has also made a substantial contribution to the students' engagement with Asia. The school's participation in a China Connect project, where a teacher is hosted by St Mary's to deliver an online Mandarin language programme to students in other schools, has been a success.
A further beneficial partnership is within the Colyton Learning Community, which includes a comprehensive high school and five primary schools. St Mary's has played a leading role in driving the Asia capability agenda across all schools in the learning community. The sharing of staff, learning resources and celebrations of Asia across the learning community have been exciting outcomes to date.
St Mary's is well placed to sustain the gains that have been made in recent years. The involvement of the senior executive in the L21CS Programme and online webinars, as well as access to quality planning and learning resources, are playing an important role in establishing the moral purpose for change and implementing the two change projects mentioned. While the first project – building staff awareness and capacity – has yet to be implemented fully, the mentor project is well underway and already offering substantial benefits to the Year 11 students.
A number of barriers have been identified by the school, with plans in place to reduce their impact. The wide range of schools and other educational settings that feed into St Mary's means that students come in at Year 11 with a very diverse range of learning experiences in terms of Asian languages and studies of Asia. A further challenge for this senior years' school has been incorporating studies of Asia into a timetable that is very heavily influenced by the Higher School Certificate examination schedule and other compliance deadlines.
The embedding of Asian studies into the Human Society and its Environment and Languages area has been a natural progression but there are more challenges in ensuring that other key learning areas have a similar focus.
Sustaining the progress made at St Mary's will be supported by continually referring to the school's vision of progressing students' global awareness and helping them develop into global citizens. This will remain the focal point of the school's strategic plan. Other factors for sustainability include the continual training and development of teachers and the strengthening of strategic partnerships such as the thriving sister school arrangements currently in place.