Foundational Learning

Chris Ivey / Academic

This week we have welcomed our Grandparents

18 June 2021

From Our Principal Chris Ivey: Foundational Learning

This week we have welcomed our Grandparents and special friends into the College so they can share with their grandchildren (and our Primary students) all about their learning at school over the past semester. We’ve seen Grandparents solving mathematical problems, engaging in art, origami, technology and other creative activities. In talking with a few of our Grandparents, they commented, ‘School was nothing like this when I was a child.’  In many ways they are correct, so much has changed when I think back to my own Primary school days in Burnie, Tasmania and then look around at our facilities, our green and open spaces, our access to information and the variety of opportunities now available to our students.  It is very different from the traditional four walls, often a lack of specific design and in many cases large classes and limited resources.

However, at the same time, I would want to suggest that some things haven’t changed.  And by this, I am referring to aspects of education that I think is vitally important and I believe many of our parents also hold as true. That is, solid and rigorous teaching of the basics. At St Andrew’s we call it Foundational Learning.  Federal and state bodies, external entities and other groups will continue to push, change and refine what they (in their perceived wisdom) believe should be taught and how it should be taught.  They will continue to intervene in what they believe good education looks like because Australian students as a whole aren’t doing as well in international tests.  

A recent example has been an ongoing debate about which version of history we should be teaching and right now we should be concerned about some of the proposals to change the way in which aspects of mathematics  are taught in the Australian Curriculum. One of the distinct advantages of an independent school is that we can choose our approach to teaching and learning.

What hasn’t changed for me is the core need to provide foundational learning for each and every student and just as importantly, for a teacher to develop positive relationships with students so as to engage them in that learning. Quality teaching is relational, and all the latest trends, ideas and pathways, which are also important, are only successful when you have the knowledge foundations carefully laid with teachers who are supported in their environment and are passionate about what they do.  Without this simple formula, everything we try and do falls short of truly educating our students. We have moved away from rows of desks and all students learning from the same page at the same time, so it looks a little different, but our students still learn ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’!  At the same time students engage in areas of learning like creative thinking, entrepreneurship and robotics, we provide opportunities and encourage the performing and visual arts, sport, service learning, and learning about Christian values and these are all powerful tools for our 21st Century students.

St Andrew’s Primary has been on an astonishing journey over a number of years as we introduced Walker Learning, which focusses on the importance of nurturing a love for learning, recognises individual passions and interests, but holds true to the importance of teaching foundational subjects such as literacy and numeracy.  This excellent groundwork, developed from Prep, means that our students are getting the right balance between what is needed for their ongoing learning journey, but also they are developing the skills needed to adapt and cope in a world and workforce that will require a greater breadth of skills and experiences.

I want to commend and wholeheartedly thank our Primary teachers, Educational Support Officers (ESOs), Leadership teams and all those who contribute to the remarkable work they do every day to provide and reinforce that strong foundation learning for our students.

Best Wishes


Author Profile

Chris Ivey

In his own words, Chris “enables things to happen” at St Andrew’s. As Principal of the College, he leads the development and progression of St Andrew’s by enabling staff and students to achieve their personal best. Chris is a Reverend and has been the Principal of St Andrew’s for more that 15 years. He also represents and advocates for Independent schools across Australia as the National Chair of AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools, Australia).

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