Announcing the inaugural Inner West Independent Schools Expo

Families in the Inner West have a new, local, forum to discover more about the range of excellent independent schools servicing their area.

For the first time, the Independent Schools Expo is hosting a dedicated Inner West event at the Le Montage function centre in Lilyfield on Sunday, May 1.

Choosing the right school can be a difficult decision for parents. With so many educational options on offer, gathering enough information to make an informed choice is a complex and time-consuming task.

At the Inner West Independent Schools Expo, parents can meet face-to-face with staff and students from some of Sydney’s leading private schools – in one convenient location. Days of research can be accomplished in just a few hours.

Expense, location, academic standards and facilities are all important factors when selecting a school; but equally vital to a child’s happiness and success is a school’s culture.

Many parents look to independent schooling to foster traditional values in children, such as self-discipline, integrity and respect for themselves and others. A good education is expected to produce confident, grounded adults well-prepared for life after graduation with the skills to achieve their full potential.

But schools are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. To determine the best fit for your child, it is important to consider a number of questions. What is the school’s focus? In what areas does it excel? Can it accommodate your child’s strengths and needs? Is its social atmosphere suited to your child’s temperament?

As well as the right educational environment, parents will want to find a school that is in harmony with their own family values and beliefs.

Above all, parents want their children to enjoy school. To feel a sense of belonging and social ease among like-minded friends in a safe and caring school community.

At the Expo, families are encouraged to engage with school representatives and explore their offerings in detail to find the best match between school and child.

Participating schools include boarding and day schools, single sex, co-ed, faith-based and secular options from preschool to Year 12.

Every child is unique. Here is your opportunity to find the school to which your child is uniquely suited.

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Announcing the inaugural Inner West Independent Schools Expo
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Getting the most out of parent teacher interviews

As term 1 comes to a close, schools will soon be hosting parent teacher interviews. These meetings are a valuable opportunity for parents to attain greater insight into their child’s progress, academically and socially.

Speaking one-on-one with teachers allows parents to canvass their child’s areas of strength and weakness and to coordinate effectively with the school to provide more support if needed. Parents can also discuss a range of issues that may be affecting a child’s school life beyond the classroom.

Parent teacher interviews are usually restricted to 10 or 15 minutes so it’s important to come prepared with questions that will elicit the most information in the shortest time.

Trinity Grammar recommends parents ask these three essential questions:

1. What are my child’s strengths?
To determine where they’re performing best and what their current level of achievement is.

2. Are there any areas of concern?
Not just academically but also behaviourally or emotionally.

3. What are the upcoming focus areas of the curriculum and how best can we support my child?
Clear goals make it easier for parents to work with teachers to help children achieve to the utmost of their ability.

Parents may also find it helpful to ask questions about specific aspects of their child’s schooling such as homework, discipline measures and school expectations around behaviour, uniform and punctuality.

This is an occasion for parents to forge a strong partnership with teachers and, where needed, formulate a plan to improve their child’s learning outcomes.

“The key to a successful interview is to make sure that you are prepared, listen to advice and finish with an agreed way forward,” The Scots College counsels. “While parents are occasionally not happy with the progress of their children, the importance of parent-teacher-student interviews cannot be underestimated, especially in kick starting a change in attitude or direction.”

The NSW Department of Education urges parents to make it a positive experience by highlighting children’s accomplishments and ensuring that they are on-board with any agreed academic or behavioural strategies: “It’s important to discuss the meeting with your child and really congratulate them on their strengths. If the teacher made suggestions of things you could do at home, discuss these with your child and commit to following through with them.”

Each child is different and parents will have varying concerns. Some parents may feel that attending the parent teacher interview is unnecessary as their child is doing quite well and there are no issues to raise with the school.

But parent teacher interviews aren’t only about addressing problems, they’re also about celebrating a child’s achievements and engagement in the school community.

As the NSW Department of Education warns: “If you don’t go to parent teacher interviews, you’re also missing out on the chance to hear really positive things about your child that they may not tell you themselves. It’s equally rewarding for teachers to share good news with a parent.”

No matter what a child’s situation, the parent teacher interview is a critical communications channel between school and family. Make the most of it to optimise your child’s chances of success.

Read more:

Three essential questions to ask at parent teacher interviews – Trinity Grammar School, March 5, 2016

How to get the most out of parent teacher interviews – The Scots College, February 4, 2016

Parent teacher interviews – NSW Department of Education Schools A-Z website

Getting the most out of parent teacher interviews
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How much technology in education is too much?

A recent ABC radio Future Tense program asked if we are “too quick to embrace technology in education”.

Guest speaker Neil Selwyn, a digital researcher and professor of education at Monash University, questioned the value of some current trends in education such as the use of digital technology to deliver personalised, self-directed learning, commenting that deep learning takes the form of a dialogue between teacher and student and that students can’t be expected to know what it is that they don’t know.

Selwyn also expressed concern about equity of access, remarking that the greatest participation and completion rates for massive open online courses (MOOCs) are seen amongst university-educated, high-income young men.

The failure of technology in education to live up to Utopian hopes for it should give us pause, Selwyn argued. While technology is an undoubted boon to the classroom overall, it is not a pedagogical panacea, he said quoting Bill Gates’ remark from last year that fixing the US education system is harder than eradicating malaria.

Selwyn concluded with a call for greater skepticism saying: “Given the importance of education there is a need for proper grown-up debate about complexities and contradictions of technology’s role. Digital technology needs to be seen as the starting point for conversations about the future of education—not as the definitive answer.”

Tom Butler, professor of Business Information Systems, at Ireland’s University College Cork, goes much further than just questioning the role of technology in education; he has called for an outright ban on computers in primary and middle-school classrooms.

In his paper, ICT and Education: Fundamental problems and practical recommendations, Butler says: “Research indicates that traditional methods of learning through reading and writing on paper-based media provide superior learning outcomes for students at all levels.”

Butler attributes this result to a phenomenon known as “shallow reading”, leading to poorer comprehension and retention of material read on-screen. Research shows that on-screen reading is better suited to short texts like news reports and that “traditional linear presentation”, ie books, is a better medium for ingesting longer, written texts.

However, Butler fully supports the use of controlled digital access in senior high school education and notes the importance of studying Information and Computer Technology (ICT) in a formal way at the secondary school level.

His paper concludes on an optimistic note, finding that “digital tools offer a great opportunity for education,” but, like Selwyn, he asserts the need for greater critical appraisal of these tools. “The physical and psychological impact of ICT have to be factored in when considering ICT’s role in and for education,” Butler says.

What do you think? What is your experience of technology in the classroom?

Read more: 

Are we being too quick to embrace technology in education? – Neil Selwyn, Future Tense, ABC Radio National, March 1, 2016

Zuckerberg is ploughing billions into “personalised learning” – Why? Natalia Kucirkova and Elizabeth FitzGerald, The Conversation, December 10, 2015

Bill Gates: Eradicating malaria easier than fixing US education system, Jeri Clausing, Associated Press, June 30, 2014

Books are better than screens, education conference told – Fiona Gartland, the Irish Times, October 3, 2015

ICT and Education: Fundamental problems and practical applications, Professor Tom Butler, University Cork College, Ireland, September 2015

How much technology in education is too much?
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