Dear Parents, Friends, Staff and Students of Caroline Chisholm College,
Welcome back to 2017! Usually, the first step towards victory is simply turning up, and I am pleased to say that our year has begun with nearly 1000 students ready for learning at Caroline Chisholm College. I want to extend a particularly warm welcome to the newest members of our community, our Year 7 students, and the eight students who have joined us in other year groups. I promise, it won’t take long before these girls feel part of this warm and hospitable community, and new friendships begin to flourish. Mr Damien Mills, our Year 7 Leader of Learning reminded the students that being a bit nervous about something new is perfectly natural, and with patience and some courage, things get better and brighter every day. I am always delighted to observe the way older students go out of their way to make sure our new students are OK, know where they are going, and feel like they belong. We are looking forward to seeing all of our Year 7 students and their families at our Welcome BBQ next Friday evening.
We have three broad focus areas for 2017, from Year 7 to Year 12: DISCIPLESHIP, GROWTH and ATTENDANCE, and we need the help of parents, carers and families in each area.
Put simply, discipleship refers to our friendship with Jesus and the impact this friendship has on our life, our relationships and our decisions. In 2017, the staff and students will explore how to develop this relationship and allow it to affect us and our lives.
We have redesigned our Homeroom and Pastoral Care programs for 2017 to allow us to spend more time and energy on ensuring our students are well, and developing healthy habits based on their character strengths. Our programs in each year group will cover the issues that our girls must confront as they move through high school and beyond, including balance, study, relationships, bullying, goal setting and resilience. Early this year, your daughter will identify her character strengths using the VIA Strengths Inventory (http://www.viacharacter.org/), and throughout the year, will be taught how to use these strengths to support her own growth in learning. Our assessment programs, too, will reflect this focus on growth, rather than simply performance or marks, and our teachers will be coaching your daughter’s to plan for improvement.
We need your help to keep the conversations about school and learning focused on your daughter’s strengths and her growth. Marks and grades are important, but not as important as our students learning how to take responsibility for solving problems and building skills for life.
Every day of learning is valuable, and good attendance is a habit our students must learn for a healthy and productive life beyond school. The links between attendance and learning growth and between attendance and mental health and well-being are well established. Our college is working towards a goal of 90% of students attending 90% or more of schools days. Our current attendance rate is 73%, and this is unacceptable. Absence from school will only be approved for illness or injury, or because of an unavoidable commitment, such as for elite sports. In most circumstances, a family holiday is not a legitimate reason for missing school, and your request may be declined. Some students may stay away from school because they are not feeling happy. This is possibly the worst reason for absence. Separation from the routines and the supports that school provides usually make situations like this work. Remember, the first time you say your daughter can stay home on a school day, you give her permission to ask this every other day of her school life. In order to stress the importance of attendance, and to help our girls understand what it means to belong to the community, we will only allow students to represent the college in sport, or other representative activities, if they have good attendance. Also, to qualify for school leadership, as SRC or a Captain, students must have attendance over 90%. We hope that, by putting these measures in place and being consistent, we will see a dramatic change in our attendance rate, all for the improved well-being and learning of our students.
OUR COMMITMENT TO YOU
As we begin this new year, I want to repeat our firm commitment to work with parents and carers as partners in the students’ learning. Whilst we acknowledge that the journey will likely be uncomfortable at times, we will remain focused on our goal of preparing young women to be courageous disciples of Christ, with a sense of compassion and justice, and the skills and attitudes to flourish in an uncertain world. This means that, together, we need to be the source of encouragement, hope and challenge in the lives of these young people; to expect and demand great things of them so that they may become the people God dreams them to be.
I leave you with the prayer our students prayed for our community at our staff day in January:
Lord of all beginnings,
be with us as we prepare to embark on this adventure of learning.
Give us the gifts we need to support each student and each other:
the gifts of patience, wisdom and energy.
Lord of all knowing,
May our college be a place of true understanding;
in every subject and every classroom,
in every office and every lesson,
may the wonder of your creation be better understood and treasured.
Lord of peace,
You encouraged the little ones to come to you.
Help us to create a school where there is a place for everyone;
Where every child knows that they belong and are cared for here.
Be with us as we create a community of peace and hospitality.
Lord of our communion,
Inspire our discipleship so that we may love you and serve you.
Help us to overcome our doubts and grow our faith
so that we may be the lanterns that light the path to you
for our students.
Lord of us all,
Pour your abundant blessings on this community,
so that, in serving each other,
we may serve you.
We ask this through Christ our Lord
Mr Greg Elliott