5 Reasons Why Santa Maria College – Perth Is A Leading School for Girls – Jennifer Oaten

As a Principal, it is easy to say we are a leading school for girls, but it is the evidence to support this statement that is important. I believe the reasons why parents are choosing to enrol their daughters at Santa Maria College is because of our points of difference which are:

  1. Social Impact – we strive to make a difference in our community or for our planet
  2. Learning for Life – we develop attributes our girls need for success at school and beyond
  3. Mental Health – we are proactive in developing skills and knowledge to deal with life’s challenges
  4. Staff Development – we develop highly skilled teachers who have leadership capacity.
  5. Parent Engagement – we partner with parents to ensure the best outcomes for students.

Santa Maria College is committed to social impact. We work hard to address poverty and inequality and protect the environment. We believe everyone has a role to play in making a difference, and we are committed to doing our part.

We know that creating social impact is not easy, but we also know that it is essential. We are dedicated to finding innovative ways to create social impact and to sharing our learnings with others so that we can all make a difference. Join us on this journey!

2. Learning for Life

Santa Maria College first established the Enhanced Learning Program over ten years ago. It has been transformed and grown in recent years and launched to better correspond with our Learning for Life and Social Innovation pillar. It has been rebranded emPOWER.

The emPOWER program will provide opportunities for girls to develop attributes such as curiosity, collaboration, initiative, problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, compassion, resilience, and stewardship. Each year, in Years 5 – 10, a different project focuses on an issue that impacts people and our planet.

  • Fearless5 – making our school more environmentally friendly.
  • Spark6 – using technology to improve the world.
  • Seek7 – using water resources more sustainably.
  • Explore8 – innovating to help the planet and people in our community.
  • Strive9 – collaborating to support marginalised groups in the city.
  • Future 10 – making positive financial decisions for ourselves and the planet.

Through this program, we build empathy and capacity in our girls, empowering them to create change in our world.

3. Mental Health

In 2019, Santa Maria developed our Mental Health Strategy through a co-design process with staff, parents and students. This was student-led, and from this, we developed a strategic objective for mental health.

‘To work together to ensure that all Santa Maria College students have the skillset to manage their wellbeing*, tackle challenges and thrive in school and life.’ (*emotional, emotional, physical, spiritual and social wellbeing)

From this, we identified four focus areas:

  1. Culture and Values – acceptance and conversations
  2. Knowledge – for students, parents and staff
  3. Skills – to manage life challenges
  4. Support – how to seek help

Our research identified key issues for our students and different stages of their education.

While we have taken a number of key actions, the most significant achievement has been the development of a continuum of knowledge and skills across Years 5 – 12. Five elements form the basis of the Mental Health Continuum. Our addition of the Spirituality element is one of the points of difference. In each year group, we have identified the knowledge and abilities that our students should have by the time they reach Year 12. We also linked to the important issues we know influence girls at various ages based on data from the Mental Health Strategy.

We consider ourselves to be one of the first in Western Australia, if not the first, to have created this mental health continuum. We are now preparing to make public this accomplishment early next term. I am very pleased with the collaborative effort of the teachers and psychologists who created this.

4. Parent Engagement

Santa Maria College highly regards parent engagement, with various initiatives and programs to entice parents. We have an excellent culture of togetherness at the College; however, COVID-19 significantly curtailed many of our usual functions.

This year we have run two different activities focussing on engaging diverse groups of parents during the COVID-19 restrictions. These were The Kindness Program and Capes4Kids.

The Kindness Program exceeded our expectations and was a great success. It was a four-week Zoom course that generated an unexpectedly strong effect. It allowed introverted parents to interact and connect and gave us an understanding of the benefits of kindness to ourselves and others. Catherine Kolomyjec (Class of 1984), who facilitated the program, is currently studying Applied Compassion at Stanford University (USA). She contacted us to let us know that her professor informed her that she had never heard of a program like this before and that she felt it was a first for parents worldwide.

Imagine that Santa Maria has come up with a community engagement project that not only addressed the isolation and barriers of the extended COVID-19 period but also invited a group of parents into the heart of the school who would not have otherwise engaged. “Pure genius,” according to Catherine.

We have almost completed our Capes4kids initiative. We will be sending over 350 superhero capes to sick children in hospitals. This project involved over 70 families, including mothers, grandmothers, family friends and students. By the end of the Term, all capes will be ready to send to CAPE4Kids head office.

5. Staff Development

Staff Development is a high priority at Santa Maria College, with regular professional development opportunities available for teachers. We have a culture of learning, and we invest in professional development. Our teachers are actively looking for new ways to grow as teachers and are passionate about their vocation.

To ensure this remains a priority, we incorporated the objective to ’empower our workers to grow, innovate, and lead while providing exceptional teaching and learning’ into our Learning for Life pillar of our Strategic Plan. We have a Head of Professional Learning who collaborates closely with our Deputy Principal, Teaching & Learning to assist our staff to grow as teachers and leaders.

Targeted workshops for our leaders, sharing of innovative strategies, review and goal setting, in addition to in-school research, are some of the ways we promote growth. We are also in the preliminary phases of creating a grant to enable a member of our staff to research how to create a method for assessing and reporting on our students’ abilities in relation to our Connecting Learning to Life attributes.

Santa Maria College is committed to continuous improvement, whether it be focussed on students, staff or parents. We embrace change, develop an understanding of the complexities, and ensure that change is valuable and sustainable for the future. We continue to focus on achieving our strategic goals, measuring our progress and hope to see the benefits for our community. We are excited to see what the future holds for us as a leading school for girls.

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