Let’s Talk About Learning

Simone Sawiris is the Deputy Principal – Teaching & Learning at Santa Maria College. Her role includes overseeing the curriculum delivery from Years 5 – 12. She’s the best person possible to explain why Santa Maria for Years 5 and 6 is an excellent option for girls.

What are the classroom facilities like for the girls in Years 5 and 6?

The girls in Years 5 and 6 love their classrooms! They are welcoming, colourful and flexible. They are large and airy and have been specifically prepared for girls of this age.

The furniture has been selected to enable girls to work individually or collaboratively. There is a range of high tables, soft furnishings and desks designed to fit together for group work. The classrooms also have some wobble chairs, as we recognise that some students really don’t cope well with sitting still for too long.

Our teachers have the girls’ work on display and decorate their rooms with learning stimulus posters to spark conversations and visual reminders of our College themes and values.

Every room opens directly onto outdoor spaces and we often see groups of girls outside their room doing collaborative or breakout work.

Do girls have access to the facilities in the rest of the College?

The Years 5 and 6 girls use the College library which is in the heart of the school. Here they can borrow from our wide collection of books and resources. There is a collection of books set aside for junior readers which helps the girls find age-appropriate reading material. Our teacher-librarians teach the Year 5 girls research skills and prepare resources for the girls when they are working on particular topics.

The Years 5 and 6 community are fortunate enough to have access to our amazing Science facilities, including the Superlab. These facilities come with all the specialised equipment that no regular primary school could provide, as well as access to the expertise of Science teachers and technicians.

In terms of sporting facilities, the College pool, gymnasium, courts and oval are enjoyed by all students through their Physical Education classes and co-curricular activities.

Among the electives offered to the Years 5 and 6 girls are Music, Art, and Drama. Each of these subjects have custom-built spaces in the College. It is a wonderful bonus of a Santa Maria education that our girls have an art gallery, theatre, and music rooms designed for individual lessons, with others designed for bands and ensembles.

How is staffing different for primary-aged students at Santa Maria?

 All of the teaching staff in Years 5 and 6 choose to work exclusively with students of this age group. They have been selected for their proven expertise in this area. They also complete regular professional development in subjects and techniques most pertinent to girls of this age. Their love of teaching and high regard for their students is obvious and a delight to watch.

In the elective subjects, Years 5 and 6 students have highly trained specialist teachers who work across Years 5 – 12 in the following areas:

  • Languages
  • Art
  • Music
  • Drama
  • Physical Education and Health
  • Numeracy extension

The Dean of Years 5 and 6 is a member of the College Academic Council, together with the Heads of each department in the secondary school. It is a wonderful advantage to have this insight into what the girls will be part of when they move into Year 7 and beyond. At the end of each year, Year 6 teachers meet with the Year 7 teachers to ensure the following year’s programs are aligned.

Does the College offer extension programs?

 We are very proud of the academic extension offered by our college. We believe that every child deserves to be extended, so we have developed our Enhanced Learning Programs. Each year from Years 5 – 10, girls have specific time set aside where they participate in programs that develop their skills and explore new and exciting ideas.

In Year 5 the girls do Fearless 5 and in Year 6 the program is called Spark 6.

Fearless 5 is a design project focussed on risk-taking, resilience, and persistence.

Spark 6 is more about developing creative, critical thinkers who can design and develop ideas, critique their work and justify their results.

IGNITE is our gifted and talent program. Girls apply to be a part of this program and are selected based on parental application, teacher feedback and internal testing. Our aim is to foster a love of learning and creative challenge.

Years 5 and 6 Mathematics Enrichment is for students who demonstrate a strong understanding and excellent achievement in maths concepts and problem-solving. This group is fluid, so students can move in and out of the class according to the topic and challenge level.

We have recently introduced an instrumental music program in which Year 6 students have the opportunity to develop their musical ability. These students are instructed by specialist music tutors and have the opportunity to perform in College ensembles and bands within the College. It is a wonderful opportunity that most primary-aged students would never have access to.

How about support for learning?

Inevitably, different students will face learning challenges as they progress through their education. In order to support them, the College offers a variety of literacy and numeracy programs to complement the help they will receive in their classes. This help is provided by specialist Enrichment staff, who are available for students from Years 5 – 8. Reinforced Reading and literacy programs are offered before school and mathematics support is provided in class time.

The Study Buddies program, available before and after school each week, is a peer-based program in which Year 10 mentors assist our Years 5 and 6 girls with their organisation, reading and mathematics skills. It is also a wonderful way to build friendships across areas of the College, making the transition to Year 7 a lot less daunting.

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