Nestled in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, a stone’s throw from the CBD, you’ll discover Ascham School. With its state-of-the-art facilities catering to day and boarding students from Prep to Year 12, Ascham is a proudly independent school with a firm focus on the individual girl.
Ascham is also remarkably unique. It is the only school in Australia delivering the national curriculum through The Dalton Plan; a highly flexible educational structure based on three pillars: Assignment, Lesson and Study.
NURUTRING ACADEMIC GROWTH FOR ALL
Whilst Ascham boasts an impressive academic track record, it is not an academically selective school. The Dalton Plan enables girls at all levels and abilities to thrive in an inclusive environment that supports and encourages continuous improvement and growth.
The Plan assists each girl in assuming responsibility for her own learning and engages students and teachers in an intellectual partnership.
One of the key features of the Dalton Plan is the incorporation of Studies into the timetable alongside more traditional lessons. If you were to walk into a Study at Ascham, you’d observe fewer than ten girls, often across different year levels, working quietly together on their Assignments, older students offering peer support to younger girls, and everyone enjoying and benefiting from powerful one-on-one communication with the Teacher.
Studies are informal, collaborative, relational, respectful – and they produce exceptional results.
Ascham Head of School, Mr. Andrew Powell comments, “Lessons can be daunting learning environments with 20 other students in the class,’ he said. “Studies give you more support, as you are bringing your learning concerns and questions to the classroom. The Study is a safe place to make mistakes and build confidence. We often say to the girls: There are no silly questions, there is just your question.”
REALTIME FEEDBACK KEY TO REACHING GOALS
Each Tuesday at Ascham, students are required to hand in an Assignment. Ascham Director of Enrolments and Community, Ms. Myfanwy Stanfield explains, “The weekly Assignments provide an amazing opportunity for follow up, feedback and support. After the girls have handed in their Assignment, they can then utilise a Study to sit down with their teacher (one on one) and receive direct feedback on a weekly basis. Other schools may provide a twice-yearly report card, whereas here at Ascham our girls get constant feedback to guide their learning.”
Mr. Powell, adds, “There’s a huge strength in the process of teachers marking Assignments and giving feedback on a weekly basis. Also, the small classes enable teachers and students to develop strong relationships. Ascham students become very adept at asking questions—the ability and confidence to ask questions is so important. A question is not a sign of weakness, it’s simply a student seeking clarity and direction.”
THE ROLE OF FAILURE IN WELLBEING
Wellbeing plays a vital role in daily life at Ascham. Girls who are socially, emotionally and physically well are able to engage fully with their learning. A key element of wellbeing at Ascham is understanding and embracing the concept of failure.
Mr. Powell explains, “While having aspirations and being ambitious is always encouraged, the risk-taking inherent in this can be confronting. Some students can find it difficult to make mistakes, they become very focused on the outcome instead of enjoying the learning experience.”
Ms. Stanfield adds, “Here at Ascham we believe to FAIL is merely your First Attempt In Learning. With toxic perfectionism a very real issue with girls everywhere, it’s important that we’re providing an environment where girls are allowed to make mistakes.”
The Dalton Plan delivers exactly that environment, one where girls are supported to work positively towards their goals. The constant feedback provided means girls are able to adapt and grow – enjoying a sense of achievement each week as they reach their goals, and set their aspirations for the week ahead.
The students naturally remain keenly focussed on their ambitions, as they continue their journey in life – empowered with the knowledge, skills and resilience that will enable them to succeed.