Sharing the Journey

Brighton Grammar School

There is a false notion that being good on the sports field, popular with the ladies and little else equals being a real man. “Sometimes I think it’s difficult for boys to know what it is to be a man these days,” says the Director of Marketing and Community Relations at Brighton Grammar School, Natalie van Wetering. “We’re lucky in a school like ours,” she says, “because we’ve got a lot of male teachers and all different sorts of male role models, which are very valuable for boys.”

Brighton Grammar School is an independent, Anglican boys’ school situated in Melbourne educating 1250 students who will become part of the next generation of Australian men. With a rich history spanning 130 years, Brighton Grammar has a fresh approach to education. “We think a boy’s school is special because it focuses on teaching boys and the way that boys learn. What we say is we teach boys, but we teach boys to be successful men.”

Dynamic Culture

Brighton Grammar School is teaching to meet the specific educational, psychological and social needs of boys from Early Learning to Year 12 as they navigate the pathway to adulthood. The bottom line is that boys learn differently from girls; in the primary school years, girls are typically much more talkative than boys are. Girls learn by socialising and playing imaginative games whereas boys are often much more physical. Boys are kinesthetic or hands-on learners. Put simply, they learn better by doing, not talking.

Boys like to move around the classroom and need more space than girls do. They also respond better to assessments that are broken down into a series of deadlines. These are just a fraction of the differences between how boys and girls learn – which teachers have long known and science is now proving.

Boys will often deliberately underperform in school to avoid being singled out. The pressure to fit in and be cool can be overwhelming, particularly for teenagers. Unfortunately, this phenomenon of holding back to blend in with the crowd is common. Brighton Grammar School has developed a culture where boys are encouraged to open their minds to education and celebrate their achievements.

One in four Brighton Grammar boys from the senior school is involved in debating, for example. “Debating is a fantastic life skill,” says Ms van Wetering. From Year 4 through to the end of Year 8, it is compulsory to learn a musical instrument and many boys choose to continue studying and playing music. Drama is another subject the boys enjoy, which develops creativity and self-confidence. “We’re also a huge chess school,” Ms van Wetering adds. Chess is a game of strategy and intelligence, and many Brighton Grammar boys are keen chess players and proud of it.

Brighton Grammar is currently building a new Middle School, specially designed to meet the learning needs of boys in Years 7 and 8. “The Middle School is a 20 million dollar investment; it’s massive and is being built from the ground up.” Instead of having traditional classrooms with a ratio of 25 boys to one teacher, the Middle School will be a technology rich, open plan facility that can hold 75 boys in each of the four, flexible Learning Commons and multiple teachers. Open plan learning may not have really worked back in the 70s but what is different now is the ability to create a technology rich space. Every boy will be equipped with his own tablet so information will be at his fingertips. Another key feature is that the teachers will be teaching in teams, which enhances the learning process. Instead of having one teacher to 25 boys, there will be more like three teachers to 50 boys, and these teachers will be moving around and working with the students directly.

The Middle School will be a flexible space to suit the needs of the teachers and students. Within each Learning Common, there will be lecture style learning, collaborative working areas and smaller meeting rooms. The new Middle School will be open term one next year.

Curious Thinkers

Education is not a one-size-fits-all system anymore. Problem solving and developing higher order thinking is much more important than just knowing content in today’s world. There is an emphasis on developing minds that want to know the reasons why and how rather than just blindly accepting information. Brighton Grammar School is committed to remaining a single campus, all boys’ school where students feel confident enough to achieve their personal best and learning programs are tailored to meet the needs of the individual. “It’s called personalised learning and is definitely the way of the future,” says Ms van Wetering. “That’s the beginning of the real journey that we’re on now.”

The Crowther Centre for Innovation and Learning is the rather unique research arm of Brighton Grammar. “The Crowther Centre looks at what is going on with education all around the world with a particular focus on what works for boys,” explains Ms van Wetering. That information is utilised at Brighton Grammar and shared with other schools. Over the last three years, Brighton Grammar has run a national conference about the way boys learn and interact using technology; people from all around Australia have attended. The school is also embracing technology to provide parents with accurate and immediate feedback on their child’s progress. “We’ve got a new software program called The Hub. Parents can now log on to that and see anytime where their child is sitting in terms of assessment, what’s been corrected, what has and hasn’t been handed in. You can nip problems in the bud much earlier.”

To be sure, the students at Brighton Grammar School are excelling academically. “We get very good results,” remarks Ms van Wetering. “In the last couple of years, 57 per cent of the boys score over 80 out of 100 in the VCE.” The students are also taught how to succeed in life after school. “We try and do it all the way through school, not just with the senior boys.” Being able to work as a part of a team and undertake research are essential skills to excel at TAFE, university and in the workplace, and each year, the boys from Preps through to Year 10 attend a camp where they learn teamwork, leadership skills, how to overcome challenges, and more. “We have an extensive outdoor education program that isn’t just a matter of going off to camp and having fun for a few days.”

Connecting Positively

Beyond academics, being a global citizen who contributes to others is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s world, and Brighton Grammar is heavily involved with both the local and global community. “We’ve got a synthetic soccer pitch that is used extensively by local soccer clubs for their training and we run periodic evening parenting courses on topics like bullying,” explains Ms van Wetering. Brighton Grammar is proactive about providing activities for boys and their fathers to do together, from science and technology nights to weekends away. “The boys are loving science and technology,” she says. “They love building things.”

The interaction with the local community does not end there for Brighton Grammar School. “We’ve been running a camp for disabled children since the 1940s,” says Ms van Wetering. “At the end of the school year once the holidays start, a group of boys go on what’s now called the Sony Foundation Camp. They have been sponsoring it for the last five years. Before that we funded the entire camp with the boys raising the money and taking the disabled children away for four days.” Four times a year the boys bring in non-perishable food items which are taken over to St Mark’s Church in Fitzroy to help feed the poor. Brighton Grammar is the single biggest contributor of food to the Ute Full of Food program and has been for years.

Brighton Grammar also has a sister school for girls, Firbank Grammar School, located just 500 metres away. The two schools do all sorts of fun activities together, from traditional concerts and plays to philosophy classes and bush dancing. Brighton and Firbank Grammar run Share Community Campus, an extensive after school hours and holiday program as a joint venture. Share Community Campus has approximately 10, 000 enrolments per year of children who come from 50 different schools. They enjoy participating in the wide range of activities available from computing and drama classes to soccer and tennis clinics.

Brighton Grammar School has also extended its outreach globally to give underprivileged schools a helping hand. The Junior boys raise around $8000 a year to support a school in Nairobi, Kenya. Their fundraising efforts have rebuilt classrooms and dormitories, paid for salaries and fed children. “We’ve got another good relationship with a school in Papua New Guinea called the Martyrs’ Memorial School,” says Ms van Wetering. “Small groups of boys go up there and do projects like building chairs and bookcases.” All of the sports equipment and learning materials Brighton Grammar received from the Coles Sports for Schools and Woolworths Earn and Learn programs was donated to Martyrs’ Memorial School, as well.

Brighton Grammar School will continue striving to create boys who will become successful men and make a difference to others with their lives. “And what does it mean to be a successful man? To be a successful man is to be respectful, to be a good father, to be a thoughtful husband, to be a cooperative worker and to be community minded,” shares Ms van Wetering. “It’s not just your job defining you but all these characteristics that turn you into a nice man who can stand, shake someone’s hand and look them in the eye.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 9:21 AM AEDT