Mr Jeff Symms, Deputy Headmaster and Head of Preparatory School
On Wednesday evening our Year 6 boys and their families attended the first half of the Clay and Candle service, the second half of which will be conducted in the final school week of this year.
The Clay and Candle service is an important tradition in the life of our school and signifies the commencement of the boys’ journey into their final year as students of the Preparatory School. There is a lot of symbolism to be found in the service – the clay which represents the capacity of each boy to be moulded by his family, his school, his friends and his community and the candle which represents the light in each boys’ life; his dreams, personality, spirituality, passion and love.
Our Year 6 boys always conduct themselves with such dignity at these services and I am always so proud of the young men they are becoming. They have started the year really well and we look forward to a great 2018 with them as the leaders of the Prep student body.
This week we conducted our Parent Literacy Evening and I thank all of the staff involved in the presentations for their hard work and dedication in facilitating these most important discussions.
Literacy is a precious gift, as a lack of literacy can significantly influence a person’s career and even personal choices in life.
Parents play a significant role in helping their child towards acquiring strong literacy skills and so it is terrific to have so many registered for tonight’s sessions. We know that engaged parents increase every child’s chances for success, so simply by attending you are sending a powerful message to your son that you value his education, you value his teachers and you are interested to learn more about his academic program.
But more importantly, how much speaking to your child you have engaged in in his early years, how much interaction with others he has had and how much exploration of language, through conversations, games, being read to and so on, makes a huge difference in how ready and primed his brain is to learn to read and write. When children start school there can be a massive difference in their vocabulary – the number of words that they know, they use in everyday speech and they comprehend. Vocabulary range for children starting school extends from around only 5000 words for linguistically ‘poor’ students to up to 20,000 words for linguistically ‘rich’ students. It isn’t hard to see how knowing 5 times as many words provides an advantage.
The average child now spends 21 -23 hours per week in front of a television. This does not include screen time attached to games, and while tv screen time may provide them with some vocabulary, the quality of this vocabulary can be quite questionable and essentially, watching tv and playing computer games are for the most part, verbally passive activities. They are getting their stimulation through vision, not aurally through listening and responding to words.
That child sitting at the dinner table staring into the ipad instead of listening to the family conversation or more importantly engaging in it and learning about the new words they are hearing, is quite likely delaying their literacy development.
We know that boys, in general, experience a language development delay when compared to girls.
“Boys speak their first words later than girls and their speech does not become 99% comprehensible until they are four years old a full year later than girls. A preschool girl has a large vocabulary, has better grammar, and forms longer sentences than a boy of the same age.” — Ruth Hanford Morhard, (2013).
While this doesn’t conscribe boys to a life of ‘second best’ when it comes to girls, (and our TSS Prep School academic results in literacy demonstrate how our boys defy this trend), it does mean that they take longer to acquire these skills and to catch up. By late secondary school there is little difference in the capacity of boys and girls to acquire and use language (more a difference in their inclination to use it), but this depends on good quality literacy teaching throughout their primary and middle secondary schooling.
I am passionate about boys and literacy acquisition and even with the best parenting and best teaching there will be some for whom this area is a challenge, and intervention programs will be necessary. Events like the Parent Literacy Information evening, however, are a great way for parents to be informed about language acquisition and what they can do to help give their son every advantage.
The Honours Program is an academically selective program for boys in Years 3-6 who demonstrate both a high academic level of achievement AND a strong work ethic and positive approach to their schooling. Usually there are 10 places available for boys who are entering into year 3 with places in year 4, 5 and 6 becoming available where vacancies occur.
The process for selection is clearly articulated on the school’s website and enrolment for the academic assessment dates are undertaken by parents. Class teachers WILL NOT be identifying suitable candidates, nor do the teachers play any role in the selection or nomination process as this is too open to accusation of preferential treatment. Teachers are of course open to discussion with parents as to their view as to a boys’ suitability, so if you are unsure have a chat to your son’s class teacher or his teacher from last year.
The closing date for applications is Friday 11 May and late applications cannot be considered.
All boys who sit the assessment are considered for Honours Scholarship.
Once again a thanks for parents who are being considerate of other families and boys and parking in the correct places and driving in a careful manner. We are currently negotiating with the Gold Coast City Council with regard to a footpath along our side of Lupus Street and permanent planting to enhance the streetscape. Can I make a special request of our Cribb families that cars should not be parked on any grass areas including those just in front of the Cribb Carpark.
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