At the heart of Korowal's teaching is the belief that the quality of education depends fundamentally on the quality of the human relationships between students, teachers and parents. Numbers in each class are limited so that supportive relationships can develop amongst students, encouraging a sense of belonging. Primary teachers stay with their class groups over a number of years enabling them to understand each child's needs and talents. Each high school class group has two class teachers, one male and one female, who stay with the group from years 7 - 10. Students in years 11 and 12 form small support groups which meet weekly with a teacher as mentor.
In this system, parents are able to develop relationships with their child's teacher, encouraging ease of consultation and enabling them to work together for the child.
Small classes enable Korowal to be a small school. This means teachers know all of the students and allows students to know each other across a wide age range. This helps to develop communication and confidence in younger children, and a sense of care and responsibility in the older ones. The playground therefore is a positive and enabling environment. Parents can also know one another and feel that they are part of a community.
Strong relationships benefit children academically and socially. A sense of belonging and community fosters confident and considerate individuals who are tolerant of difference, secure in their own individuality, and appreciated for the contribution they make to the group. This sense of self worth also helps to give students purpose in their work in the classroom.
Success in adult life depends not only on knowledge but also on being adaptable and creative, being able to think originally and contribute to long-term collaborative projects. Korowal aims to cultivate initiative, confidence and certainty in its students.
The school day starts in the primary school with morning circle and in the high school with morning meeting where students and teachers take time to greet one another, share news and raise issues relevant to the class group. An important function of morning circle and morning meeting is to ground the new day in a positive awareness of others in the group, their individuality and the supportive function of the class group. For young children particularly, rhythm and routine develop a feeling of security and purpose. A strong sense of mutual support also provides a bulwark against peer group pressure and bullying.
For several years, Year 11 and 12 students at Korowal have worked together according to the Pathways structure. Year 8 - 10 students have also worked together in mixed groups in their elective subjects. The enhancement of learning, both academic and social, that results from working with older students has been obvious. In 2001, we decided to move to a multiple age class structure for the primary school.
In multiple age classes, children's horizons are expanded by the broader range of work being done in the classroom and they are able to review and consolidate work with which they are not as confident. Emphasis is placed on extending each child in a lateral way. A strong social network develops, allowing students the support and excitement of making friends of differing ages. Artificial barriers are broken down, both in learning and in human relationships.