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Every child has the opportunity to succeed at Springfield’s Mastery Schools Australia

Mastery Schools Australia utilises a revolutionary pedagogy that allows disengaged Middle School students with learning difficulties or academic stress to get back on track, with the goal of getting them to re-enter mainstream school.

It’s no secret that we all have different learning styles, and while one method of teaching may work for some students, the same style might disengage others entirely.

Mastery Schools Australia is a not-for-profit school that provides an alternative style of teaching for middle school students (grades four to 10) that are disengaged or at risk of disengaging from mainstream schooling.

Using explicit and direct instruction pedagogy, students are able to focus on academic success through mastery learning of literacy and numeracy. This approach means that students attend longer school days to accommodate for daily two-hour literacy and numeracy blocks.

After seeing the successes students were having at the Varsity Lakes campus, founders Toni Hatten-Roberts and Michael Roberts wanted to open a second campus to be able to help more students struggling in mainstream schooling. They approached their colleague and award-winning teacher, Sharyn Angel, and asked her to be the principal of the next location on one condition – that she chose where to open the second campus. For her, the choice was obvious – Springfield.

“I am really passionate about Springfield, I’ve worked at another mainstream high school here in Springfield which is fantastic, and when I was given the opportunity to open a Mastery Schools Australia campus, we chose Springfield for a reason – it's such a beautiful community that cares about education, I mean, our building is located in the World Knowledge Centre in Education City,” Sharyn said.

“There’s the Greater Springfield coalition which is all of the schools in Springfield who work together to be able to make sure all of the needs are met of students in Springfield, so I wanted to be part of that. I’ve already seen the great benefits from that – as we were opening, other mainstream schools that are in that learning coalition helped us out with some desks and chairs when our order was delayed and have been really generous with the sharing of resources and ideas. They have been really interested in working with us and our referral situation to make sure we know a lot about the kids that are coming to us.”

Sharyn is deeply passionate about education and has clocked over 20 years of experience. After winning the 2017 Commonwealth Bank teaching fellowship in 2017, she used her prize money to travel both nationally and internationally to look at different education systems to learn how the systems and processes here in Queensland could improve to help children who are falling behind.

“No matter what we’re doing in mainstream schools, our systems, processes and staffing models are not set up to support kids with learning difficulties in the ways that we’re able to support them here at Mastery Schools Australia,” Sharyn said.

Opening their doors earlier this year, the Mastery Schools Australia campus has welcomed 100 students, with many more wanting to join in 2023.

The enrolment process differs from mainstream schooling, and requires students to undergo placement testing to establish what level of learning they’re at before they commence schooling.

“We are very different and I think it’s very exciting how different we are,” Sharyn said. “We do placement testing on every single student that comes into the school, so if they’re a grade nine student, they don’t automatically just get taught at a grade nine level – they’re taught with whatever groups their placement tests tell us they should be starting at. Once we know their starting point, we use pedagogy called direct instruction which is underpinned by the science of learning which is proven by research to catch students up.”

“Some students may be here until grade 10, some will transition back to mainstream schooling at certain junctures, and some will only be with us for six months before whatever concerns they had previously have been resolved.”

With a very high teacher to studio ratio – one teacher and four to five assistant teachers per class of student – children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia are able to experience a more tailored style of teaching.

While the school has been operational for less than a year, Sharyn is pleased with how students are responding to the unique pedagogy on offer at Mastery Schools Australia.

“It’s absolutely joyful to be able to work with kids and see their confidence grow with their learning and hear them talk about their growth in their learning and hear from their parents about the transformation they’re having at home and outside of this school. It’s a privilege to be principal of this school,” Sharyn said.

Mastery Schools Australia also employs allied health professionals such as speech pathologists, psychologists and support workers to work with students and produce even more successful outcomes.

To learn more about Mastery Schools Australia or enquire about enrolment, visit www.msa.qld.edu.au