Our 'small school' Ethos...
Kooralbyn is a small, affordable, private school for Queensland boys and girls from Prep to Grade 12. Within its safe, friendly, village-like setting, it takes pride in the high expectations of behaviour, dress and personal outcomes it holds for every one of its students as well as the professional achievements of its staff.
Small school - Big hearts.
Small school - Big support.
Small school - Big outcomes.
Though it offers boarding for high school-aged children, most of its students are local day students who reside in the Scenic Rim and lower Logan shire regions of the Gold Coast hinterlands. In many ways, the school reflects the time-tested approach of old English schools who believe that by maintaining the highest standards of dress, behaviour, mutual respect and work ethic, its students will develop positive habits that in turn evoke self-belief and success on whatever pathways their individual strengths and passions lead them.
Our school’s motto is: Absol Fiducia – Absolute Self Belief.
Our student pledge is: As a Kooralbyn student I pledge, to believe in myself and strive to be the best that I can be, because anything is possible, when I’m the best that I can be.
Our school’s colours are maroon, grey and white which are worn with pride by every student past and present.
Translation for parents...?
Small school --- Big dreams
In short, the school believes that by doing something as simple as expecting all our students to act in a consistent, positive, respectful way (i.e. follow our school rules), little-by-little those small, uncomplicated positive actions eventually internalise into positive core beliefs and attitudes which in turn motivate our students to 'be the best that they can be'.
Huh? How is that supposed to work?
- 1. Why would a student or a teenager, want to follow a school’s rules in the first place? :: Because they want to stay here. If they don’t follow the rules, they’ll receive more and more demerits (negative points) and eventually be asked to leave the school. (The process is a lot more complex and supportive than that, but that’s the gist of it.)
If they really want to stay at our school, the students will follow our rules. If they don’t really want to stay at Kooralbyn, then we might not be the right school for them, because we ARE going to be asking them to work and try harder than other schools, and we might not have the motivational influence over them to achieve that.
As to WHY a student would want to stay at Kooralbyn? Well, that’s OUR job…to try to convince our students to want to stay here for the right reasons...for their benefit and future.
- 2. I want my children to be problem-solving, independent thinkers. How will following your school’s rules achieve that? :: Well following rules might not directly foster a child’s lateral thinking abilities, but independent problem-solving and creative thinking are learned skills that the school actively cultivates through its curriculum and mastery programs. A young person is unlikely to create anything ‘new’ until they fully understand and appreciate the ‘old’. Following our school rules provides a safe and equitable structure from within which, we can support every students’ journey of growth, development and discovery. It’s a game we play: "Be as happy and successful as you can without breaking any rules." If our students can successfully play that game here, they’ll be able to successfully play it in the outside world as well.
Small school --- Big dreams
Okay...so, how strict is Kooralbyn about its school rules?
Very. As inferred above, it’s part of our process that we need to maintain high standards in dress, behaviour and work ethic, otherwise there’s not the same sense of achievement or purpose. It’s in accepting our rules and following them, that a student BECOMES a Kooralbian. There are some core rules relating to behaviour, respect for others, safety (we’re a no-touching school which some find a little difficult to come to terms with) and though there’s obviously more leniency shown in junior grades...
- • ALWAYS have to wear their hats when they’re outside of the classroom, [yep – we just lost half of the potential high school students right there, probably.]
- • ALWAYS have to wear the correct uniform every day, including their full formal uniform (with the correct type of shoes, etc.,) as required.
- • ALWAYS have to keep their hair in a neat, conservative style (that shows both ears, both eyebrows and the back of their neck) and in a style that is conducive to properly wearing their school hat. Hair that touches the collar needs to be pinned back or (if longer) tied up (or back using a black or maroon ribbon).
- • ALWAYS have to keep their hair in its natural colour.
- • CAN NEVER wear ANY jewellery or markings other than (optionally) a single, simple stud in the lower lobe of each ear (for girls) and a normal wristwatch on their preferred wrist (boys and girls). That’s right… no other piercings, bracelets, bangles, rings, necklaces, tattoos, markings, etc. are permitted.
- • CAN NEVER wear any makeup of any kind. [Gasp…surely, you’re joking?]
- • ALWAYS have to hand in all personal phones, devices, electronics, headphones, etc., when arriving at school and collect them again when leaving school. (The school-issued laptop for high school students, is the only technology permitted on campus.) Parents and children should use the Student Counter to contact each other during school times.
- • CAN NEVER bring anything other than school-issued bags and equipment to school. (Though primary school students are permitted to bring any standard bag to carry their clothes and gear on days when they have swimming lessons scheduled and standard school lunch boxes are also permitted.)
- • ALWAYS have to stand when an adult enters their classroom.
- • ALWAYS have to address staff as sir or miss or ma’am and students address each other ONLY by their first names.
- • MUST NEVER disrupt a class or classroom by calling out or being disrespectful to anyone.
- • ALWAYS have to bring all equipment and resources to school as required each day.
- • ALWAYS have to bring all completed homework to class as required and be otherwise fully prepared for classes each day.
- • ALWAYS have to follow any legal instruction issued to them by a teacher or authorised staff member.
If you’re thinking that this would never work for your children…then maybe Kooralbyn’s not for you?
If you’re still reading though…
Small school --- Big dreams
WHY are the rules so strict? Wouldn’t the school be a lot more popular (attract and retain a lot more students) if its rules weren’t so restrictive or it weren't so strict about its rules?
- Well for a start, never has there been any suggestion that one of the school’s objectives is to be a lot more popular. We’re a small school by intent and design. Our model is simple: If we attract and retain good students who behave well and demonstrate their desire to learn, we will attract and retain good teachers whose priority is more about the teaching than about the money. This allows the school to keep its operational costs down which creates a kind of perfect storm or upward spiral…good students – good staff – good, affordable results...and the cycle continues.
- An important part of the school’s Ethos suggests that by design, its rules must be a challenge that require a real commitment from each student. Every rule has a purpose…either something to do with safety or equity, or improving outcomes, or to enhance the school’s and therefore the students’ reputation or to improve their future employability, etc…but even if there wasn’t an actual positive purpose to each rule, the premise is that there is actually something intrinsically beneficial in a young person learning to accept a well-intentioned authority and buying into that authority’s rules and structure. It helps create a sense of belonging, achievement, pride and self-worth which in turn promote a number of positive habits that stay with the student long after they’ve graduated.
- So according to the school’s ethos, the rules HAVE to be challenging. It’s simple psychology. If the rules are easy to follow, there’s no sense of achievement or rite of passage…no real accomplishment felt by those who follow them. Alternatively, a student who is prepared to commit to something difficult – something that demands a genuine commitment and effort – is far more likely to then follow other (perhaps more beneficial) rules like doing homework conscientiously and treating one another with respect.
- What evidence can we cite to suggest that implementing challenging school rules has any impact at all on a student’s learning or 'broader' outcomes?
The school rules are all based around obvious measurable things, like…
- Over the last fifteen years, there has been a direct correlation between those who achieve success within Kooralbyn’s Honours System (i.e. the students who work hard to follow the school’s rules) and those who perform well in relation to the academic, artistic, sporting, social-emotional and moral-ethical objectives of the school (i.e. the students who also appear to work hard and achieve success in other areas of endeavour.)
- Similarly, there is also a strong statistical correlation regarding students who perform poorly in rule-following also tending to perform poorly in other areas of endeavour. The only exception here is in relation to sporting outcomes where there appears to be only a slight correlation between sporting performance and how well a student follows the school rules.
- Anecdotally there have been many examples of students who ‘went off the rails’ so to speak and found as their dress, behaviour and work ethic declined, so too, did their various learning outcomes. Then as the student rebuilds those dress, behaviour and work ethic standards, their learning outcomes improve accordingly.
- It’s the same student management processes used by schools like Harrow and Eton in the UK for hundreds of years.
• dress standards (uniform, grooming and appearance…enhancing the reputation of the school),
• behaviour standards (respect for one another, not disrupting others in the classrooms, not acting dangerously, etc.)
• work ethic (doing homework, always contributing a best effort, etc.)