Belonging leads to success
Shire Christian School has seen outstanding HSC results in recent years and, while ranking as the top performing non-selective school in the Sutherland Shire in 2019, Principal Brett Hartley says it is the caring community that continues to attract many new families.
"Our school is a warm, relational Christian community where we desire for every student to feel they belong," Mr Hartley said.
"When students feel this way they should thrive, not just survive at school.
"A deep-seated sense of belonging within a school community is an excellent foundation for students to focus on their studies and consistently improve their academic outcomes."
The importance of belonging continues to be demonstrated in educational research.
A 2016 review conducted by the University of Melbourne reported that a sense of school belonging was associated with improved academic performance and well-being, and that teacher-student relationships were one of the best indicators.
Psychologist Jair Graham says that he has seen this connection demonstrated at Shire Christian School.
"When a young person can see that their teachers care about them and hold high and positive expectations about what they can achieve, it creates an environment where they can succeed to their potential," Mr Graham said. Mr Graham gave an example of a student he worked with recently who struggled at school because he didn't have a good opinion of himself.
"I saw a radical transformation in that young man, and I think it was the relationships he had here that made the difference," Mr Graham said.
"The people who believed in him, who cared for and invested in him at a time when he didn't believe in himself.
"Over time his view of himself changed, as did his view of the future. He left here feeling confident and hopeful that, despite whatever may come, he could achieve his goals and live a meaningful, happy and fulfilling life.
"It was truly amazing to witness how radically his life could change based on relationships, care and investment.
"That is just one among many times I have seen our teachers go above and beyond because we believe that each young person is made in the image of God, unique and with intrinsic value. I believe this drives our teachers to go that little bit further, to reach out and connect with our students".
The independent, co-educational school continues to invest in helping students and parents cultivate a positive framework for growth and future learning, with new programs designed to develop resilience being incorporated from Prep through to Year 12.