The Foundation Phase is a caring and nurturing environment for young boys aged 6-9. As we move from Grade R to Grade 1, we go from three classes to four classes with the addition of a Learning Support Class. This means that we welcome approximately 10 new boys into Grade 1 each year.
Grade 1 is the start of more formal learning at Highbury but our experienced teachers ensure that the learning experience is still full of fun. Formal schooling is a long journey and it is important not to create negative perceptions early on about school being boring, too hard or too easy. Boy-centric teaching and learning across the academic spectrum caters for energetic and curious young minds ready to take on the world, and is a fundamental part of Highbury’s ethos.
Highbury is a 1-1 iPad school and parents purchase their son’s iPad in the first term of Grade 1. Highbury was the first 1-1 iPad school in KZN when we launched the programme in 2013 and we know that the iPad needs to be an educational tool with all software controlled only by the school. After a rigorous two weeks of practice looking after a wooden-board, boys earn their ‘iPad license’ and are allowed to start bringing their iPad to school each day from the end of Term 1. Traditional learning is still done in traditional ways, with paper, pencils and workbooks. Our iPads enable us to extend beyond traditional learning into very creative, digital spaces that are highly engaging for boys.
Highbury teachers know boys and what they respond to, providing them with more activity, competition and creative ways of learning. “IQ is not fixed, you become smart,” says Mrs Belinda Willows, Head of Foundation Phase. “Our boys choose to do hard things to challenge themselves. They fail, then try again and do better.”
With beautiful, vast open spaces, Highbury is a massive playground. The boys have lots of movement breaks during the day – whether it’s on the jungle gym, trampoline, sensory path or going for that ‘secret swim’ to release energy. In Mrs Willows’ words: “Dirty feet are happy feet, and active learning through play does wonders”.
Our boys do hard things
For those finding learning easy, teachers are trained to challenge them. Boys who would benefit from extension in a certain area are not given more of the same – their work needs to be harder to encourage critical thinking and problem solving. Our iPads create further opportunities for extension, such as “flipped classroom” learning. This reversal of traditional learning enables extension to take place with ease within the classroom for those individuals or groups who would benefit from it. Boys who are out-of-the-box thinkers often grasp this opportunity to explore a classroom topic further, or present their own extension that they have been inspired to develop.
At the Media Centre, Robotics is built into lessons with the help of iPads, coding and the boys’ wonderful imaginations. “I am always surprised at what the boys come up with and put together,” says IT Integrator Mrs Lara Minietti. “I keep telling them that design is a process, and encourage them to question everything. How do we fix this? How can we make it better?” It is clear to see that the boys are engaged and happy during their lessons. And what’s more – they all come up with different solutions to the same problem.
Mrs Minietti explains, “We have found that boys respond very well to the hands-on practical aspects of LEGO, and often find creative and innovative solutions to problems”.
STEAM/DREAM/Robotics is a step-up programme that begins in Grade R with the use of Bee-Bots to teach simple coding. We progress through with simple machine sets that teach the basics of engineering principles of pulleys, levers, etc. From there we move onto the LEGO WeDo 2.0 robotics, then to the Spike robots and finally to the EV3 robot – which builds on the engineering principles and incorporates more coding on an advanced level.
A balanced school life
Along with outreach programs, Highbury also offers a vibrant cultural program. Our curriculum is broad and encourages each child’s intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical and creative growth. Specialist Foundation Phase Afrikaans, isiZulu, PE, Music, Drama and ICT teachers play an integral role in the daily programme. The academic day begins with a Chapel Service each morning. Parents are welcome to join their sons in the Chapel on a Thursday morning for Headmaster’s Chapel, a special way to connect with your son and his school life.