A MODEL EDUCATION
“We’re a small Catholic school built on strong family values,” says Denise Jarrett, Principal of Anfield International Kindergarten and Nursery in Hong Kong, “so it is amazing to see how we have become a model of innovation in early-years education, attracting attention from educationalists around the world.”
Part of Anfield’s innovative practice has been the development of teaching strategies throughout the kindergarten, becoming progressively more structured as children get older. A vital element is critical monitoring to ensure that Anfield stays true to its motto “Educating Hearts and Minds”, ensuring all children having a strong sense of well-being and a joy of learning. “Our method of teaching phonics is rarely seen in Asian kindergartens,” says Jarrett. “The outcomes speak for themselves: four year olds are excited to attend daily phonics with friends who are at a similar level in learning. By the end of K2 (around age five), 94 per cent are able to read in English with comprehension.”
Schools in the Far East have an excellent reputation for mathematics, but this can come at a cost. “Education in this part of the world tends to rely on learning facts,” says Jarrett who is currently researching for a doctorate in early-years pedagogy, “and can lack reflection and analysis.” Anfield believes that the best elements of both the Chinese and progressive Western models have desirable qualities, turning children into leaders of tomorrow. Anfield’s broad, exciting curriculum teaches children thinking, reasoning and problem-solving and encourages them to apply their knowledge and skills in diverse situations.
blending east with west
A rigorous Professional Development (PD) programme is a crucial element in developing innovative practice. Anfield staff come from across the world, celebrating the international status of the school. Ensuring that each member of the team interprets the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum Framework in a similar way, fully understanding the value of implementing a play-based curriculum, is a mammoth training undertaking.
“It’s why we developed such a robust Professional Development Programme,” says Jarrett. “The result is an incredibly tight staff who work collaboratively, communicating with each other, constantly pushing boundaries of best practice as research practitioners.”
A festival of learning
At the end of each year, pupils and parents gather for the Curriculum Festival. “Every wall in the school is adorned with the creations of children in celebration of a particular theme,” says Jarrett. “This year it was science. The entire campus became a showcase of the wonderful things the children had experienced. Pulleys were put in doorways for three and four year olds to effortlessly lift their dads from the floor, while bicycles were rigged to generate electricity and illuminate lights. Parachutes for toys were designed and tested. Children took on the role of teacher, explaining the science behind the magic to their families. Members of staff are so proud of what has been achieved
that they invite family members and friends to see!”
Anfield’s reputation for excellence extends beyond Hong Kong. Educationalists from Japan, South Korea, Australia and Mainland China have recently travelled to Anfield to see. Staff have worked hard to create the Anfield oasis, a place where children want to be. “Parents constantly tell me that their child cries on Saturday morning because there is no school!” says Jarrett. In a school like this, staff, children and parents are all winners.