Catholic Education South Australia
18 Aug 2023
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Small School With Big Potential

Located in the heart of Clare, St Joseph’s School is leading the way in excellence in education, with students consistently getting strong NAPLAN results above the national average

St Joseph’s School in Clare is the small school that’s making a big impact.

The Reception to Year 9 co-educational school – with less than 350 students – consistently delivers exceptional NAPLAN results, not only above the state average but above other schools with similar cohorts as well.

In 2020, St Joseph’s recorded averages well above all other Australian students in every test, with an outstanding 99.7 per cent of tests meeting national benchmarks.

“We have a culture where it’s cool to be successful,” principal Peter Shearer says. “One of our core values is continuous improvement. We invest time and energy into seeing each child as an individual and supporting them to achieve their potential.”

That potential stretches outside the classroom, with a wellbeing program and targeted intervention part of the daily curriculum.

“We use data to inform change and the data is really strong that if children aren’t well in their own being they don’t achieve as well,” Mr Shearer says.

“We have students doing their best in a whole range of avenues. One student has just been selected in the state under-12 girls’ football team, while recently another young lady was the opening batsperson for the state under-12 cricket team, and yet another made the state under-16 softball team and represented Australia in New Zealand. Last year we had six students who represented the state in either football, squash, softball and girls’ cricket teams.

“It’s about our students developing their talents to be the best version of themselves, which in turn makes them feel great about themselves which results in better learning outcomes.”

And staff investment in students’ outcomes extends beyond the classroom. Recent interest in mountain biking has led to co-ordinated rides after school and at the weekends so the young cycling enthusiasts can hone and develop their skills.

“We entered a Year 5-6 team in mixed mountain biking for the first time and they came second, while our boys in the Year 8-9 division came third,” Mr Shearer says.

The school has also invested in six human powered vehicles so that students in Years 7 to 9 can learn the art of Pedal Prix.

“The children go out to the local aerodrome during their lunch in school time and then they gather after school on Wednesday night to go for a ride. It’s meeting the students’ passions and assisting them.”

Extra-curricular accomplishments are also celebrated. “Three days a week we have line-up where children sing happy birthday to each other,” Mr Shearer says.

“We proudly publicise any achievements over the weekend so it’s acknowledging successes and acknowledging students working hard, whether that is being involved with scouts, whether it be dance, literacy or poetry competitions.

“We try to run a small school ethos where children are empowered to do the best they can in anything.”


Pictured: St Joseph’s School Year 8 students with teacher Damien Coulthard and Principal Peter Shearer with students.
WORDS: Lynn Cameron.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Russell Millard.
Featured in the SA Catholic Schools Magazine, published in The Advertiser, August 5 2023.

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