Roedean School (SA) produces original thinkers
Roedean School in Parktown, Johannesburg is thoroughly committed to inspiring lives of significance, an ethos its two founding suffragettes Theresa Lawrence and Katherine Margaret Earle set out to realise in 1903. At a critical juncture in South Africa’s history, their social consciences and courageous temperaments, saw fit to establish a standard for girls’ education that this school, and others too, look at, with tremendous admiration.
“Inspired by the example of these highly accomplished women, successive Heads of Roedean have charted their course with a deep appreciation for the founding values of the school” notes Roedean’s executive head Murray Thomas. “An inscription on a stone mantelpiece in the Founder’s hall states: “Their Work Continueth”. Our passion is to identify new and relevant ways to provide all who love this school, with a range of plans that will sustain, and surpass, the templates of excellence that have inspired many generations of Roedean girls to lead lives of significance.”
The outstanding results and the number of distinctions per candidate confirms the strength of Roedean’s academic curriculum. The learners develop into independent, highly competent young women, who maintain a life-long love of learning as intelligent and critical thinkers. These traits were reflected in the 100% pass rate for 2017 for the 84 candidates, who received 309 distinctions at an average of 3.7 distinctions per candidate.
“The results were very strong, and speaks to the strengths of Roedean’s stimulating and rigorous curriculum, which has been set up to provide coherence, balance and breadth. Critical and creative thinking are integral to our girls’ learning, and we actively encourage our girls’ confidence in Mathematics and the Sciences, among other areas,” says Thomas. “There were also some girls in the Class of 2017 who peaked at the right moment: pacing a 12- or 13-year school journey is key. To play your best hand when it really matters takes maturity and tremendous self-discipline.”
The global shift in opportunities and aspirations for women and a growing awareness among educators about the significance of positive psychology, sees the school focus on social and emotional awareness as much as the cognitive growth of the learners. “From day one our teachers are trained to foster the joy of learning. We infuse an appetite for research and discovery, both for the girls and their teachers. Our learners flourish in a creative and care-rich environment. And we deliberately foster a school-wide growth mind-set, where resilience and grit are prioritized, and set-backs are never the final word. Our interactions within the school are relationally rich and will include a range of significant memories,” says Thomas.
For busy girls and families on the go, Roedean’s appeal as a weekly boarding school provides an excellent opportunity in Johannesburg. Blending modern eco-architectural systems with the original Sir Herbert Baker style, contemporary boarding facilities and expert adult supervision ensure that the school is vibrant 24 hours a day. Boarders are at the heart of the school and flourish as responsible and independent pupils.
Developing the full package is vital. Social responsibility programmes and cultural and sporting activities have many crossover benefits for the learners. Outstanding facilities and a strong coaching base enable girls of all ages to develop healthy exercise routines. Alongside this broad wellness philosophy, girls participate in specific areas of competitive excellence, aligned to Roedean’s high-performance Sports culture. This high performance commitment links with a broad cross section of co-curricular interests, as learners are taught to embrace the aesthetic side of life too. Girls are encouraged to partake in activities that are meaningful to them.
In a very deliberate way, the school also runs various projects and group-based learning opportunities to engage the girls in a level of problem-solving that’s bigger than the curriculum and exam outcomes. “In a fragmented world, we encourage our pupils to expand their inter-cultural awareness and to participate in a range of social responsibility initiatives. As a wonderfully diverse community we remain determined to be an influence for good,” adds Thomas.
Roedean continues to implement a wide range of self-evaluation and training courses for all staff as part of their cognitive and growth mind-set education programmes. Continuous professional development is critical, says Thomas. “We are a well-resourced school where, apart from the required IEB subject-specific workshops and collaborations, we encourage staff to lead their own learning. An annual cohort of staff participate in a Harvard Graduate School of Education thinking skills course. Many of our teachers are also involved in imparting skills to other schools, where they run workshops in their areas of expertise to extend their reach and impact.”
Being principled, effective, and using their strengths in a way that matters to them is high on the priority list for the school, as it helps learners to discover their areas of interest and passions.
“We have innovative and creative individuals who are hungry to do things at Roedean. When I look back over 115 years, the freshness of the Founder’s vision and their ideals for girls’ education in Africa remains our core strength. This environment is not for the faint-hearted,” notes Thomas. “Roedean creates strong women who are equipped to go into the world and follow their passions. We create as many opportunities as possible for the girls so that they flourish as adults.”