Proudly calling itself “the small school with big results”, Durban’s Eden College has achieved the most A symbols per learner in the country, with an average of 3.97 A symbols per learner. This average results from 135 subject As achieved by its 34 matriculating candidates. In the past four years, the school has consistently found itself in the top four schools in the country when measured by this metric, and 2019 marks its second year in this top spot.
There are a number of factors that combine to achieve this level of success, starting with the small class size that allows for individual attention for learners. For school Principal Karen Morrison, much of this success comes down to the excellent work ethic that staff and pupils share. A core group of teachers — including Morrison — have been at the institution since its days as a Crawford School pre-2007, and have led by example as new educators joined the team. “Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to employ some excellent teachers,” she says of these additions, and she’s been gratified to see new members of staff adopting their eagerness to learn and teach.
An entrance test is required for learners applying to the school, but Morrison doesn’t believe that this is a particularly significant factor in their success: while it establishes a basic standard, room remains for significant improvement for those entering the school. Teachers provide extra lessons in problem subjects or whenever additional assistance is requested by a learner, while also motivating learners by recognising excellence and effort at every level. “We celebrate successes at the end of every year,” says Morrison, explaining that certificates of achievement are awarded for every distinction, as well as for significant improvement.
Then there’s the matter of self-expression: for one thing, the school “doesn’t sweat the small stuff”, says Morrison. That means a dress code including a “flexiform” — skirts and shorts worn according to preference, jewellery allowed within limits, and a hair policy less rigid than most (boys needn’t wear theirs short, for one thing). Perhaps most importantly, students are encouraged to question and debate, as long as they show respect for their peers. The result, says Morrison, is that the students are able to feel that they have a voice, and are heard.