Australian Exchange Experience

As professional development opportunities go, a staff exchange with a school in Australia has to be an attractive proposition for anyone and Miss Kayleigh Anger, Head of Drama (Curriculum) jumped at the chance.

5 September 2019

Here Miss Anger shares her Australian exchange experience at Downe House’s partner school, the Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) in Melbourne.

“I was lucky enough to go on the Staff Exchange to MLC in Melbourne for three weeks during the summer holidays. During that time, I completed lesson observations across subjects, taught some lessons myself, attended a theatre trip, supported a House at their House Swimming competition (I may or may not have picked the House whose House colour was purple!), and was cooked for and served by students as part of their food and hospitality course, amongst many other things!

One of the aims of a Staff Exchange is to learn about different educational systems and share best practice so here are my top three observations from my time at MLC.

Firstly, the Australian drama exam requirements are more prescribed than in the UK and I noticed that this enabled the lower ability students to access the content more easily. I think our lower ability students could also benefit from a more prescribed framework although I believe it would be too restrictive and might curb the creative process for the higher ability students. This is most definitely something I would like to investigate further.

Secondly, I enjoyed the weekly ‘Theatre Sports’ lunchtime programme which was essentially 30 minutes of improvisation games, a little bit along the lines of Whose line is it anyway? The purpose of this, of course, was to improve improvisation skills, but more than that, it provided a place for girls who were less confident or didn’t have a very wide friendship group to go one lunchtime a week. It created a space where the students felt welcomed and included, whether they wanted to join in the games or just sit and watch whilst eating lunch. It was a joy to watch how much their confidence grew just within 30 minutes. The sessions are also run by Sixth Form girls, so this was also a great leadership opportunity. I am thinking that this is definitely something we can discuss further with our Drama Scholars.

Lastly, at MLC the Drama students have more lessons per week and more time per lesson, but class sizes are also much larger than at Downe House. I found it almost impossible to ensure that I gave each student individual attention and an opportunity to share their work and so there had to be compromises made to my usual practice. I was in a conundrum – do I give each student an opportunity to perform and not complete the usual in-depth analysis and evaluation through peer feedback that promotes progress, or do I complete that in-depth peer feedback and not give everyone an opportunity to perform? The Head of Dramatic Arts agreed that this was a dilemma that her staff face every day and I cannot give them enough credit for managing their classes so well and reminded me how lucky I am to be able to give such individualised attention to my own students to ensure maximum progress. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of my Staff Exchange and would thoroughly recommend my Australian exchange experience to all of my colleagues.”

Now in its second year, the Staff Exchange forms an integral part of the Global Initiatives managed by the Higher Education and Global Initiatives (HEGI) department at Downe House. With 16 partner schools across six continents, the HEGI department organises exchange trips for Fifth Form girls and staff exchanges each year as well as welcoming groups of girls from the partner schools to Downe House.

Find out more about the Global Schools Exchange Programme

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