Some questions and answers

Is cedar house a good option for my child if he has a history of learning difficulties?

We are warm, safe and non-judgmental environment. However, we offer no particular support to students with learning barriers. Some students with such a history flourish here; other struggle enormously as they enter the more Senior Grades. Some find the academic demands too onerous.

 

My daughter is happy at school but seems to have very little homework. This makes me feel uncomfortable and I do not know what to make of it.

Staff at Cedar House support the view and the research that argues that unnecessarily intense schooling environments create unhappy, unmotivated and neurotic young people. We do not sweat the small stuff and focus on homework only when it is perceived by our educator to add some substantial value to a young person’s education. There is not a great deal of homework in the junior Grades. From 10 onwards, when we start preparing students for external exams, this changes substantially and homework demands become substantial.

There is not a “no homework” policy at the School; there is a view that it is not necessary or educationally sound to load people with work at home just for the sake of providing homework when living fully and joyfully and exploring as many interests as possible should be such a focus of being young. Learners are encouraged to continue their own studies at home where they and their family feel it could develop them in their current and future lives but no pressure is placed on them to do this.

There is no evidence to suggest that homework in the early years of high school has any effect on school leaving results.

Younger students who would like extra stretch work or further reading to do at home usually note this with their teachers who then work with this request.

 

Why does cedar house have a senior stage programme?

We believe that there is value in multi-aging Grades 8 and 9 students, to involve students, over the course of a 2 year programme, in consolidation (going over work) and in stretch (doing new, more challenging work) and have found that preparation for Grade 10 is stronger because of this. We are also finding that our Grade 9 external benchmarking tests (IEB and International) results are getting stronger and attribute this to our Senior Stage approach. It also helps us to be more true to being a community of learners and teachers as opposed to factory-orientated division of students into strict age compartments.

It allows us to give students the space to choose what subjects they would like to study, in addition to their Core Subjects, and breaks choice subjects down into semesterised 6-month courses. Children do fewer subjects than at conventional Schools and they do these subjects in more depth. Staff are also involved in the design of leaning material which makes for an extremely positive experience and a deeper one for our students.

 

I feel uncomfortable about our senior stage students not writing exams. Does it not create a sense of academic lightweightness?

The Senior Stage assessments do not look or feel like traditional exams but they are a rigorous assessment of a student’s capacity to problem solve, to decode various questions and to think in a broad, analytical way. They are more valuable than exams that mostly test what has been learnt. They are assessing what children can DO in the context of various scenarios and how they can THINK when faced with a particular problem or scenario.

This capacity is then combined with traditional exams in Grades 10-12 which prepare young people for what they have to encounter in this FET phase of the schooling programme.

 

Does cedar house’s first name policy encourage rudeness in children?

Respect is such a cornerstone of our culture and our discourse. We are a first name School because we respect our students and take our relationships with them seriously. Introducing this approach has only strengthened the authenticity of our engagement with our students. It supports our intention to create a real and comfortable learning environment.

 

Should our students be learning typing?

Students learn and type in completely different ways (like we all do). When we have tried to expose students to a one-size-fits-all typing approach, it has not worked for many students. We also find that students can type, that they learn it sub consciously via their extensive involvement in the new technologies. For families who want their children to try being a part of a particular typing programme, please e-mail johann.roos@cedarhouse.co.za, our CAT teacher, who could facilitate this.

 

In English, my son says he isn’t supposed to be reading the set works at home as they go through it together in lessons. Would it not help if he ‘got ahead’?

In Grade 10 – 12, literature requirements are extensive and there is an absolute expectation that students read ahead. In AP English, for example, the afternoon study sessions are preceded by the student having been expected to have pre-read the text. It is strongly encouraged (and would certainly help), in Grades 4 – 9, that students pre-read the set texts so that they are more strongly positioned to manage the text study that happens at School. In fact, it is a requirement that some reading is managed independently at home. As in other subjects, there are a range of English assignments/tasks that students are expected to work on at home. Please contact our Head of English debbie.rumboll@cedarhouse.co.za should you have further questions in this regard.

 

After leaving school, how do cedar house students fare?

We pride ourselves on sending out into the world, confident, articulate, actualized and happy young people. Those who choose to go to University do extremely well. Cedar House currently has ex-students in Medical, Engineering, Humanities, Occupational Therapy, Science and Social Science faculties. A number of our students have appeared on a number of Universities’ Deans lists. Many of our students have and do attend the University of the Western Cape. An exceptionally high proportion of our students complete their tertiary studies within the stipulated minimum time.

FAQ

What values should I feel comfortable with should my child be offered a place at Cedar House?

Cedar House is deeply committed to journeying with a child, to educating the wholeness of a child and to assisting a young person to feel safe, confident and comfortable in the context of what we believe the 21st century will increasingly require.

Our academic programme is strong and our staffing decisions, around this programme, are rigorous in an attempt to ensure alignment around this vision. Academically, a Cedar House student will be stretched and so a degree of academic aspiration is essential. This is a mature environment that suits a self-reliant and independent learner best; families should take this into account when considering our School.

The Independent Examinations Board

We write Independent Examinations Board (IEB) examinations because we feel obligated to offer our students the highest possible level of academic experience as possible. We also need to be true to our students’ tertiary ambitions. An IEB education offers young people a stronger picture of what will be experienced on a tertiary level; at the University of Cape Town, for example, 50% of students with a state matric complete a 3 year degree in 3 years; with IEB students, the figure is 98%. IEB requirements are more demanding but we live in a demanding world and we believe that IEB results are an accurate predictor of tertiary capacity and tertiary success.

For highly capable students, we offer strong after School courses in Advanced Programme Mathematics and Advanced Programme English.

IEB assessment instruments are based on 3 higher order areas of thinking:

  1. CREATING (designing, generating new ideas or new ways of doing things, producing)
  2. EVALUATING (judging, justifying a decision, hypothesizing, finding, reconstructing)
  3. ANALYSING (comparing, breaking information into parts to explore relationships)

Students are taught to engage on an extended abstract level with a high degree of originality. In Grade 12, all students work for example, on a subject-based research report that explores a “big question”. Being a part of the IEB allows us to bring depth to the process of learning. There is more of a focus on open-ended and “own voice” examination questions; these also require substance and academic substantiation. Closed questions (more of a feature of examinations in the state system where sheer numbers necessitate the creation of assessment instruments that are easier to mark) require a limited number of correct responses or a single answer. IEB exams privilege divergent thinking that allows a student to use her own unique ideas to reach a conclusion or formulate an individual response.

A ‘Good’ Education

A good education provides young people with a discourse and a framework with which to understand and speak back to the world. 30% of current UCT students felt School was of no use to them; we are obliged to address this. As Professor Crain Soudien (University of Cape Town) said, children’s brains are furnaces and Schools need to start respecting this. Society has problems that need to be solved and this imperative will not succeed without good Schools.

Achieving distinctions in Grade 12 is one thing; more importantly, we believe, is for Schools to help children to think more strongly and more more broadly. The South African education system is simply not rising to the occasion (the latest Global Competitiveness Report released by the World Economic Forum ranked South Africa last out of 148 countries in Science and Maths education); Cedar House is challenging this and the IEB cohort of South African learners is well above this ranking. Soudien also speaks about how he regularly encounters students at UCT who achieved many As in Matric but do not know anything; Cedar House students know and have thought about a great deal. The responsibility of a good School is to stimulate and catalyse the beauty of thought. We are committed to switching on each child’s intrinsic ability. We are committed to raising the standard of young peoples’ conversations by engaging with the fullness of their individual capacities.

School = an opportunity to help a child come to a full and healthy sense of her or his whole self and to assist in the cultivation of a largeness of spirit.

South Africa, in the 21st Century (our students’ time and space…)

One can think about living in South Africa as being a gift that bequeaths a particular kind of possibility OR as a disaster. We focus on the former. As South Africans, we are being called upon to be human beings in ways that few sites in the world call on people to be human beings. This is a gift not an affliction. An old fashioned, simply understandable approach to education just does not match up to the complexity of our time and space. All of this, of course, is not an exact science and will, at times, appear to be messy.

Education is more than its utilitarian value. There can be tension between striving for A’s and instilling a largeness of spirit/reflecting on being a citizen. A school system that is only exams-focused, for example, is an indictment of true learning. We try to assess the concept and broad understanding as opposed to drill, practice and mastering a recipe. In this way we are trying to be true to 21st century cognitive demands which require young people to be able to critically and consciously explore. We assess in a range of ways beyond conventional exams (some of our subjects, for example, have a 25% oral component).

Schools must produce people who are educable, who have a relationship with learning, unlearning and relearning. The broader canvas of what we are doing must be linked to the time and space in which young people find themselves and so nation-building, social change and the further consolidation of a democratic order must be at the base of our work. We are all called upon to create a more just, more equitable and more humane future. Advancing the humanity of others is a key human imperative. In a profoundly unequal society, we have obligations.

Parents

Cedar House will feel different to what traditional systems offer and it will feel different to the schooling our parents experienced; education, we believe, should not remain static but should rather be evolving all the time.

University of London research (published in the New Statesman, May 2014) argues that there are 3 predictors of achievement:

  • Conscientiousness
  • A hungry mind
  • Intelligence

We agree and are committed to growing these 3 capacities.

Is Cedar House a good option for my child if he has a history of learning difficulties?

We are a warm, safe and non-judgemental environment. However, we offer no particular support to students with learning barriers. Some students with such a history flourish here; other struggle enormously as they enter the more Senior Grades. Some find the academic demands too onerous.

My daughter is happy at school but seems to have very little homework. this makes me feel uncomfortable and I do not know what to make of it.

Staff at Cedar House support the view and the research that argues that unnecessarily intense schooling environments create unhappy, unmotivated and neurotic young people. We do not sweat the small stuff and focus on homework only when it is perceived by our educators to add some substantial value to a young person’s education. There is not a great deal of homework in the junior Grades. From Grade 10 onwards, when we start preparing students for external exams, this changes substantially and homework demands become substantial. There is not a “no homework” policy at the School; there is a view that it is not necessary or educationally sound to load people with work at home just for the sake of providing homework when living fully and joyfully and exploring as many interests as possible should be such a focus of being young. Learners are encouraged to continue their own studies at home where they and their family feel it could develop them in their current and future lives but no pressure is placed on them to do this.

There is no evidence to suggest that homework in the early years of high school has any effect on school leaving results.

Younger students who would like extra stretch work or further reading to do at home usually note this with their teachers who then work with this request.

Why does Cedar House have a Senior Stage programme?

We believe that there is value in multi-aging Grades 8 and 9 students, to involve students, over the course of a 2 year programme, in consolidation (going over work) and in stretch (doing new, more challenging work) and have found that preparation for Grade 10 is stronger because of this. We are also finding that our Grade 9 external benchmarking tests (IEB and International) results are getting stronger and attribute this to our Senior Stage approach. It also helps us to be more true to being a community of learners and teachers as opposed to a factory-orientated division of students into strict age compartments.

It allows us to give students the space to choose what subjects they would like to study, in addition to their Core Subjects, and breaks choice subjects down into semesterised 6-month courses. Children do fewer subjects than at conventional Schools and they do these subjects in more depth. Staff are also involved in the design of learning material which makes for an extremely positive educational experience and a deeper one for our students.

I feel uncomfortable about our Senior Stage students not writing exams. Does it not create a sense of academic lightweightness?

The Senior Stage assessments do not look or feel like traditional exams but they are a rigorous assessment of a student’s capacity to problem solve, to decode various questions and to think in a broad, analytical way. They are more valuable than exams that mostly test what has been learnt. They are assessing what children can DO in the context of various scenarios and how they can THINK when faced with a particular problem or scenario. This capacity is then combined with traditional exams in  Grades 10-12 which prepare young people for what they have to encounter in this FET phase of the schooling programme.

What is SAL and what is the purpose of the Senior Stage SAL programme?

We focus on the process of learning at this stage not on the simplicity of a product. Senior Stage assessments are involving our students in responding to questions, working through problems and applying a range of 21st century skills. They are rigorous exercises that test deep learning and equip students with the skills to manage future IEB examinations. “Learning for” something is not necessarily as powerful as experiencing a complex scenario and grappling with its nuances. Students at this level need to experience project-based learning that is centered on an experience of learning across more than one, silo subject, in an integrated way. It is only in Schools where different bodies of knowledge are presented as “separate” and we need to expose our students to the truth of the world where different bodies of knowledge are merged and where they overlap. The SAL course encourages students to problem solve across different subject areas, hereby equipping them for adult and tertiary realities.

Does Cedar House first name policy encourage rudeness in children?

Respect is such a cornerstone of our culture and our discourse. We are a first name School because we respect our students and take our relationships with them seriously. Introducing this approach has only strengthened the authenticity of our engagement with our students. It supports our intention to create a real and comfortable learning environment.

Should our students be learning typing?

Students learn and type in completely different ways (like we all do). When we have tried to expose students to a one-size-fits-all typing approach, it has not worked for many students. We also find that students can type, that they learn it sub consciously via their extensive involvement in the new technologies. For families who want their children to try being a part of a particular typing programme, please e-mail johann.roos@cedarhouse.co.za, our CAT teacher, who could facilitate this.

In English, my son says he is not supposed to be reading the setworks at home as they go through it together in lessons. Would it not help if he got ahead?

In Grades 10-12, literature requirements are extensive and there is an absolute expectation that students read ahead. In AP English, for example, the afternoon study sessions are preceded by the student having been expected to have pre-read the text. It is strongly encouraged (and would certainly help), in Grades 4-9, that students pre-read the set texts so that they are more strongly positioned to manage the text study that happens at School. In fact, it is a requirement that some reading is managed independently at home. As in other subjects, there are a range of Englsih assignments/tasks that students are expected to work on at home. Please contact our Head of English (Debbie.rumboll@cedarhouse.co.za) should you have further questions in this regard.

After leaving school, how do Cedar House students fare?

We pride ourselves on sending out into the world, confident, articulate, actualized and happy young people. Those who choose to go to University do extremely well. Cedar House currently has ex-students in Medical, Engineering, Humanities, Occupational Therapy, Science and Social Science faculties. A number of our students have appeared on a number of Universities’ Deans lists. Many of our students have and do attend the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University and the University of the Western Cape. An exceptionally high proportion of our students complete their tertiary studies within the stipulated minimum time.