Tamborine Mountain State School: Building Characters, Skills and Providing Excellence in Education
TMSS| best education magazine| education magazine

Tamborine Mountain State School (TMSS) is a fully inclusive and diverse school, dedicated to the holistic personalised education of each student and underpinned by multiple layers of community support and local business partnerships.

The primary school uses innovative and creative teaching pedagogies to engage students with the curriculum by linking the school’s teachings to the real-world context. TMSS embraces Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM)-based learning opportunities such as robotics, coding, specialist science, math, dance, drama, music and multimedia.

TMSS has developed a unilateral partnership named Tamborine Mountain Learning Academy (TMLA) with Tamborine Mountain State High School (TMSHS), Griffith University and Swinburne University. TMLA has established a Young Scholars’ Program (YSP), which allows students to learn at their ability level, rather than chronological age. Director General of Education Jim Watterston said this program is a “game changer” for TMSS students and demonstrates innovative thinking from the school’s leadership team.

TMSS has been recognised as a leader in forging strong partnerships with local indigenous communities and elders. TMSS is proudly embedding ATSI Indigenous Perspectives across all learning areas in real world contexts, with specialist indigenous community instructors and elders in the school’s Bush Tucker Garden and Yarning Circle outdoor teaching areas.

TMSS’s Vision statement is ‘Creating Sustainable Communities of Learners for the Future’. This is demonstrated through focusing on STEAM subjects, fostering critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, innovative curriculum delivery that creates depth of understanding, prioritising well-being and emotional health, compacting the curriculum to enrich, extend and accelerate learning in meaningful, real-life contexts, implementing Feuerstein cognitive strategies, using online learning platforms: Online Learning at TMSS – anytime – anywhere – any pace.

TMSS’s Motto is – ‘Strive for the Highest’. The school exemplifies this in every action and interaction it makes. TMSS promotes a values-based education, which can strengthen students’ self-esteem, optimism and commitment to personal fulfilment and help students exercise ethical judgement and social responsibility. There is a true sense of community, which permeates through the school. TMSS’s Parents and Citizens’ Association is a supportive and inclusive organisation that supports our students through positive leadership and behaviour, supplying additional classroom resources, assisting with social activities and fostering strong community relationships.

Curriculum Shaping @ TMSS

Teachers of TMSS design and shape a fully integrated guaranteed and viable curriculum to engage, challenge and motivate students. The school’s innovative curriculum shaping journey commenced in 2016. TMSS’s Principal, Jason Smith and his curriculum leaders used the Art and Science of Teaching Framework as a guide to deconstruct the Australian Curriculum and contextualise tasks to their students’ needs and interests. This approach resulted in a flexible scope and sequence in all learning areas that cohorts use to plan engaging student-centred units of work. Cohorts receive one full day of planning each school term. Teachers and education leaders from neighbouring schools and early childhood providers are invited to participate in the school’s planning and moderation cycle. Curriculum leaders regularly conference with staff to monitor pace, student engagement, learning intentions, differentiation strategies implementations and maintaining high expectations.

The school’s creative and extensive planning cycle follows a process to allow for teacher and student voice to drive the outcome:

  • Reflect – Review – Update
  • High yield questioning (How could this be improved? Which part engaged students the most? How do you know? Did you learn enough about what your students know, understand and can do to make a judgement against the Achievement Standards? Was the teaching and learning powerful?)
  • Feedback from students about their learning.
  • Unpacking the curriculum intent, demands and priorities of the next learning cycle.
  • Backward mapping the teaching sequence from planned assessment.
  • Sharing of effective practices and resourcing.

Holistic Development

Flexible seating was introduced to TMSS in 2018 to provide students with opportunities to learn in a student-centred environment – desks, chairs, bean bags, standing workstations, outdoor learning spaces and expanded environment and sustainability gardens.

Students enjoy a wide range of extra-curricular programs to support their academic performance as well as to strengthen and develop their interests, talents and aspirations. From attending excursions and camps to consolidate learning, to undertaking online courses or participating in after school programs, the school offers its students a range of exciting programs to enhance learning. TMSS was the first and only state primary school in Queensland to have partnership with Swinburne University and roll out their suite of emotional intelligence techniques and strategies in classrooms across the school.

Dynamic Leadership

Principal Jason Smith is an award-winning principal who has been the leader of TMSS since 2012. His objective is to promote the academic, cultural, physical and social development of each child. He encourages and teaches students to become self-motivated learners who can work independently, co-operatively and happily to gain the skills they need to make choices about their lives, now, and in the future. He places a significant emphasis on every student’s creativity and achievement. He ambitiously leads Tamborine Mountain State School to embrace a whole school focus on achievement and success in academic, sporting, arts and cultural programs. He is extremely passionate about celebrating the successes of his young people and staff.

Personal and professional values are extremely important to Mr Smith. Tamborine Mountain State School staff acknowledge that education is as much about building character as it is about equipping students with specific skills to become a well-rounded citizen. For some students their skill or talent is immediately apparent, for others it takes a little time to be revealed. Smith enjoys working with staff and parents to nurture and showcase their talents. He has an unrelenting focus on student improvement through a student-centred learning approach. He is a dynamic principal who promotes a value-based education to strengthen students’ self-esteem, optimism and commitment to personal fulfilment.

Smith spends a great deal of time around the school grounds and in the classroom asking students what they are learning and why they are learning it. He also asks them about their personal interests and achievements outside of school. He regularly asks staff how he can better assist them in their pursuit of delivering a world-class education to his students.

Mr Smith is extremely proud of his staff. To acknowledge the amazing work they do, he lobbied the Queensland Department of Education for $200,00 AUD to convert an old grounds’ maintenance shed into a new staff lounge, known as “The Basement”. He worked with the contractors to ensure the project was built to his specific needs – a space where staff could go and unwind during the day, as well as before and after school. He made a commitment that the room would be a sanctuary for his staff. He then equipped the room with air conditioners, a massage chair, soft furnishings, microwaves, dishwasher, fridge, freezer, stereo, smart television, a café style technology hub, reading book-swap nook, board games, vending machine, hot drink vending café, lounge chairs and couches.

Apart from the Herd

At Tamborine Mountain State School, the emphasis is on every student’s creativity and achievement. Students get many opportunities to participate in an extensive range of diverse extra-curricular activities. It has a whole school focus on achievement and success in academic, sporting, arts and cultural programs, which can only be achieved by students attending school every day, and the school and broader communities working with it to ensure that the school is continually ‘Striving for the Highest’!

TMSS is proud to be a member of the Happy School program, which focuses on mindfulness and staff wellbeing. Mr Smith explicates that staff morale and well-being have a huge impact on student achievement, relationships within the school and the successful implementation of change.

Looking Ahead

Tamborine Mountain State School is currently expanding its suite of technology devices to become change agents for a new innovative and creative way of teaching and learning through online platforms to complement and enhance its current educational practices. TMSS is also leading change with Indigenous education and language by being awarded a $15 000 to work with the Queensland State Library and author Gregg Dreise to produce a series of online indigenous resources for TMSS and other schools across Australia to implement into their curriculum.

Awards, Accolades, Achievements

  • TMSS Principal, Jason Smith named in the “The 10 Most Inspiring Educational Leaders in Australia” in The Education Review (International Publication)
  • Australian Narragunnawali Awards – Finalist 2019
  • Australian Education Awards – Innovation in Curriculum Design – Finalist 2019
  • Australian Education Awards – Primary School of the Year (Government) – Finalist 2019
  • Australian Education Awards – Primary Principal of the Year (Government) – Finalist 2019
  • Principal, Jason Smith – Australian Educator “Hot List” – 2018 and 2020
  • Australian Education Awards – Primary School of the Year (Government) – Winner 2018
  • Qld Reconciliation Awards – state finalist 2018
  • South East Region NAIDOC Awards for Inclusivity – Winner 2018
  • Silkstone Eisteddfod –Band ensemble – Concert Band – Winner 2018
  • Gold Coast Eisteddfod – Chorale – Winner 2018
  • South East Region STEM Challenge – Winner 2018
  • State Showcase Award – Regional winners 2014, 2016
  • HP National technology – winner $10 000
  • ABC Radio ‘Grab a Goanna’ – winner $40 000 mini-grand piano

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