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Subjects and programs

Wellers Hill State School’s bilingual program was built on the school’s existing high quality LOTE program and a student exchange program that had been operating through Education Queensland International.
The primary intent of the bilingual program is not to teach Japanese but to improve children’s learning ability through the development of additional neural pathways which research indicates can occur in children who commence the learning of a second language or music by eight years of age. However, the Principal is extremely proud to use the strong links with Japan already developed within the school, as the vehicle for improving student outcomes.  The research the school accessed also indicated second language learning increases the child’s competence in their first language and may also contribute to a reduction in the development of dementia in later life.
It is expected children who enrol in the bilingual program in Year 1 will be conversationally fluent in Japanese by Year 3 and technically fluent by the end of Year 5.
The Principal was the initial driving force behind the program but parents showed great interest when the proposal to start a bilingual program was announced with the result that three Year 1 bilingual classes were formed in 2014 and two monolingual classes. In 2015 there was sufficient parental interest to form another three of the five Year 1 classes as Japanese Bilingual. In 2016 an additional four Year 1 Japanese Bilingual classes will be added to the school.
To date there has been a limited selection process to ensure sufficient numbers to have the classes full and viable. Factors considered based on a child’s Prep year have included attendance patterns, behaviour, reading progress and the extent to which a child is self directed because of the need to move between rooms and change teachers during the day.
The recruitment of quality teachers who have native speaking ability in Japanese has not so far presented a major challenge, with seeking expressions of interest through DET and the Modern Language Teachers’ Association of Queensland being a successful strategy. 
The school has utilised a range of available resources to establish the program without detriment to other classes.
Some modification to the curriculum has been necessary to ensure a heavy emphasis is given to literacy development in the English-speaking classrooms. Where possible, subjects such as Geography, History, Science and Art are timetabled for afternoons.
Research the school accessed before commencing the bilingual program indicated children may not progress as quickly in school in their native language in the first two to three years of the programme, however data from PM Running Records has shown the Year 1 and Year 2 cohorts at this time are performing at levels comparable to the children in the monolingual classrooms. There is every indication the children’s performance on NAPLAN tests in Year 3 will show satisfactory Literacy and Numeracy progress.
A Deputy Principal is responsible for overseeing the bilingual program. The Deputy Principal monitors planning and assessment processes and meets with the teachers once a week for professional conversations about topics such as the moderation of student achievement. As the program is in its infancy and several of the teachers have limited teaching experience, processes for benchmarking student achievement and deciding if the performance of individual students is high enough will take time to become embedded within the school. A new Head of Curriculum (HOC) position is to be created in the future and it is expected this person will assume an important role in providing guidance to the teachers in organising and adapting the curriculum for the bilingual classes.
The school’s improvement agenda applies to the whole school, such that Wellers Hill’s priorities for improvement relate to all classes, whether they are bilingual or monolingual. Similarly, the pedagogical framework “The Art and Science of Teaching” (ASOT) applies to teachers in the bilingual program as well as the monolingual program and will be refocused on by the administration team in 2016.
Currently the bilingual classes have no greater use of ICT than the other Year 1 and Year 2 classes. However, the school plans to introduce an iPad class in Year 4 in 2016, so the learnings from this initiative will inform how iPads might be used to enhance the bilingual program as the first group of bilingual children enter Year 4 in 2017.
All teaching staff members are offered professional development regularly. The Principal indicated teachers in the bilingual program are able to access worthwhile professional development from the Victorian Language Teachers’ Association as well. The school also provides an allocation of $500 per annum in each teacher’s Personalised Individual Learning Account (PILA) for access to individual professional development opportunities that align with school priorities. To date, no staff members teaching the bilingual program have accessed their available funding.
The school has built strategic alliance with Access Asia, the Asian Education Foundation, the Japanese Consulate and the Queensland Japan Chamber of Commerce. The establishment of formal links with Griffith University to benefit the bilingual program is a priority.