The Junior School: Mrs Hugo and Dr Warner
Little Saints, the nursery section of the Junior School, undergoes fundamental changes, both in the approach to teaching and in the learning spaces. “Teaching” gives way to experiential or empirical learning. The new approach is based on the Reggio Emilia philosophy.
HoD of Little Saints, Tessa Browne, explains that this approach emphasises “transparency, the belief in children’s abilities and ideas, the importance of relationships and the respect for children that is inherent in providing a place of beauty for them.” The Junior School headmistress, Mrs Des Hugo, believes the approach to be so important that she sets in motion an annual conference which is attended by teachers from far and wide. The minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, is present one year. The current HoD of Little Saints is Celia Diana.
For the Little Saints, glass-partitioned folding doors replace solid walls to make the spaces light, airy and inter-connected, and a mirror table added to the art room extends the potential for the children to explore and experiment with light.
The PTA fields much of the cost of upgrading the Little Saints playground.
In the Junior School, teachers are provided with laptops and interactive white boards, and there are transformation workshops to strengthen the school community and deepen its commitment to non-racialism.
The Grade 7 classrooms and corridor are extended and the Junior Primary playground is upgraded. The amphitheatre is built, described by Mrs Hugo as “a place under the sky to meet, to play, to dream, to perform and to grow”.
Pupils from the Junior School are involved in a variety of outreach projects dear to the hearts of children, mainly involving pets, old people and crèches.
Dr Sarah Warner becomes head of the Junior School in 2017. She is an English specialist, with a PhD on the poet, Ruth Miller, who taught English at St Mary’s in the 1960s. She comes from St Katharine’s School where she has been an English teacher and deputy headmistress, and where she herself was educated.