Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School is a part of the Thames Valley District School Board and is located in London, Ontario. The student population has remained stable at 1250 for several years, but there have been some changes in the demographics, with an increase in the number of at-risk Grade 9 students (30–35%) and a significant number of out-of-boundary admissions. Sir Frederick Banting is one of two high schools in London that offer a French Immersion program. While its demographics are challenging, this school exceeds board and provincial results on the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test.
In examining the factors that contribute to Banting’s success, one must begin with the sense of community and inclusiveness that is fostered in this school. As Principal Joan Cooper states, “We don’t just tolerate diversity; we celebrate it.” This spirit of belonging is typified in an annual event called “Wild Card.” Prior to the end of each school year, the Grade 8 graduates from all the feeder schools are invited to a sleepover at Banting. Parents drop their children off on Friday evening and pick them up on Saturday morning. In the interim, administration, staff and senior students orchestrate a series of activities that are designed to allay fears, have students interact, and replace apprehension with anticipation. When parents come to pick up their children, they watch a video that shows all students participating and enjoying the friendships they have formed over the weekend. This gentle transition to high school diminishes fears and provides an introduction to older students so that each child can have contacts to navigate this secondary school more easily. Parents are pleased that anxiety has lessened, their children are motivated and possible negatives such as bullying or hazing are minimized.
With an emphasis on serving individual needs, solid educational information is a valued commodity. It is essential to develop an accurate student profile so that no student needs are missed. Principal Joan Cooper recognizes the value of good data and how they can provide the information necessary to select appropriate targeted interventions, when possible. She cautions that with so much available data, care must be taken so that they can inform and transform teaching and learning experiences.“What’s behind the data is what’s important to us.” Accordingly, previous EQAO reports provide demographic information, achievement scores, item analysis data and student attitudinal information. The school also administers Degrees of Reading Power to all Grade 9 students to determine who is struggling and refers to report card results, teacher recommendations, Grade 9 English results, Individual Education Plans, transitional profiles from Grade 8 and Grade 6 EQAO data. These are only some of the information sources that allow for an appropriate academic picture that will drive the decision making process and improve the success rate on the OSSLT for all students.
The school response to the information gleaned from the accumulated data profile is a blend of supports for at-risk students, initiatives that address any gaps that might exist, and best practices that will enhance the quality of literacy instruction for all students. At Sir Frederick Banting, all teachers from all disciplines are involved. There is a member from each department on the Literacy Team, and all teachers can and do develop literacy skills within their respective disciplines. Skills such as formatting, test writing and reading graphic texts are part of this crosscurricular initiative. For those students who have been flagged and have Individual Education Plans, there is ongoing assistance from the resource teacher. Individual interviews with previously eligible students occur, with a review of results and discussion of specific next-step strategies. Mock tests or practice assignments are all scored and discussed with literacy coaches. There is assistance available for all students, in all subject areas, during lunch. A Student Success and Right Track Program, peer support,Think Literacy strategies embedded in daily teaching, a welcoming student success resource area and EQAO resource materials are all available.
“We don’t just tolerate diversity; we celebrate it.”
— Joan Cooper, Principal
Preparation for the OSSLT is not a task that is taken lightly at Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School. A detailed and specific plan is produced that informs and prepares all students. Highlights of this plan include a Grade 10 assembly (in February), which reviews the format and scoring of the OSSLT and is usually presented by a staff member who has scored the test. The presenter speaks specifically about writing strategies that can be used. Mock tests are administered and scored and then returned to students. Prior to the actual test, remedial practice and extra-help sessions are also provided.
Parents also receive complete information on the progress of their children, and they are given information regarding available EQAO resources and a complete list of all significant preparatory events prior to the test. This communication has gained parental support for interventions and remedial programs at the school.
Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School has achieved excellent results on the OSSLT due to a great deal of hard work. The school’s formula for success is not to view the OSSLT as an addendum but to include it in school planning throughout the year. This school believes strongly in providing an atmosphere that welcomes every single student who is registered and offering the supports and accommodations needed for each student to move forward. All teachers are on board, and there is a culture of acceptance and success here. This is a literacy-rich school that strives for success for all. It has demystified the OSSLT for students and parents and is constantly working to refine its programming. Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School has struck an excellent balance between culture and academics.
Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement, 2014 School Recipient