REVIEW OF Brookes Westshore BY parent, Hannah Ashwood-Smith
- Date of Review
August 05, 2022
Gr. 8 - 10
(5) Student Experience
Our son loves his school experience at Brookes. He has enjoyed the culturally diverse community and made many new friends from all over the world which has broadened his global views and understanding of different perspectives. Additionally, although he has found the workload and course content to be academically challenging, he has thrived particularly in French, Science, Math and Social studies. We, as parents, have been impressed with the depth and breadth of his knowledge base in all of his subjects. He spent hours engrossed in his grade 10 personal wildlife photography project (his choice of topic), where he applied salient principles to capture some outstanding nature shots, then less enthusiastically drafting his 1600-word report of the key lessons learned! In addition to the academic rigour of his school work, Tristan has thrived with volleyball and basketball-enjoying the team component of these competitive sports. Brookes has an excellent group of dedicated teachers who truly care and spend time with their pupils which has fostered his self-confidence.
(5) School Leadership
The school leadership is very effective in leading an outstanding academic program. From my limited personal involvement, it would appear that the rare issues of bullying or other disciplinary issues are handled immediately and fairly although I have only heard second hand through our children. I assume the communication with those families involved is appropriate. Mental health is always considered and there are a number of excellent outdoor programs for the kids, like three nights surfing in Tofino, ski trips and nature walks. In particular, they responded extremely well during the pandemic and the school population did not miss any work as they had organized home programs and computers for all-it was outstanding!
The teaching is outstanding-all of the teachers are experts in their fields. They truly care about the students and put a lot of work into making the classes creative, exciting and instructional. For example, last year the math and English teacher prepared a joint class with a Dungeons and Dragons focus which really captured the kid's imagination and solidified their creative writing and probability skills. This term the English and social studies teachers are working together on joint essays. The French teacher has taken them on field trips and combined First nations artwork and history into a French poster presentation. The science teacher plans exciting experiments which my son enjoys. I teach a third-year university course and I am often astounded at the high level required with the science projects (write-up of the experiments, use of statistics and graphs, etc.). Most of the teachers are highly qualified-some even with PhDs. Their feedback is respectful but honest and helpful. There is no sense that they falsely inflate students' grades but will work with students who are struggling to provide support where needed.
I consider the academics at Brookes to be among the best I have experienced as an educator. As described above, there are many strengths including the highly diverse group of committed, experienced teachers who all specialize in their chosen fields. The math, science, English, social studies and French programs are outstanding. The culture is definitely one where hard work and studying pay off. I have no doubt that the strong academic focus at Brookes prepares kids for university and beyond. One limit is the lack of a music program. I think that they strive for a good balance between hard work and after-school activities, sports, and field trips. I do sometimes worry that the kids have often more homework and exams than they can prepare for. I know the administration looks into the teachers' plans to try to space out the requirements but sometimes the work seems to pile up, becoming a stressor that our son has had to learn how to cope with. Good life lessons so not really a major problem!
Yes, there are numerous fun, creative and sporty after-school extracurricular activities including paddle boarding, golf, tennis, sewing, pottery, creative writing, and model united nations to name but a few. They also have two or three excellent volleyball and basketball teams who have excelled beyond expectations bursting into the scene and often winning against bigger more established private schools. This is largely due to the dedication of several talented teachers and their commitment to running extra after-school training sessions- sometimes four times a week! Students are able to pursue so many different activities that if they explore many of these each term they will develop skills and become well-rounded students.
The student body has a nice atmosphere with a healthy mix/ratio of local and international students. It is a smaller school so there is a sense that the staff know and care for all of their pupils. The kids know each other fairly well. At times there is a sense that the local and international students do not mix as much as some parents would like. However, our son has numerous friends from Mexico, China, Japan and he loves to take part in some of the extracurricular activities run mainly for the boarder pupils. Coming from Africa to re-settle in Canada, my husband and I are very pleased with our son's diverse new social group and his ability to discuss and understand different cultures. The cuisine is also ethnic and meal times in the airy spacious cafeteria help bring these kids together over hot meals.
(4.5) School Life
Our son generally loves coming to Brookes and has thrived in his academic ability, his critical thinking, and his self-esteem. The only thing I would say is that sometimes the life/school balance is a bit uneven and the workload is intense. We have enjoyed the outstanding academic rigor of Brookes and thus far our son is thriving. I don't think it would benefit certain students who have a lower academic ability or who become too anxious with exams and the increased workload. Having said that, there are opportunities for tutoring and the staff are more than willing to help by providing extra support and extensions at times when the workload is intense. I would advocate for a music program which would really be an asset as there are many musical pupils who play the piano in the cafeteria and who are missing this opportunity. All in all though, if parents desire a very academic program with highly qualified and caring teachers, exciting extracurricular activities, and a diverse cultural student group, Brookes is definitely a school worth investing in!
The school has run a series of successful coffee mornings exploring the baccalaureate programs and helping parents understand course selection and specific projects. They would benefit from a parent steering group or more parental involvement in general decision-making. They run an excellent weekly newsletter which helps the families to feel a sense of community and helps keeps parents engaged and involved. I have appreciated the extra things Brookes does for the wider community, like the wonderful model united nations, the work outside to improve the environment, the hampers for homeless teenagers, and the numerous supports they have provided over the years to seniors homes and to help provide food and donations for those marginalized communities. The nice community feel to the school is great but more parent involvement would be a welcome and enriching facet to Brookes.
(3.5) School Location
The school grounds and the school itself are fabulous. However, the surrounding area is less good. It is situated on a busy main road, with the use of the local recreation centre, Juan de Fuca, about a seven-minute walk away. The school makes good use of fields, the galloping goose right behind it, the recreation centre, and the tennis courts all located nearby. Students mostly stay on the school grounds and they do run numerous wonderful weekend field trips for adventures!
The admissions process was easy and very informative. The two admissions officers who toured us around were incredible- approachable, kind, and very interested in our children and their specific needs and unique skills. The school tour was wonderful. The actual paperwork was streamlined and easy to navigate. I did not find this process stressful and all questions were answered honestly and in a timely fashion. There was a true sense that the school staff was really trying to make sure that the fit was good for our kids. They were encouraged to ask questions and see different aspects of the classrooms which made them want to switch schools without any prompting from us! There is also a fabulous video on the website which helps families see all that Brookes has to offer!