REVIEW OF Sacred Heart School of Halifax BY parent, Catherine Phinney
- Date of Review
February 28, 2023
- Child 1
Gr. 3 - 4 (Female, Current Day Student)
(5) Student Experience
Our child loves going to school now. She loves being truly engaged in the classroom, which is always interactive and creative. A small class means more opportunities to participate and have her voice heard. She feels welcomed into the classroom, and the emphasis on being kind, caring, and respectful means that learning how to get along in a group is done collaboratively and with great care and attention from the teachers. She loves all the additional aspects of being at Sacred Heart and is getting to participate in things that she might not have had the confidence to do otherwise, such as intramural sports, musical theatre, and science clubs. Getting outside three times a day and having access to nearby green spaces are also favorite things for her. We love that too!
(5) School Leadership
Communication from the school from the head of school to individual teachers is exceptional. We receive frequent updates about the direction of the school, day-to-day learning, various upcoming events, and very clear information on academics and student learning. Issues that arise are handled swiftly and very respectfully. It helps that teachers are present at recess and at other times when kids are learning how to engage with their peers. We are particularly encouraged by the visibility of the school leadership and teaching staff. The head of school and principal are present every morning and teachers connect with parents after school. It is very reassuring to know how engaged the school leadership and faculty are, and their professional and personal investment in the school community.
All of the teachers who have been part of our child’s learning have been wonderful, engaged, enthusiastic, and forthcoming. We have been extremely impressed with their communication and willingness to take the time to discuss our child’s needs. Any areas that might benefit from special attention have been communicated to us in a timely way, with suggestions made to support and enrich our child’s learning. Each child is recognized as an individual. Teachers meet their students where they are at, teaching to their particular strengths and aptitudes. The quality of instruction is exceptional, with teachers engaging students’ curiosity in relevant and creative ways. Our child comes home excited to share what she has learned, something that carries over into her curiosity about the world outside of school.
From what we have seen and experienced in elementary school, the academic program is comprehensive, engaging, and focused on academics. Language arts learning is enriched through spelling bees, reading of literature, and children engaging early in offering their opinion about what they are reading through book reports and supportive public speaking. Social Studies teaches children about the world outside of themselves, with history, geography, and social issues discussed in a way that makes them care about their community and the world. Physical education is varied, and no child is made to feel that they cannot engage in sports and physical activity. Math and science are taught in a way that makes children love applying what can sometimes be difficult or dry subjects in an engaging and meaningful way. Our daughter went from being ambivalent about math to loving it. Religion is taught in a historical context, so that children learn about its influence on our country's cultural foundations, along with a strong emphasis on the role of diversity and the multitude and richness of different faiths in Canada. The academic atmosphere and culture are one of inclusivity in all respects, and each child can learn and grow, irrespective of their individual strengths. We strongly believe this foundation will set our child up for success on any path that she chooses.
There are so many extracurricular activities available at the school that our child has had difficulty making choices! It has given her an opportunity to learn what she likes and enjoys, and where she may have particular aptitudes or strengths. Both fun and competition are components of many activities, with an emphasis on fun and skill development for younger children. For example, in intramural sports, they are offered the opportunity to learn and apply the skills and to engage in competitive play if they so choose. There are many after-school programs and activities available, that mesh nicely with after-school care and provide some variety and additional learning for children who need care after school. Children can engage in science, robotics, languages, running, skating, musical theatre, art, debating, and many other activities.
What really stands out for us is the diversity of the student body. Students come from all walks of life, and cultural and racial backgrounds, and this is enriched by the presence of international "homestay" students. The general atmosphere is one of caring, compassion, and community. Students appear to get along well, and we are particularly encouraged by the emphasis early on of older students supporting younger ones. Our daughter loves having a "book buddy" to whom she reads to. This culture of mentorship and nurturing is something we particularly love about the school. Disagreements among kids on the playground, and the usual social issues that arise as kids grow and negotiate boundaries and friendships, are supported by teachers, a school counsellor, and others. Kids are reminded frequently about the importance of caring, kindness, and empathy. There are also many examples of students raising important social issues and world events, and finding ways to contribute.
(5) School Life
Our child loves her school and says that daily. She is sometimes sad about a holiday or the weekend! She has truly found a community there, and we have seen an enormous change in her confidence and engagement in school - both academically and in extracurricular activities - since we moved her to Sacred Heart. She is now eager to go to school. We have observed many times that Sacred Heart has changed her life. She adores her teachers and has made many friends at the school. The pandemic and a challenging social environment at her last school really extinguished a flame that we had seen in her when she was a preschooler. That flame has returned since her move to Sacred Heart, and as she has said, "Sacred Heart gave me my smile back!"
Sacred Heart emphasizes partnership and collaboration between the school and home, and not simply where academics are concerned. Parents are encouraged to be involved in the school, whether through the very active Parents Guild or the many opportunities to volunteer and chaperone at the school - both for special activities or field trips, and extracurricular activities. There is no shortage of opportunities for parental involvement. Each elementary class has a class parent who ensures a continuous flow of information between the classroom and home. We were particularly grateful to have another parent to support us in becoming familiar with the school and to have our initial questions answered. In addition, the school hosts many events and opportunities to approach and converse with faculty and other parents. For many families, Sacred Heart is not simply a school, it is a community.
(5) School Location
Sacred Heart is at the heart of the community in Halifax. Children play outside the school on its fenced grounds, bringing youthful spirit and life to the community several times a day. Not only are children taught about the importance of community and public service, they frequently venture outside the school for various activities and learning opportunities. Walks in the neighborhood, including Public Gardens, are regularly held, and each year a Halloween parade delights seniors who live nearby, along with others in the community. Local history is taught in social studies and discussed in the classroom. Throughout the year there is an opportunity for contributions and donations to various local causes, teaching students about the importance of community involvement and social justice issues.