Congratulations to everyone involved in the 100th anniversary of the Dalton Plan at Ascham School!
The Dalton Plan is a system of educational reorganisation founded by Helen Parkhurst early in the 20th century. It was the result of many years of practical experience as Director of the Children’s University School in New York, today known as The Dalton School. It was there, where learning to live and learning to work became the most significant factors of a new way of a school living. Helen Parkhurst, together with many of her contemporaries, believed that the goal of education should be broad in scope. From this vision, the Dalton Plan was born.
The contemporary Dalton education is aimed at forming children culturally and morally, helping them to become independent and socially responsible citizens, who are experienced in, accustomed to, and prepared for life and work in an unknown future. This calls for the acquisition of knowledge and skills considered worthwhile and the development of various habits and virtues, particularly industry and thoroughness, open mindedness and independence for the common good. One can firmly state that Dalton Education is focused on efficiency, providing a learning experience both in social and individual dimension.
Nowadays, the popularity of the Dalton Plan is still growing worldwide. The universality and timelessness of Dalton influence is present today as it was more than one hundred years ago. Ascham School in Sydney is a Dalton School with a more than 130 years of tradition in education.
Your excellent management and team of teachers are continuously protecting the core values of the Dalton Plan and at the same time implementing the innovations in a modern Dalton education. The Dalton Plan at Ascham School is facilitating the effectiveness of freedom and sociality through liberation of the child and socialisation of the school. It is based on four principles: independence, responsibility, collaboration and reflection. Within those principles, there are three structural elements in the school: The Assignment, The Lesson and The Study.
But allow me to go back in my memory.
As the director of the Dalton School in Utrecht, I was nominated as the leader of the department of primary education within the city link with Brno in the Czech Republic. Together with my colleagues from Brno we created a plan with the intention of connecting the Dalton schools worldwide. We actually initiated the visits to the two most important and leading Dalton schools in order to investigate whether these schools considered an international connection relevant.
First of all, we visited The Dalton School in New York in November 1999. Later I discovered that we followed the footsteps of Miss Bailey in Australia, who visited Helen Parkhurst’s school in 1922, the year that she introduced the Dalton Plan ‘with the purpose of preparing girls for university and life beyond Ascham School’. In 2001 Mrs Rowena Danziger reacted positively to our request to visit Ascham, and together with four colleagues from Brno we stayed one week in the nice Swiss Chalet just near the entrance. You have to forgive me that the first thing that comes to my mind was the wonderful temperature that contrasted sharply with the cold that we have in the Netherlands in autumn. In addition, I still bear in mind the unforgettable smell of the jacaranda. This experience laid the positive foundation for the first acquaintance. Moreover, equally unforgettable were the study visits with so many teachers and girls during the lessons. For me, the most valuable experience was the warm pedagogical atmosphere, from Kindergarten groups as well as those in the final exam groups.
After the visit of Mrs Danziger in Spring 2002 to my school and other Dalton schools in Holland, she invited me to come back to Ascham for a longer time. The official and strong relation between Ascham and Dalton International was confirmed. Delegations of the management team of Ascham visited several times international and other Dalton conferences in Europe. These visits have made a special mutual contribution to the current design of Dalton education.
The Dalton education you provide categorises the learning content. Such organised learning becomes the girls’ own work; they can work independently, at their own pace on their own work. Moreover, the girls are familiar with their own goals and deadlines. Such constructed self-organisation stimulates independency and ownership. The Dalton Plan in Ascham School stimulates the intellectual partnership between girls and teachers. Certainly, at the base of all educational activities lies mutual trust and respect, which is also the basis of Dalton Education worldwide. A Dalton school is also about taking care of the students’ wellbeing. Consequently, students shape the attitude of openness, they stimulate their own growth by creating a healthy, strong Dalton community.
At Ascham the girls themselves express their appreciation of how the Dalton Plan is important for them in their social, professional and private life. The students are intrinsically motivated to achieve their own goals, be persistent, flexible and creative. The Dalton way of school life in Ascham teaches the girls how to become independent, self-aware, responsible and cooperative citizens of the 21st century; a continuously transforming reality.
Hopefully we can continue to develop and propagate this modern vision of a Dalton education as a common goal and to give Dalton education new impulses.
We are looking forward to seeing you again in Sydney in 2022.
President Dalton International