SCHOOL HISTORY – OUR HISTORY
Our aim is to make Arkana College an advanced educational institute for Muslim Children.
Arkana College is a registered and certified independent, non-government, primary school which was first established in 1960, and currently run completely by a Muslim board of directors.
Br Mohammed Helal
Dr Mohamad Assem
Br Hossam El Rayes
Br Ali Elgohary
Br Adel Salman
Dr Fariha Dib
Sr Tasnim Saeid
History 1986 – 1992
Arkana College is a small independent primary school, located on Stoney Creek Road, Kingsgrove, and is central to and easily accessible by families from its catchment area. Arkana College Limited is a not for-profit organisation limited by guarantee. The College is fully independent from any other organisation.
Arkana College is an independent primary school offering a unique educational experience. Its distinctiveness is due, in part, to its open enrolment policy. While the College is founded on a strong Islamic philosophy, it warmly welcomes children from other cultures and religions. The diverse range of experiences afforded by this policy leads the children to a better understanding and a greater acceptance of others.
Members of the Islamic Egyptian Community in Sydney met in 1985 with the intention to start the first registered Islamic School in New South Wales. The school premises (land and buildings) was purchased in 1986. The community members had an involvement in programs for welfare, for the aged, for women’s issues and for the youth. The members also ran weekend schools that included programs for Islamic Studies and Arabic language.
In 1994 the premises and the land became under the ownership of Arkana College Limited. The founders of the school from the Islamic Egyptian Community thought that this would help Arkana College to grow and progress in its objectives in providing excellent Islamic education. This arrangement also made it easier to start capital projects for building improvements and modernisation.
History 1993 – 1999
The school authorities then put forward a two-stage purchase and refurbishment plan.
Stage 1 would see the refurbishment of the existing premises.
Stage 2 added a much needed first floor extension.
The overall project, once completed, provided an adequate standard of facilities for teaching and learning at the school.
The school continued to grow, so the school authorities were busy raising funds for the proposed capital development. At the same time the school authority was actively seeking to have our funding support from the Commonwealth Government increased. In 1994, the school management went before the governing body with a case to support the school’s increased funding level, to one that was more in line with this school’s needs. This review was unsuccessful.
- In 1995 the school applied for and received Commonwealth funding to allow for the development of stage 1 and stage 2 to go ahead. The amount of government funding was $330,000.
- In February 1996, the school’s authority made the decision to purchase an adjoining property in which the school was given first offer for the sum of $250,000. The purchase of this property allowed for the relocation of some of the students, whilst the refurbishment and re-building took place.
- In November 1997, the school community saw the commencement of the building project and this also marked the school’s new ownership.
- Then in June 1998, the official opening of the newly refurbished buildings and new 1st storey building was held. The total amount of the project was in excess of $700,000, and the school contribution was in excess of 370,000.
- In 1999, the governing body once again put forward a submission for increased funding level. This was a long process, however in December 1999; the School was informed by the Minister of Education – Dr Kemp (at the time), of the school’s success at being placed in a higher funding category. This increased funding level allowed the school to consolidate its capital and look to the future.
History 2000 – Present
This school continued to prosper, as many Muslim parents sought places for their children in an Islamic environment. To keep up with the demand, the school’s governing body (in 1999), purchased a portable classroom to enable the school to continue to cater for community needs. In February 2000, a new purpose-built portable building was leased and set up on the grounds of the school.
By 2008, the school had purchased two additional properties adjoining the original site, and now had well-resourced classrooms for K-6, a larger library, computer room, staff room and administration block. In March 2008, after 21 years of loyal service (18 years as Principal), Mrs Madenia Abdurahman retired as school Principal and was replaced by Mr Osman Karolia.
Under the leadership of Mr Osman Karolia, the school introduced regular zone sport and in-school sporting programs, interfaith activities with Jewish and Catholic schools and the introduction of interactive whiteboards in all classrooms. With the assistance of the Government’s BER program, the school was able to build four very spacious classrooms and a multi-purpose hall. The addition meant that all portables were removed, and the playground area was expanded.
In 2011, Mr Sam Halbouni was appointed the new Principal. The school, with the assistance of the Commonwealth Government’s BGA project, erected a new administration wing, library, support rooms and computer laboratory. The addition meant that the administrative staff were in well-equipped offices and the teachers in a new staffroom. The students also benefited greatly from the support rooms, the spacious library and Information Technology lab. iPads followed and were incorporated into the teaching and learning programs and laptops were used during Technology sessions. Furthermore, the playground was expanded with further soft fill to ensure students had a greater, yet safer area to move and mingle in. A basketball court was also constructed, and the children become the Harlem Globetrotters and began happily dribbling, passing and laying up, on that court.
In 2013, the entire staff of Arkana College were trained in Spalding to equip them with further skills and practices most crucial to the development of reading. Our teaching programs then reflected the essential instructional components of effective reading programs. Mathletics, an online mathematical program had also been incorporated into teaching and learning programs to consolidate learning in Mathematics.
On conclusion of 2013, the school’s strategic plan was reviewed and several priorities had been pinpointed to ensure further success at Arkana College. In 2014, the Arkana staff participated in a review and began participating in a four-year school improvement plan. The focus area for 2014 and 2015 was reading and comprehension. We revamped the curriculum based on data gathered from diagnostic, formative and summative assessments. Subsequently, we introduced PreLit, MiniLit, MultiLit and MacqLit to assist the students experiencing difficulties attaining reading fluency, we introduced an extension program for the more capable students, an additional phonetically based guided reading program and a new comprehension based program that focused on six varying comprehension strategies. Our focus shifted in 2016 to writing and we saw the curriculum adjusted further with the ‘Seven Steps to Writing’ as a scaffold, K-6. The school and its students continued to make leaps and bounds academically and our children continued to benefit from our innovative practices and commitment to quality education.
In 2016, the school announced that Scope IT Education was coming to the school. Considering students are spending increasing amounts of time on electronic devices, they are missing the underlying principles of how they work. Our focus shifted to digital technology and through learning computational thinking, design and reasoning, we wanted to show the students how to be creators of technology! Lessons in coding, 3D printing, electronics, robotics and website development were planned for and implemented. In 2016, we also introduced interschool debating with competitions and gala days scheduled with Islamic schools and other independent schools. Our students represented our school proudly and they were debating with precision and efficiency.
In 2016, and again in 2017, we purchased adjoining properties and our aim was to continue to acquire property until the school’s overall premises increased in size and subsequently, our student population. Our aim was to increase in size and number and continually serve our community well into the future.
In 2018, we created an additional class on K/1 so that our class sizes on Kindergarten and Year 1 did not exceed 20 students. We focused heavily on these younger years in terms of support and class size to ensure the students achieve the minimum reading, writing and arithmetic standards.
Recently, we have rewritten our school’s strategic plan for 2018-2020, alongside our parents, staff and Board of directors, with a more defined vision, mission and values, which will be illustrated throughout the school. We have also set five strategic priorities covering
1. Academic Excellence;
2. Islamic Principles;
3. Best In-Class Educators;
4. Community Engagement and
5. Future Growth.
Each priority has a vast number of goals that are set for achievement by the students, staff and board of Arkana College inshallah.
In 2019-2020, our school decided to expand further and utilise one of the adjoining properties. The two-storey building next door housed our K Minus 1 classroom on the lower level and a new library, extension area and kitchen for the children to cook in, on the upper level.
In 2020, we began a shift towards Islamic pedagogy and positive psychology. Teachers were all trained in positive psychology through face to face and online professional development sessions through a registered practitioner in the field. They were also introduced to Islamic pedagogy, through the CITE team at the University of South Australia. We also enrolled four teachers into the Graduate Certificate in Islamic pedagogy, a two year part time commitment, and the rollout began. Our aim is to ensure Islamic pedagogy is part of the fabric of the school in terms of well-being, discipline, award and award ceremonies, curriculum integration, etc. Alhumdillah, we are making gains and will form part of our school’s five year plan in this area.
Unfortunately, COVID in 2020 also spread globally and teaching and learning changed forever. Children gained the necessary skills to access remote teaching via Microsoft Teams and Zoom. The teachers uploaded videos of themselves, demonstrations, worksheets and assessments. The children embraced the technology and the use of paper and pens ceased and our school’s photocopying decreased dramatically. The school definitely became greener!
In 2021, the school continued its drive with Islamic pedagogy and began rewriting its policies and procedures to reflect Islamic Pedagogical principles. The staff Code of Conduct and the Discipline and Anti-Bullying policies were brand new documents. There was also a focus on aesthetics so that our school becomes distinctly an Islamic school that reflects our values and supports our mission and vision.
Unfortunately, in 2022, Sam Halbouni decided to resign and set his sight on greener pastures as Principal of a K-12 school and we saw the return of Osman Karolia to the top job at Arkana College.