Making connections: the MYP difference at St Andrew’s Cathedral School

St Andrew’s Cathedral

The middle years of high school are important ones for students, laying the foundations for future academic work habits and entrenching character traits that will shape their lives for years to come. To ensure students are challenged at every stage of learning, with valuable skills ‘bedded down’ from Year 7 onwards, St Andrew’s Cathedral School teaches the NSW Curriculum through the lens of the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme (MYP). The MYP is specifically designed for students aged 11 to 16 and caters to their particular learning needs and styles. It represents best practice, an inclusive and internationally recognised framework that has been designed to suit the different needs of every learner, including gifted and talented and those needing support.

Building skills and character

“The MYP systematically builds skills and character, setting students up for success whether they end up choosing the HSC or the IB Diploma,” said Kate Layhe, Director of Learning (Middle School) and MYP Coordinator at St Andrew’s Cathedral School. Layhe started her career teaching the Baccalauréat at a French high school in Douai, near Lille, and has taught the IB at two other schools. She introduced the MYP to St Andrew’s Cathedral School seven years ago and appreciates the programme’s wholistic approach. “The MYP is a process not a product,” she said. “It does not provide content but oversees the way subjects are taught and assessed. In line with character development, it’s not about the final product, it’s about a journey of learning, a journey of developing.”

Learning how to learn

The MYP teaches higher-order thinking, helping students to be more reflective about the process of learning: to ‘learn how to learn’, and to become more skilful in their thinking. “Learning is a skill in itself,” Layhe said. “The MYP moves a student from novice to practitioner by systematically and explicitly developing both the skills and character necessary to become a better learner … and a better person. When specific skills become an explicit focus for teaching and learning, students can begin to take responsibility for their own development.”


The MYP teaches and measures research, communication, collaboration and organisational skills as well as critical and creative thinking. These apply across curriculum requirements and provide a common language for teachers and students to use when reflecting and building on the process of learning. “We don’t presume that students know how to organise their time wisely and effectively,” said Layhe. “We deliberately and explicitly teach organisational skills from the first day of Year 7. Students are given scaffolds for effective class learning and so they can plan for assessments. WAGOLLS (“what a good one looks like”) are given so that students have a concrete understanding of best practice; they know what success can look like. In the pastoral care program in Year 7 our tutors work with the students to help them plan their homework, and they also explicitly teach them how to communicate effectively with one another and, importantly, how to listen to each other. This emphasis on building skills is infused across both the academic and pastoral realms.”

Character development

All of this ties in with the MYP’s focus on the development of character, such as the need to be reflective, open-minded, or principled; strengths that are written into both academic units of work and pastoral care programs. “Character Strengths are at the centre of the MYP,” said Layhe. “Our aim is that in everything we do our students develop in character, such as becoming more knowledgeable, inquiring, principled, reflective, caring, open-minded, or balanced. We do not presume that they will develop these strengths without explicit planning through teaching and learning. So being principled means realising the importance of acknowledging and referencing other’s ideas. That means we teach APA referencing from Year 7. Being more reflective means that after an assessment our students are required not just to read feedback, but to act on it and make plans to change for the future.”


Service as action is another foundational element. “The MYP seeks to develop caring members of the community who act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and their environment,” said Layhe. Service as action is required at school and beyond, with students engaging with their local community. The programme provides opportunities for students to explore, design, implement, and reflect on their efforts to positively impact their local community. Community learning is also taught in the tutorial program at the School. “Not only do our students take part in service both in the school and beyond, but they also have a service log where they submit proof of what they’ve done, with the opportunity to reflect on the value of the service they did,” said Layhe. “The aim of having organised service in the younger years is that as our students age it becomes part of their character: they see it is their responsibility to help others. We want this attitude towards service to become lifelong.”


Interdisciplinary and real-world connections

Finally, there is an emphasis on learning by doing and experiencing, building more contextualised, more real-world connections. For instance, a science lesson based on the concept of ‘Change’ may look at filtration in order to make real-world connections with key concepts, with students creating water filters to develop an understanding of what is needed to have safe drinking water in developing countries, and how water can change from being dangerous to safe to drink. Year 8 Geography students recently investigated the natural and human processes affecting water resources, exploring how water resources can be sustainably managed by conducting fieldwork at Manly Dam and Bantry Bay.

The culmination and celebration of skills that have been systematically built through the MYP is the Personal Project, a significant, creative and rewarding project that gives students an opportunity to research an area of passion and use the research skills, character strengths, knowledge across subjects, understanding of global contexts and interdisciplinary skills developed since Year 7. Last year, Rama Chadda Harmer, who is now in Year 11 received a perfect score for his Personal Project. He learnt a style of artistic mapmaking to create personalised placemats of his far-flung extended family, a literal “personality map” that allowed him to celebrate them at a time where he had been distanced from many of them due to the extended lockdowns of COVID-19. Not only did he learn significant skills, from the technique of artistic mapmaking, to research techniques, and report writing, he also grew in character. “Setbacks were common,” he said. “The process helped me to develop a lot of patience and forced me to become more flexible with my plans and goals.”

Looking back on the MYP as a whole, Rama Chadda Harmer can see how the programme prepared him for studies in the senior years. “The MYP helped me develop key transferable skills such as time management and research protocol,” he said. “The MYP also helped me develop my skills as an independent learner. This has helped me immensely in Senior College … to be able to study effectively and maintain focus independently.”

It’s deeply fulfilling for Kate Layhe to see the progress students make as they move through the MYP into the senior years. “Our distinct approach to Middle School pedagogy results in engaged, confident and independent learners,” she said, “individuals with intercultural understanding and who feel a responsibility to help others.”

To learn more about St Andrew’s Cathedral School’s distinct approach to teaching and learning in the middle years, please join our Head of School Tour on Tuesday, 30 May for Year 7 students entering in 2027 and beyond.

To book your place, please visit:


Located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, St Andrew’s Cathedral School is an innovative, co-educational day school, providing students from […]

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