St. Andrä School

The foundations of our school building were first laid in 1592. By 1680 it had become an orphanage and one hundred years later was used as army barracks.
The building has been in use solely as a school since 1872. Huge renovations and alterations were made in 2003/4 and now our school is at home in a wonderful building with all modern ammenities.

The school is in the district of Graz known as Gries. The word Gries means river stones and they can be found in our main river – the Mur. The Gries area was at first on the outskirts of Graz outside the city walls. All agricultural products and merchandise that had to come into Graz passed through the Gries district, mainly because of the easy routes along and next to the river Mur. That meant that many people came and went through the area, not only locals but also those from much further away. They came from all parts of the old Austrian Monarchy. Some decided to stay.

Nowadays, for various reasons, many immigrant families have made their home in the Gries district – one reason being that here the homes are affordable. This results in Graz having a diverse cultural community.
For our school it means that nearly all the children who come to us have a different first language.

During the war in former Yugoslavia at the beginning of the 1990’s, many children came to our school who could not speak German and naturally had also experienced terrible times. They shared a classroom with children whose fathers had been enemies during the war. The situation was managed by our teachers who in a short space of time showed their ability to deal with such difficulties and were not afraid to ask for outside help. Today these are standard procedures. I am, however, proud to know that our school has pioneered such work.

Today a Primary, a Secondary Modern and a New Middle School can be found in our school building. The Austrian school system consists of only four years of elementary education, at the age of 10 according to the pupils’ progress and  capability, they complete their secondary education at either a Secondary Modern School, a New Middle School or a Grammar School.

I am the head of the Secondary Modern and New Middle School and therefore can only speak about this school.

At the moment we have 174 pupils. 160 of them do not have German as their first language.
In a class of about 22 pupils, children from on average 5 different countries of origin are taught.
Let us look at the situation. Depending on one’s point of view, if I choose to be negative, then I will see many “foreigners” at our school. But when I look at things positively I see the wonderful diversity of our students.
It is obvious that the teaching in our school has to be different. Once again I would like to acknowledge the professionalism and capabilities of our teachers.
We know that the acquisation of another language is only truly possible when knowing the mother tongue really well, and because of this we try our hardest to persuade the parents of our children that learning German will only be successful when the vocabulary in their native language continues to grow. The child should attend lessons held in their mother tongue , unfortunately these lessons in Austria are not compulsory. Our school also needs translators to help us when we need to discuss the everyday issues that affect our children with their parents or guardians.
Ideally the native language teachers should be at school at least once a week.
Some of our children come to us at an older age, often traumatised because of what they have been through. Some are not able to read and write because they have spent years trying to escape from the terror in their country. Of course I need not say what an enormous challenge this is for our teachers.



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