Where did that 6 months go? As we complete the first semester it is wonderful to be able to look back and reflect on many of the amazing experiences and events that Grammar provides for our students and their families. Many of you expect this to be the case but, as a “first timer”, the joy of discovery and getting to know how our learning program tells a story and creates an inspiring learning journey is important for me.
My commitment is to continuous improvement and as part of that I am working with staff to amplify the strengths of who we are and make explicit “why we do what we do?” at Grammar. Our staff and students are embracing the opportunity to be confident in our learning programs and have a genuine desire to be our best. There are many exciting initiatives in place for learners, however, without regular review and feedback, sometimes our intent may have become blurred over time. The challenge I have shared with teachers is the need for a cohesive and fluent learning journey from ELC to Grade 12 and beyond. Over the last six months (and for the next 12 months) we are looking at the different stages of a learner’s experience and are exploring:
- What we keep doing
- What did we stop doing
- What we might start doing
to ensure we have an engaging and contemporary educational offering.
In my first 180 days, my focus has been and will continue to be, for the remainder of the year, to work on strengthening the elements of the School climate. Leadership is key to our success. We have a strong Senior Leadership and as a new team, we have enjoyed “norming and storming” to develop our capacity and effectiveness. We continue to work on role clarity and areas of responsibility to ensure our oversight of operational matters is comprehensive and accountable. Over the next semester, we will work with our middle leaders to ensure we have a structure and roles which align with strategic priorities. The teaching profession faces many challenges not least of which is the attraction and retention of great people to work with our children. I have been working with colleagues to better understand workload issues, our ‘people promise’ and through consultation to refine our purpose. Each staff member must feel they have the opportunity and agency to lead their students in the pursuit of a purposeful education that sets our children up for life success.
We are developing a whole School communications plan. Over the next 2 terms, we will put in place people and roll out systems to streamline and improve our communication with our families. As we launch each aspect of the communications plan you will receive comprehensive information packs and video tutorials which will outline what is being made redundant and what is being implemented to improve our interactions around your children’s learning. We need feedback about what is and isn’t happening. Be assured we value your insights and questions about our processes. Various leaders will be asking for your input about aspects of the program. I am wary of survey fatigue and therefore we aim to be targeted on the feedback we seek. However formal reviews may not capture your concerns and I ask that you contact Campus Heads and myself to help us be better. We have recently had a comprehensive look at our rowing program and its needs. This has involved all stakeholders having a voice. After the wonderful success of “CATS” there has also been a review by key staff of first principles for the School musical and where it fits in our program. Not all reviews need to be comprehensive. Sometimes it is about tweaking and at other times it is about applying a comprehensive risk assessment to areas of vulnerability in the educational offering. One of my goals is to minimise the potential for single points of failure in our programs, especially in the areas of leadership or structural design.
Additionally, there has been considerable work around the development of our positive behaviours policy and processes across the School. The importance of natural justice, procedural fairness and restorative practices are being integrated into our existing practice and staff are doing further workshops on these at the start of next term. We are stronger if we have a clear set of expectations and clarity around “how we do relationships” and ensure that students, staff and parents are on the same page. We don’t always get it right, however, we must find the right way together.
One of the areas of focus for me is respectful relationships and how we speak to each other. For example, I will always be open to hearing about legitimate concerns that impact the quality of our learning programs. But I will be less inclined to support and listen to observations that are disrespectful. It is the way we use language and how we go about negotiating concerns that build a stronger culture of shared learning and improvement. Similarly, our students need to know that they will be respected, and their concerns heard and valued if things go awry. We are first and foremost a place of learning and our first responses to issues will always be educative. There will always be a place for appropriate and intentional consequences that help students to modify and change behaviours in a supported way. Having a clear and consistent approach when dealing with inappropriate behaviours underpinned by a culture of safety, consent and compassion will set up our students and our community for success. Positive partnerships will bring about great results. Partnerships with parents need to be stronger now, more than ever. The complexity of the world our children live in and the challenges they will face in the future require us to show them that this brings about positive results.
Senior Leadership have been working on developing the strategic plan and we look forward to sharing it with you in late Term 3. With the launch of a significant school-wide learning initiative, we have commenced our consultation with staff and there will be opportunities for students, parents, and other stakeholders to have input. It is exciting to play to the natural strengths of our School and seize the opportunity to be a leader in this space because we know it will have tremendous benefits for our learners. The work we do will complement the necessary evolution of our use of technology in learning. The role of AI in education is a daily topic of conversation amongst educators nationwide and no doubt it pervades all other industries. During Term 3, national and state education bodies will release guidelines around AI. Staff have been doing preliminary work in the space in readiness for the next steps which will require us to develop a strong learning framework that will:
- Encompass ethical considerations
- The role of critical and creative thinking
- The role of assessment
- Approaches to problem-based learning and
- How we may better work with students to equip them with social-emotional tools to be successful in the information age.
We have a strong Finance and Property team in place which is timely for the development of the new Food Technology Centre on the Senior Campus – the first stage of the Masterplan. Works commence over the mid-year break, and it is anticipated that this project will be completed in readiness for opening at the start of 2024. You may have noticed that the Junior Campus is starting to look a little greener as we roll out the “Green Spaces” plan as part of the aesthetic of the campus. We have a detailed master plan for the Senior Campus and are about to commence work on the Junior Campus plan. Under my leadership what will drive any building development, repurposing or refurbishment of existing facilities will be our educational narrative and will genuinely address the needs of learners for now and into the future. In the meantime, we are working on improving the existing infrastructure. Students and parents will see small but important works undertaken that ensure comfortable learning and social environments on both campuses. Maintenance work is rarely “attractive”, but it is necessary and it is important to have baseline infrastructure sorted so we may be ambitious with our future plans.
I have spent this term getting to know the students and have enjoyed time on the Junior Campus visiting classrooms, playgrounds and participating in special events and celebrations. What engaged children we have, and it is inspiring to me to see the student agency and engagement in their learning. Contemporary education is about collaboration and cocreation of learning through the sophisticated PYP. The specialist literacy and numeracy programs that our student’s experience leave me in doubt that the seeds of an intrinsic love of learning are being nurtured on the Junior Campus. On the Senior Campus, I have had “soup lunches” with Grades 11 and 12 in their House groups. These have been enlightening conversations (at times a little awkward because I get that lunch with the Principal may not always seem like a fun thing to do!). But these lunches have assisted me in better understanding the nature of our students, how they learn and the graduates we are nurturing. The students have posed numerous questions about my intentions for the School, just as I have challenged their thinking about who we are and how we best support them to be successful in the future. There is great pride in their school. Our conversations have been open and transparent and one of the key things I have come to greatly admire about our students is their quiet confidence and unpretentious view of the world. They are grounded, intelligent and working with them is an absolute pleasure. We owe it to them to provide an exceptional final three years of education. As part of that ambition, I have also been having “Bonding with Bennett” sessions with our Grade 10 students. In these sessions, we have been collaborating on what engages them and what they would like to see happen over their senior years. This purposeful consultation reflects my belief that students need to be engaged as architects in their learning and that if we are to make any changes in programs the mantra of “nothing about them without them” needs to be a core principle. After all, if we expect them to successfully negotiate the space from adolescent to adult then they deserve the opportunity to be heard and valued in the conversation. In Term 3 I will be working with our Grade 7, 8 and 9 cohorts and enhancing my understanding about those pieces of the jigsaw!
Finally, I am pleased to share with you that Grades 7 and 9 have full enrolment for 2024. Our Kinder program for 2024 is nearly full and we encourage families who may be thinking of enrolling to commit to our 3 to 5-day program model. Our entry points at Grades 5, 6 and 10 have places available. This is a wonderful testament to the appeal of a Grammar education. We have a great School, and we will continue to challenge ourselves to be the School of choice in Tasmania. However, we must never assume or be content. Schools need to be restless and cannot afford to stand still but nor must they be places of constant significant change. Finding the balance and being together on the journey as parents, students, staff and the broader community makes for the magic of success.
Grade 5 is an entry point for the School and the attendance at our recent “Take Flight” experience program highlights the importance of strengthening your child’s transition to secondary education on the Senior Campus is important.
Every year, all Schools in Australia participate in the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD). The NCCD process requires Schools to identify information already available in the School about support provided to students with disability. These relate to legislative requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education 2005, in line with the NCCD guidelines (2019). The NCCD provides state and federal governments with the information they need to plan more broadly for the support of students with disability. The NCCD will have no direct impact on your child and your child will not be involved in any testing process. The School will provide data to the Australian Government in such a way that no individual student will be able to be identified – the privacy and confidentiality of all students are ensured. All information is protected by privacy laws that regulate the collection, storage and disclosure of personal information. This process occurs in early August, if you would like to learn more about the NCCD data collection please follow this link https://www.nccd.edu.au.
I wish each of our families a wonderful mid-year break. If you are travelling or staying put my hope is a simple one: stay safe, find the opportunity to recuperate after a big term and celebrate being together…I have suggested to students that perhaps a “doona day” may be a plan and respectfully I suggest that perhaps our adults deserve at least one of those as well!