Progress on the future of St Andrew's

Dear St Andrew’s Community,

Last term I shared our new Strategic Plan and it's time to bring you up to date with our progess.  It has been exciting to put these various projects out to the entire staff for their input and to be a part of leading the future direction of the College.

  • Futures Thinking – This group is tasked with embedding creative and critical thinking skills across our curriculum.  We want to see these genuinely inserted into normal teaching practice by all teachers.  It will cover both classroom teaching and some of our co-curricular activities.  This group will no doubt focus on using Future Problem Solving and Project Based Learning as some options.
  • Digital Thinking –   There were two key aspects to our Strategic Plan that asked the questions: do we have the most effective use of ICT to best prepare our students? And, are there others in which we could/should focus?  We want to ensure we promote a balanced approach to the use of technology, by staff and students, to mitigate against the adverse effects of over-reliance on technology and to ensure authentic face-to-face relationships.  In addition we want to invest time and money in purposeful technology for students to be equipped to function optimally, and to be agents of societal change. The big question then arises, if we agree on the best way forward with our use of technology, how will this impact how we teach, what we teach and it will no doubt inform our decisions about how and when we embed robotics/coding and other ICT related subjects.
  • Futures Subjects – This group is tasked with further developing the first two projects and also asks how students should be exploring ways of tapping into their developing skills in the form of new electives from Year 7.  It will have a double role of reviewing what we currently offer as part of our electives and then exploring new options, for example, entrepreneurial programs and STEM.
  • Enrichment/Extension - This group asks the question- how do we best support our students and programs in this area?  Given the focus of the first three projects, there may be an impact on what we do in this space, how it is resourced and how to best select the students who participate.  
  • Personal Capacity - This group has the big task of looking at what we currently do here at the College in the areas of developing appropriate values, ethics and wisdom.  There are five projects that underpin this:

a .Ethical decision-making – Intentionally include ethical discussions amongst all students to enable them to make informed decisions in a world of less well-defined boundaries

b. Values for life – Link values to curriculum development by framing future employment and social opportunities to enhance students’ adaptability, capability and success

c. Social capability – Build strong student belief systems in order to empower intrinsic motivation to allow students to develop social capability

d. Responsibility and social media - In response to the impact of the media and particularly social media platforms, develop programs in critical literacy and discernment

e. Civic engagement - Encourage students to take an active role in understanding and making change to positively influence society (political and global awareness) e.g. ethical debates to ensure contributing members of community

Part of this focus group will be a longitudinal study that I am considering at the moment.  This group will be reviewing our culture and current pastoral programs and try to ascertain the areas where there is a significant impact. to apply it across all aspects of the College. This group will be doing work that I believe will both be a first in our school and in most schools across Australia.  

  • Health and well-being - This group has the task of looking at the great work being done in Positive Education for both staff and students.  The two key projects that underpin this area:

a.Health and well-being – Focus on health and wellbeing through the Positive Psychology program for all our community to ensure a ‘can do’ mindset and a healthier approach to life

b.Flexible delivery and work-life satisfaction – Promote the need for work / life balance among our students and staff by being flexible in both educational delivery and employment conditions to cater for varied lifestyle choices

At the same time, a number of exciting projects continue within the life of our College:

  • Literacy and Numeracy -  The core skills of literacy and numeracy are a key focus of mine over the coming years.  We have appointed coaches in the Primary years and I am asking our Head of Teaching and Learning to begin conversations in the Secondary school around the number of lessons allocated to core subjects, how we ensure consistency with teaching expectations and assessment.  In all things, we need a balance between the 21st century skills we’ve talked about above and the basic requirements that have always existed around literacy and numeracy.
  • In response to this, our NAPLAN results have come through and once again the College has performed well above state and national averages.  We had some outstanding results with a number of year levels achieving extremely well across the different tests.   NAPLAN is always just one particular test, on one or two days and it doesnt celebrate all the diverse strengths and achievements of students displayed across the year.   For example, as we know, NAPLAN is an interesting beast; last year our Year 5 cohort was one of the highest performing in the state.  This year, while still well above the National average, the Year 5 cohort did not match last years extremely high results. There are a number of factors which influence the results, however the key for the College is to ensure that we track students improvement over the different years they undertake the test, to take a long-term view and most importantly, always look to improve to ensure the best outcomes for our students.
  • Reporting and Data Analytics -  Not as exciting, but still very important.  Our focus is how best we let data inform our teaching, and how we share this with staff, students and parents in a way that is easy to read, reliable and most importantly, able to assist in the learning journey of our students.
  • Teaching and Learning Framework - The implementation has had a strong focus in Year 7 this year and will continue through into Year 8 in 2018

Schools should never rest on the success or otherwise of previous years or on the idea that we do anything because 'that is the way we've always done it'.   As a non-selective school, our aim will be to ensure each child is give the opportunity to develop their personal best. As we grapple with the continuing changes in the educational space, we give thanks for a staff and a community willing to share the journey.