Farewell to designing and establishing a ‘new normal’.

I go back to March 2016 when a member of my online network connected me to an advertisement for a principal in a new Catholic school in Sydney’s West. There was a fair bit of hype around this new ‘super school’ as to what it was known by some at the time. Part of the excitement and anticipation was driven by Executive Director of Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP), Mr Greg Whitby, who challenged the paradigm of what principalship may look like. Greg’s thinking at the time was, “the principal of its newest school would not necessarily be a career teacher, but rather someone who was a ‘bit of an entrepreneur’ who will make connections and manage relationships”. He went on to say, “We are not talking about someone like the CFO of BHP, but it could be someone from the tertiary sector, private education providers, the coaching industry.” 

As a ‘career teacher’ I thought my chances of appointment were limited; however, I felt my personal vision for education strongly aligned with CEDP’s vision for St Luke’s to design and establish a ‘new normal’ for preschool to post school education. This was to be no ordinary school, but more so a learning community, one which combined the 5 services of pre-school, primary school, secondary school, out of hours school care and a High Needs Studio for students with special gifts. After a video application, a presentation to 60 people made up of clergy, teachers, parents and students from various CEDP settings, and then a final interview, I was offered and accepted the privileged role of principal at St Luke’s.

On February 3, 2017 the College opened with 14 staff entrusted by true believing parents to serve the needs of 86 students, and there has been much achieved since! Since Day One, and as part of the commitment to designing and establishing a new normal for preschool to post school learning, the staff of St Luke’s adopted a curious approach by questioning everything about ‘the what’, ‘the how’ and most importantly, ‘the why’ of education. In our early days this saw St Luke’s:

  • Adhere to the deep belief in the power of intrinsic motivation by only offering stickers, stamps, rewards or awards to students who, on very few occasions, go above and beyond school expectations. 
  • Maintain a minimum indicative hours approach to face to face learning.
  • Stage based (not year based) learning with 2 teachers for each class of 60 students.
  • Maximise the power of Social Media through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to actively share the learning narrative of St Luke’s in real time.
  • Provide learning schedules without bells. Six years later there are no bells with 1440 students on site.
  • Sport uniform all day every day for Kindergarten to Year 4 students. 
  • A cashless college since Day One.

This has all been supported through CEDP’s generous provision of expansive and purposeful learning spaces that are comfortable, modern, contemporary, flexible and agile.

Staff in our early days quickly learnt that when you question everything as part of a commitment to designing and establishing a ‘new normal’, before Covid owned that terminology, a school starts to develop emergent mainstream practices which reflect a change from the old grammar of schooling. However, in doing that we met with opposition. Early on, this was from some parents who signed up to something new but still yearned for the past – thankfully, they were very few and far between. Occasionally, St Luke’s met with the ire of so-called and often self anointed educational authorities, most of whom had never worked in a classroom nor held an education qualification. Even after an invitation to view our work, most never set foot on site. However, St Luke’s has always welcomed feedback from wide and far including the 800 educational leaders and additional community visitors who have engaged in our professional learning tours and parent learning walks. In the context that all feedback needs to be considered, I found that whilst the messages of detractors need to be considered, their observations and feedback need to be constructive; if not, they are ultimately best forgotten.

For some aspects of the work at St Luke’s there has been an approach to ‘Do then Think’, also known as ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’. Sometimes this has been seen as cavalier; however, it has complemented the ‘question everything’ stance adopted since Day One. Since we opened in 2017, St Luke’s has adopted ‘best practice’ in a number of areas. These include:

  • The explicit and rigorous teaching of the foundations of literacy and numeracy for 160 minutes each and every day for Kindergarten to Year 6 students. Extensive and numerous professional learning opportunities have ensured our teachers are continually updated on the learning strategies which enable learning growth for students in these key foundational areas.
  • Teachers work in pairs and teams to plan, prepare, deliver and evaluate learning together. As part of the evaluation, teachers review data, determine the ‘next steps’ for each child and adapt their programs, sometimes on a daily basis.
  • Fidelity towards ‘surface, deep and transfer learning’ using a rigorous inquiry framework adapted for local context. This translates into a pursuit of play and inquiry learning with a balance of direct teacher instruction, self directed learning, learning workshops, teams of students collaboratively working together to drive the inquiry with the teacher closely and regularly monitoring the progress of individuals and teams.
  • Play based learning in our CELC and Kindergarten which assists students to explore, discover and learn about their immediate world.
  • A coaching approach to building teacher capacity to impact student learning where our school leaders work with teachers to co-plan, co-teach and co-evaluate aspects of their teaching so there is constant reflection about how we teach. After all, teachers are learners too!
  • Encouraging students to exercise choice and voice through inquiry learning, because we know through research that the more students can combine curriculum requirements with their interests, the more engaged and empowered they become as learners.
  • When needed and necessary, there has been the explicit teaching of social skills and the publication of stage appropriate student independence progressions which have assisted many students to become more confident and resilient.

Complementing our ‘best practice’, St Luke’s has pushed the boundaries with ‘next practice’. This includes:

  • Partnering with Become.Me with a research based approach to careers education for Stage 3 students (Years 5 & 6) which aligns with the curriculum and engages students in the possibilities of ‘what might be’ for post school life. Why Stage 3? Because the research says that 83% of 10 year olds think about their future once a week yet only 10% of them actually get to speak with an adult about those aspirations.
  • Using ‘Scribo’ in 2019 & 2020 to assist leaders and teachers in Stage 3 and 4 to far more quickly provide students with feedback to improve their writing. 
  • A strong priority for each student to develop the capabilities required for a changing world as expressed through our 6 Pillars of Learning. Our 2022 student dashboard and student-led conferences since 2017  reflect our commitment to this priority.
  • As part of our Life Design course for Year 7-10 we partner with life coaches from Innerzone to ensure students can more accurately learn about their Strengths, Interests and Motivations – SIM, so that they can more deeply understand who they are, what they can do and what problems they want to solve.
  • Teachers who provide engaging and purposeful masterclass learning activities as part of an extended school day to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Partnerships with Universities including:
    • University of Sydney (2019) for an integrated approach to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in Stage 2. This program utilises the expertise of university based research to benefit our teachers and students.
    • A three way partnership between Stage 4 Maths teachers, CEDP Mathematics experts and Emeritus Professor, Peter Sullivan from the University of Melbourne (2020). This action research team investigated how artificial intelligence through ‘Maths Pathways’ can support self paced learning for Stage 4 Mathematics.
    • University of Technology, Sydney (2020) to reimagine preferable futures post COVID-19. 
    • University of Wollongong (2021) Oracy Project for Kindergarten students.
    • University of Western Sydney (2021) to action research our coaching approach to teacher development.
    • University of Melbourne New Metrics for Success Project (2021-2023) to assess capabilities and complex competencies for a changing world.
    • School-led action research projects for:
      • Play in the Infants’ Years;
      • Coaching to support teacher learning; and,
      • Next Practice Wellbeing in the secondary years.
    • Formal learning concludes each Friday at midday for Kindergarten to Year 6 students with teachers receiving increased release from face to face teaching to now self direct their learning by engaging in professional learning offered by College leaders.
    • A learning cycle which encapsulates hybrid learning and sees Year 9-12 students start formal learning at 10:00am (instead of 8:30am) three days a week. This accommodates teenage brain science requirements for more sleep, provides more choice for senior learners and improves well being.

The above by no means covers all that is done at St Luke’s. Students in all years follow the mandated curriculum set by the NSW Education Authority (NESA) adhering to mandated requirements for all Key Learning Areas (KLAs). All outcomes are addressed to a deep level through students reflecting on their learning and applying their knowledge rather than just rote learning. St Luke’s is committed to addressing all aspects of the core curriculum, but offers students choice and flexibility in achieving the required learning outcomes.

In a place where “Learning = Infinite Possibilities”, we now know Best Practice + Next Practice = the ‘New Normal’. This ‘new normal’ at St Luke’s combines the five educational services of Early Learning, Primary, Secondary, Out of School Hours Care and High Needs School into the one Catholic Learning Community which nurtures faith filled curious children to become creative contributors and innovative problem solvers for a changing world.

Having commenced in 2017 with 86 students in 2017, St Luke’s at Marsden Park is a next generation learning community within the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP). As a ‘next generation Catholic Learning Community’ we continue to design and establish a ‘new normal’ for preschool to post school learning in an environment characterised by a flexible, stage based curriculum which nurtures and grows faith-filled, curious children to become creative contributors and innovative problem solvers for a changing world. In 2023, the College will enrol over 1600 students from Kindergarten to Year 10 in addition to the 77 place long day centre and 60 students in a high needs special school. The work will evolve and continue to be complex; it will continue to be exhausting yet satisfying work for those who continue to heed the call to design and establish a new normal.

What a privilege it has been to be the Foundation Principal of St Luke’s! I have appreciated playing a small part in a big team. I will be forever thankful for the staff who trusted me and I leave being in awe of their work.

May St Luke’s continue its trail blazing work, work which positively contributes to the greater good of designing and establishing a new normal for preschool to post school learning.

Farewell St Luke’s.

Greg.

The challenge – a contemporary, cutting-edge curriculum!

2022 sees a convergence of challenges in the world of primary and secondary education. For me, the greatest challenge is developing an engaging curriculum which empowers students to fulfil their potential by acknowledging that young people can learn anywhere, at any time and not just within the time-bound hours of 8:30am – 3:00pm, Monday to Friday.

Students are increasingly falling short of achieving their full learning potential. A comprehensive review of the New South Wales Curriculum found that the overcrowded nature of many syllabuses, the undervaluing of skills in the curriculum and constraints on teachers’ abilities to address individual learning needs, contributes to many students becoming disengaged from school.

The Australian curriculum lacks flexibility. It is anchored in one year blocks of time. We group students by age to learn the same things with the same amount of time, regardless of each student’s learning achievement. It is not surprising that some students struggle whilst others disengage and withdraw. According to the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), by 15 years of age, one in five Australian students fails to achieve a proficient standard in the fundamental foundations of literacy and numeracy. Year-level curricula contribute much to this reality. However, despite our knowledge of this, schools persist with what Ira Socol calls a, “nonsensical calendar system in which the clock overrules the idea of doing what you do well.” 

At St Luke’s Marsden Park, we have combined academic research and local data accumulated prior to, and during the Covid disruption period, to use time differently and better. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Friday Half-day; an initiative which sees formal learning conclude at 12 noon each Friday for students in Kindergarten to Year 6. At midday students are either picked up by their parents or remain at school to be cared for by reduced staffing. The additional release time allows teachers to provide an explicit piece of feedback about each child’s learning which can be accessed by their parents via an online learning platform.
  2. As part of the the St Luke’s Learning Cycle, which can be seen here

we can provide Late starts for Years 9-12 students three days per week where students can choose…

Each of these two initiatives have resulted in benefits such as increased time release for teachers and increased choice for students and parents. There is increased agency for all; however, we are only scratching the surface at St Luke’s. We need to press on and continue to explore how we can dismantle the rigid foundations of 20th Century education and liberate learning from its industrial straitjacket.

Education the world over needs to adopt what Saul Kaplan calls a ‘Best Practices and Next Practices’ approach. Kaplan explains that in this rapidly changing world, best practices are necessary but not sufficient. Kaplan challenges leaders to explore, identify, develop and experiment with next practices. One such next practice needs to enable the development of an adaptive curriculum, scaffolded and supported by immersive technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual realities, which acknowledges students not by age but by ability. Such respect given to students may lead us to explore models such as the one driven by Dwayne Matthews at Ontario Virtual School (OVS). 

Implementing the principle of ‘Time Shift Accreditation’ with integrity, sees OVS enable 10,000 students to learn virtually, usually through time chunked videos of 2 to 4 minutes. These videos provide content and concepts accredited specifically to the core curriculum. If a student hits a hurdle, they seek support from their immediate network, usually other students, for assistance. If they meet another hurdle they go to an expert, usually a teacher, who assists the student to progress. The majority of students accelerate their way through the curriculum in less time than indicative hours, as usually provided through face-to-face teaching in mainstream schools. This approach leaves more time for self-directed learning in areas of interest and passion. Not only does this reality see increasing engagement, it empowers students to make a real difference in their world!

It goes without saying that responding to the challenge of providing all students with a contemporary, cutting-edge curriculum which empowers them as a learner, presents us with an opportunity to ‘design the next’ by exploring best use of time for student learning. New ways of learning may also result in more enriching ways of working for teachers. The two are not mutually exclusive! Who knows, we might even equip every child to be a creative, connected and engaged learner in a rapidly changing world whilst cultivating an adaptive, innovative and continuously improving education system; two priorities of ‘Growth Through Achievement’

As usual, comments, repsonse and questions are most welcome.

Greg

P.S. For the referenced paper, please click here.

The future of learning – success for all

Recognition of learning success for all​“​ issued by Learning Creates Australia is worth reading.

As part of the research underpinning the report professionals from Learning Creates Australia conducted a series of sessions with young Australians. Diverse groups of young adults were asked to reflect on their primary and secondary years of schooling. This occurred in early 2020, at a time when the impact of the bushfires was still raw and the challenges of managing Covid-19 were emerging. Here are some of their reflections.

These snippets resonate with the vision and actions at St Luke’s. When I read comments highlighted above, I am pleased that we, at St Luke’s, continue to deepen our knowledge and understanding of how to teach and assess the capabilities required for a changing world as expressed through our 6 Pillars of Learning. This focus starts in our Early Learning Centre, continues into Kindergarten, and is prominent for all stages of learning including Stage 6.

Also, pondering the reflections above reminds me why Stage 3 teachers and students engage with Become. Our students deserve to feel confident and positive about the future. Our teachers work with Liv Pennie from Become, to broaden the personal awareness and aspirations of Stage 3 students so they ‘become’ more optimistic and inspired to take action on their own future.

Furthermore, recognition of learning success for all affirms why we offer Life Design as a rigorous and challenging course at St Luke’s. By exploring their SIM (strengths, interests and motivations) as well as engaging in concepts such as purpose, Life Design provides time for students answer three questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What can I do?
  • What problems do I want to solve?

Students won’t read these questions in NAPLAN over the next few weeks, nor will they ever see them in an exam such as the HSC. However, young people will need to be able to answer these profound questions when pursuing a post-school life of contentment and fulfilment.

We could do worse than suggest that every legislator read Recognition of learning success for all​, and I recommend it to all those in education.

Greg.

“Time is the First Technology” – Ira David Socol

A few weeks back, I had the great fortune to meet (Zoom) with Dwayne Matthews. Early on in our conversation, I shared a little bit about what we are doing at St Luke’s Marsden Park. He was most interested in how we used time. I explained how we are trying to push the boundaries of a traditional 9-3 school day through:

  • Friday Half-day for K-6;
  • late starts three days a week for Years 9-12; and,
  • how we are establishing a learning cycle in Years 7-11 of face to face, consolidation (from the previous lesson) and preparation (for the next lesson).
Image developed by Kelly Bauer – Head of School of Entrepreneurs – St Luke’s, Marsden Park.

Dwayne was affirming of the work we are doing at St Luke’s by reflecting, “You are way ahead of most people I speak with.” 

Further on in our conversation, Dwayne mentioned how his school, the Ontario Virtual School (OVS) offers the Ontario High School Diploma (NSW HSC equivalent) to anyone anywhere in the world. They have 100,000 students who learn virtually, usually through “time chunked videos” (2-3mins) where they learn content and concepts accredited to the Ontario core curriculum. If students hit a hurdle they seek out support for their immediate network, usually other students, for assistance. If they then stall, they go to an expert – the teacher – who usually assists the student to access the success they have not had achieved to that point. One unintended outcome of this approach has been ‘time shift accreditation’, a reality where students make their way through the curriculum in less time than the ‘indicative hours’ of the core curriculum.

If we do what Dwayne and others do at OVS, we will reflect that a school day lasts 6 hours. What could we do if it took only 2 or 3 hours for students to satisfactorily cover accredited content? What creative models could we create with the additional 3 or 4 hours? Asking such as question might see a deep dive into which artificial intelligence can provide accelerated feedback for students or which sophisticated technologies can support teachers to more effectively track student progress and achievement at different rates and levels. Locally, it might provoke St Luke’s and other Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) schools to consider a mainstream version of CEDP’s School of Now for the majority of students able to utilise a device, possibly as young as Stage 2, 8 years of age.

School of Now Learning Model

Elsewhere, but still related to the concept of time, I read, The New Zealander trying to revolutionise the working week: ‘It’s a rational business decision’. Andrew Barnes raises the concept of a 4 day working week which is getting traction through 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit group expecting to run trials with 300-500 companies internationally this year. Barnes himself, in 2018 trialled an 80-100-100 rule: 80% hours, to accomplish 100% of the work, for 100% pay. The experiment worked. Productivity rose, staff were happier. He made the change permanent.

Will something like this get traction in school settings? As I wrote on Twitter, “For the fire brigade, police, some health services, 4 day weeks (sometimes across a weekend) have been a reality for a while. Methinks schools will be the last place a 4 day week will occur even though curriculum can be covered in 4 x 6 hour days.”

The above reading and conversation was complemented by Undoing Academic Time, a rather forthright blog written by Ira David Socol. Ira’s blog contains many many challenging statements including those listed below…

Time is the ‘first technology’ because it is the most controlling of all the structures which define ‘school’. Learning is, of course, timeless. It exists in its own temporal zone, unique to each individual, and different for each thing ‘learned’. But school is all about the clock.

And of course, a mediocre work turned in “on time” trumps a great work that’s ‘late’.”

… within schools, we must stop dividing time between ‘play’ and ‘learning‘. “

Assignments need to stop having dates on them.

” ‘School work’ needs to stop being separated from life by the hard line of ‘school time’ and ‘non-school time‘.”

If a student comes to class ‘late’ or leaves early the question is not one of ‘bell compliance‘ but of how to do that politely and without disrupting others.

If a student chooses an extended lunch (usually ‘extended’ from something obscenely short) over class attendance, this needs to be viewed as a micro-economic decision, and not a behaviour issue.

When reflecting on Ira’s blog, the 4 day working week and my conversation with Dwayne, I have no idea what the implications will be for schools. After staff, TIME is the greatest resource in a school setting. I am hope-filled that schools will move into the future continually learning how to best use time as we seek new (and better) ways of learning as well as new ways (and better) ways of working.

Greg Miller

Exams and contemporary learning – it’s all upside down!

The original image was accessed from article “Trainees granted exemption to sit RACGP exams” written by Francine Crimmins and published 4/2/2021

Among all the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity since June of this year, I have been thankful that we did not have students sitting the HSC in 2021. Those completing the HSC have been put under unnecessary pressure to undertake examinations when many, possibly the majority of students have already established their post school pathway. Those leading education in this state had a wonderful opportunity to reimagine a far more contemporary approach to the New South Wales Higher School Certificate as an exit credential. Unfortunately, under the influence of 20th century thinkers, they let that opportunity slip by.

School exams don’t prepare teens for the real world. As Jehan Casinader writes, the sad truth is students were forced to participate in a ritual that has become meaningless”. 24/7 access to information via the internet means the need to memorise information for exam conditions is no longer required. Our most necessary skill when accessing information from the world wide web is to ensure information is from a valid and trusted source.

When considering the place of exams in the context of contemporary learning, it is all upside down. Education change agent, Ted Dintersmith regularly asks, ‘Are our children prepared for the future of work?’ (3 mins). Ted Dintersmith continually reminds schools that employers no longer require employees to know or memorise information. Robots are increasingly doing the jobs which require rote memory. The need for workers today and tomorrow will be to ‘apply information in context’ in responding to challenges, develop improvements, and even transform services or products. This will be done by collaboratively working with a team, or teams of people across disciplines. The reality is, end of school examinations are taken in single subject disciplines and are a very individual pursuit with no collaboration allowed!

Please do not mistake my comments to mean subject disciplines are no longer necessary. They are. The message is that we no longer need to memorise long lists of subject facts or knowledge. Much more important is the ability to apply subject knowledge by trialling and testing new projects and processes in real world situations in addressing real world challenges.

As principal of St Luke’s, I challenge students to answer three questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What can I do?
  • What problems do I want to solve?

You won’t find any one of these three questions on a HSC paper. I dare say that none of those questions appear in any examinations for school systems across the world. However, in answering these three questions throughout their time at St Luke’s, students are more able to understand their SIM (strengths, interests and motivations), engage with concepts such as ‘flow’ and ‘purpose’, and therefore enter a post school world with confidence by knowing where they can contribute. This allows them to do more than just work; in fact, it enables them to lead a lifestyle of fulfilment and contentment because they…

  • Deeply know who they are;
  • Are confident in what they can do; and,
  • And are enthusiastic to solve problems and respond to challenges.

By ensuring the teaching and reliable assessment of our 6 Pillars of Learning remain at the forefront of what we do, and by maintaining a commitment to work with students through their Careers Expo in Stage 3 and Life Design in Years 7-10, St Luke’s will continue to nurture faith filled curious students to become creative contributors and innovative problems solvers for a changing world.

Comments, questions and feedback are all very welcome.

Greg

A university pathway being ??????

Earlier this week I read the article, “Young face ‘prolonged disruption’ as degrees no longer guarantee careers” by Adam Carey. The article draws heavily on a report by Monash University’s new Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice which argues young people face the breakdown of a long-held assumption that higher education qualifications will lead to desirable and secure work.

Image by Peggy Macra via Pixabay Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 
Follow Peggy on Instagram. Follow Mohaned on Facebook

The reality stemming from the report is that universities produce an increasing number of graduates who are forced to take on low-paid, insecure work. The article also refers to other findings from the report which include:

  1. Jobs for young people are increasingly concentrated in fields that are “seasonal, part-time, casual, low-wage and insecure”.
  2. Higher education participation rates have risen by 41 per cent in the past decade whilst, at the same time, the “earning premium” of a bachelor’s degree has shrunk, from 39 per cent in 2005 to 27 per cent by 2018.

The ‘old paradigm understanding’ that a university degree results in more secure work and better earning capacity has started breaking down. More importantly, the education that comes with a university degree is sometimes cited as outdated by the time one starts looking for work as a graduate. I remember speaking with a St Luke’s dad in 2019 who said that he realised when he was in fourth year of an architecture degree that his first year knowledge was already out of date, and that was 7 years previous to our discussion. What does that mean for those in first year architecture now?

The ‘old paradigm understanding’ that a university degree results in more secure work and better earning capacity has started breaking down.

According to New Work Order by Foundations for Young Australians, we are witnessing a large shift in the reality of future work, and it is unravelling before us right now. The New Work Order continues to highlight the increasing complexity of our working lives and the implications for young people across Australia. Further to this there are recent and current examples which confirm the requirements for work are constantly changing. For example, in 2014, Google changed their recruitment strategy and dropped the requirement for new recruits to come with a university degree. Why? Well,

  1. A person doesn’t need a degree to be talented. 
  2. By definition, degrees represent a certificate of expertise, however a degree really doesn’t say what a graduate can do when it comes to problem solving, collaborating, presenting, creating. 
  3. Due to the need to constantly learn, pivot and change, people need the disposition of persistence. Their thinking was/is that a degree can’t tell Google whether an applicant has a high work ethnic nor does it inform Google if the applicant is open to learning.

Google is often touted as a new age, edgy multi national company who changes old paradigms. However, long established companies are also challenging the long held value of a university degree. For example, 

  1. People that I know who work for one of the ‘Big Four Banks’ highlight they are increasingly looking for people with the character and profile suitable to their company. Often, degrees are not a pre-requisite. The ‘Big Bank’ seeks adaptable, flexible and agile workers who are open to learning because “we can teach them the skills” is what one corporate employee told me. Another person close to the ‘Big Bank’ stated they are constantly investing in artificial intelligence and seeking people who can use the AI to create new products in response to customer needs.
  2. In 2019, the USA and Canada branches of world wide accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers stopped using degree qualifications as the only entry requirement for work. In fact, as early as April 2017, the Australian branch of PwC announced it would end the university degree employment requirement.

It is obvious that students are faced with a world of work where employers want a broader skill set, not just a graduate with a degree in a particular field. Furthermore, we know that there is more to life than work. At St Luke’s, as students strive for age and stage appropriate competence in the foundations of literacy and numeracy, we encourage students to develop a deeper understanding of themselves by engaging with our 6 Pillars of Learning. As they grow older, we challenge students to know more deeply who they are, what they can do and what problems they want to solve through our Life Design course in Years 7-10. As a result, each student develops an understanding of their strengths, interests and motivations (SIM). Furthermore, they develop a deeper understanding of their purpose by ‘road testing’ their SIM through passion projects and collaborative projects as they progress through the School of Leadership (5-8) and School of Entrepreneurship (9-12).

employers want a broader skill set, not just a graduate with a degree in a particular field.

At St Luke’s, we know that as children mature into adolescents they will need to be more and more open to the idea that they are going to change course, accumulate micro-credentials and, upon leaving school, continually learn throughout their adult life if they are to maintain work as part of a rapidly changing world.

As always, comments are welcome.

Greg.

Action Research and other stuff

Over these past ten weeks of Term 2, I have had the great pleasure and privilege to work with to work with like-minded St Luke’s colleagues and other professional support external to the College on Action Research Projects.

Action research allows us to lead evidence-based school practices and change, and it is a complex process. Having teams of people who give time to the curation, generation and communication of research supports teachers and allows our school to make better decisions. Small teams of teachers dedicated to raising the profile and practice of action research ensures St Luke’s is proactive in its processes, agile in response to current educational research, evidence informed in its methods, and communications, and keenly focused on its strategic impacts.

St Luke’s is a learning organisation which focuses on student learning. With that comes the need for teachers to see themselves as learners. St Luke’s leaders and teachers critically reflect on learning through weekly Professional Learning Meetings and external professional development opportunities. In 2021, this has been complemented by the action research projects with the following driving questions:

  • How does the St Luke’s coaching model impacting student learning?
  • To what extent do our wellbeing initiatives have a positive impact on the individual and collective desired outcomes for our year 7-10 students?
  • To what extent does a holistic approach to play-based learning have an impact on academic and social/emotional outcomes for K-2 students?

Further to this, there has also been our work with 10 CEDP schools and the University of Wollongong with the Oracy Project for kindergarten students. Furthermore, there is the ongoing and privileged work of engaging with 37 schools around the country each time we gather for the New Metrics Project led by the University of Melbourne. It is exciting, enthralling and challenge work and offers much promise for better experiences and opportunities for our students, both in the short and longer term.

As we have meandered through the complexities of evidence based researched in key focus areas, the NSW Government promoted the development of a learner profile because of the call to end dominance of ATAR. The state government argues that the new NSW Learner Profile, a digital wallet, will be a young person’s passport to future education and employment. In developing the learner profile, the differences and similarities between a profile, digital passport, folio of evidence and mainstream resume, need to be resolved. Furthermore, the standards which sit underneath a universally accepted learner profile need to be accepted as valid by wide ranging audiences including parents, future employers, tertiary organisations. More importantly, there is the for the students/learners themselves to understand, translate and be affirmed by a profile which accurately conveys their strengths, interests, motivations and abilities.

Developments such as the NSW Learner Profile are responding to growing knowledge that Australians say they’re not convinced the education system prepares us for the workforce. School is not just about developing economic pawns for the future economy, however it is the main driver of change being promoted by government.

There has also been a push to consider new ways of learning and working for teachers as reflected by a plan to end the 9am to 3pm school day in NSW. As part of our collective transformation agenda in Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, St Luke’s and many other schools are exploring new ways of learning and working. In fact, inspired by a St Luke’s staff meeting in May, I am soon to meet with fellow principals and system leaders to further explore the topic. As a part of that we will consider ‘Scheduling for Learning, Not Convenience‘ as part of our driving question, How might new ways of student learning enrich the professional lives of staff? In reflecting on this question, we will consider the structures, resources and mindsets required for ‘new ways’ of student learning, and how those structures, resources and mindsets might enrich the professional lives of teachers. 

To my St Luke’s colleagues, and colleagues afar, rest well these holidays.

Learning and Working in Schools

Most recently, as part of my work leading a large and complex preschool to post school setting, I have been engaged with other thought leaders about the staffing and roles required for our context within the rapidly changing world. In doing so, I have considered this question continuum produced by the OECD about the future of schooling.

The OECD have also produced 4 scenarios for future schooling.

The four scenarios are fascinating and they provoke us us to think more broadly about the future of learning. For example, it might one day become mainstream for most if not all schools where we see:

  • The use of efficient technology, flexible timetables and complementary pedagogies resulting in more flexible class times occasionally delivered later into the day or evening for students in Years 9-12.
  • Increasingly using outsourced providers to co-plan, co-teach, and co-evaluate new metrics learning which acknowledges the teaching and assessment of the general capabilities and enterprise skills. 
  • An expansion of flipped learning acknowledged as part of indicative mandated hours meaning less face to face teaching and more blended approaches.

It may be that we need to consider aspects of hybrid learning by Global Online Academy.

All of these new ways of learning have implications for new ways of working.

Whilst considering the above in the context of student learning and staff working in schools, there are many system and school leaders within Australia and across the world thinking about the future of education. Some have reflected about preparing for a post-Covid world and the changes they wish to keep. Whilst it may be argued that our localised state and national response to pandemic schooling has lacked the creativity and courage to act with ‘the fierce urgency of the now’ – I mean, what’s changed? – there are examples of schools and their communities who have discovered a sense of agility that cannot be wound back. As such…

“… we’re also going to see families want flexibility in what ‘going to school’ means at different times of year. Instead of homeschooling, they’re going to want to keep their students enrolled in school while they engage online from wherever they may be. Schools will need to offer programming that allows for more flexible access.” 

From Eight Predictions for Education in 2021 by Michael Nachbar

With an eye on senior secondary schooling and the possibilities that come with reduced need for face to face hours for student learning, there needs to be consideration given to more flexibility for teachers and support staff. Across a number of industries and workplaces there continues to be considerable reflection about work productivity. These include reinvesting commute time, being more productive at meetings, and better work/life balance for employees. Such realisations confirm the findings of a 2013 Stanford University study which found home working led to a 13% performance increase. More recently, a 2020 survey conducted by a Californian company during Covid-19 showed a 47% increase in work productivity. There is enough evidence which confirms that Working From Home Increases Productivity.

Therefore, in a school setting there could be consideration for: 

  • Late start or early finishes for teachers of secondary students.
  • Increased planning time for teachers of younger students because there is more play time and less ‘drill’ time.
  • Leaders working from home one day a fortnight on a rotational basis.
  • Senior support staff whose roles work predominantly uses online platforms technology could access those same online platforms from home.

We know that change has arrived and we now have to initiate new ways of learning and working.

As always, comments and questions are more than welcome.

Greg

Rethinking the Senior Secondary Years

Rethinking the senior secondary years across Australia requires a deep rethink and the ATAR is not needed as part of its future. As seen below, the ATAR is not required to access most university course disciplines.

The relevance of the ATAR has declined dramatically since it inception over 10 years ago. As seen in the two graphics below, universities offer many other alternative pathways for students to access course offered by their institutions.

Interestingly, VET courses at 12% and higher education courses at 26%, without an ATAR and without a HSC, are seen as credible options for universities when accepting undergraduate university students. And, it is in the area of ‘higher education course’, that St Luke’s Catholic College, along with Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, have partnered with Kaplan Education to develop new thinking for senior secondary years.

Over the past two years St Luke’s has been in discussions with KAPLAN. The outcome being that St Luke’s can now offer a pathway which, through their HSC work in years 10, 11 and 12, allows for a student to attain their HSC AND a diploma qualification through KAPLAN -Essentially,

a dual credential is possible when leaving Year 12 at St Luke’s.

For students embracing their senior years of learning at St Luke’s, we will:

  • Continue to vigorously pursue our vision to nurture faith filled curious children to become creative contributors and innovative problem solvers for a changing world;
  • We will maintain our commitment to enable students develop the social skills and enterprise skills required for a changing world; and,
  • We will ensure the HSC is available and attainable for each and every one of our students.

We have started doing this in Year 10 in 2021 by carefully mapping Life Design (a 7-10 course unique to St Luke’s) content with HSC requirements so that by the end of Year 10 students will have accrued 3 preliminary units and one HSC unit of study. Essentially, their HSC has already begun! This reality allows for much flexibility and increases the number of learning opportunities over the next few years and therefore a number of post school options. The first of these is: 

  1. a traditional learning pathway where students engage in a number of elective subjects to obtain a traditional HSC qualification.  This will include a diverse range of offerings to cater for student interests, and will include the opportunity for students to attain VET qualifications and possibly complete extension subjects, if they are able and interested. 
  1. Secondly, there will be Diploma Pathway Options. Students will be able to use some of their HSC learning to act as recognised prior learning towards units of a Diploma program. Specifically, St Luke’s currently has an articulation agreement with Kaplan Business School which aligns learning in Years 10, 11 and 12 with a Diploma of Commerce when studying Work Studies in year 10, Mathematics in Year 11 & 12, and Information Process and Technology (IPT) in Year 11 & 12. Successful completion of these courses will see students receive certification for up to half of the Diploma at no cost, all the time working their way towards the HSC.
  2. Either option allows for an ATAR to be attained, however, it is not necessary.

Further to this, and through a clever use of time, students will then have the opportunity to accrue the other half of the Diploma directly with Kaplan Business School. Successful completion of this Diploma by the end of Year 12 ensures direct entry into a 2nd year, Bachelor of Business. 

Our next step ia to broaden Diploma Program by working with Kaplan and other Higher Education organisations so that we can offer other streams in areas such as Information Technology, Creative Industries, Tourism and Events, Engineering, and even Entrepreneurship.

As you can see, by rethinking the senior secondary years at St Luke’s, we are really looking to ‘what ‘s next’, when it comes to the HSC. How exciting!

As always, questions, comments, suggestions are welcome.

Regards

Greg

Wondering about NSW Curriculum Reform

Yesterday, in response to the NSW Curriculum Review final reportNurturing Wonder and Igniting Passion – chaired by Independent Review Lead, Professor Geoff Masters AO, the NSW government issued a press release (15/1/21). In part, it was communicated that the NSW Curriculum Reform is powering on with the first stage of decluttering that will see a reduction of more than 80 courses developed by schools classified as unnecessary. It went on to say this first step will soon be followed by the roll out of the new, streamlined K-2 English and Maths syllabuses in March this year. This will be welcomed by the teachers who oversee very crowded Maths and English courses for 5-8 year old children.

But, I am still wondering about the first step…

Free Vector Image

According to our Premier Galdys Berejiklian and Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell, the action of “removing unnecessary courses” developed by high schools is “decluttering the curriculum”. Dare I say it, it is also removing choice from students and voice from schools! However, whilst this action reduces the number of courses, it does not address the crowded nature of the curriculum, most notably the amount of content knowledge and skills that some syllabuses expect teachers to cover and students to learn.

By 2022 all Year 9 and 10 elective courses developed by schools will be phased out with “Year 9 and 10 students able to select elective subjects that will be developed by the NSW Education Standards Authority and will be available state-wide.” Again, I wonder…

The reason I wonder is because electives are no longer mandated by the NSW government. 10 years ago, the (old) School Certificate ceased. In its place came a more fluid and flexible accreditation known as the Record of School Achievement (ROSA). With this, mandated requirements changed. Consequently, the requirement for students to complete electives ended. This has been the case for 10 years!

Essentially, once schools cover mandated requirements in core areas by timetabling minimum indicative hours for each course (subject), there is no need to offer any electives. So, I am wondering, why has the government started its release of curriculum reform with this focus?

A number of recommendations came from the NSW Curriculum Review final report. Most notably, one of Professor Masters’ key recommendations was to consider moving away from the time anchored nature of the current curriculum and strive for so-called untimed learning. This might mean students could move through content at their own pace, moving away from a time anchored, age related curriculum. Another key recommendation was for teaching and learning in the senior secondary school to be less focussed on examination preparation, ATAR rankings and university entrance, and more focussed on equipping every student with the knowledge, skills and attributes they will require for further learning, life and work. I look forward to these ‘bigger ticket items’ becoming a reality sooner rather than later, starting with the new, streamlined K-2 English and Maths syllabuses in March this year.

Whatever the detail, the vast majority of educators responsible for teaching and learning in the thousands of classrooms around New South wales, yearn for curriculum reform which ensures each student is Nurturing Wonder and Igniting Passion.

Greg