Bringing social skills to prominence

There are numerous articles and many research papers which argue for the focus of schooling to shift from high stakes testing to a greater development of social skills and enterprise skills for a changing world. One such article written by Bill Lucas in 2016 stated,

“Too often we focus too narrowly on literacy and numeracy when these are only the beginning. We become obsessed with school subjects rather than thinking more broadly about the capabilities which will be valuable in the real world.” 

The importance of social skills and enterprise skills are reflected through the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum.The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) requires schools to develop a number of capabilities in young people in addition to literacy and numeracy. These include

  • information and communication technology (ICT) capability,
  • intercultural understanding,
  • ethical understanding,
  • personal and social capability, and
  • critical and creative thinking.

Those capabilities, as ACARA states, “play a significant role in the Australian Curriculum in equipping young Australians to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century.”

We know that the social skill development and the enterprise skill development are foundational to the work of educators across early learning, primary and secondary schools. We also know that students with well developed social skills and enterprise skills are increasingly hopeful, resilient and engaged participants in their local and global communities. Such dispositions are credible leading indicators for life success as compared to the lagging indicators such as HSC, VCE, ATAR and NAPLAN test scores.

As part of establishing any new school, foundation staff are presented with a blank canvas to deeply consider ‘what matters’. Social skills and enterprise skills matter! One of the challenges we have taken on at St Luke’s is to ‘bring to prominence’ the social skills and enterprise skills students need for a changing world.

As such, at St Luke’s Catholic College, staff have engaged with a process which aligns the ACARA General Capabilities with our ‘6 Pillars’ of learning. These pillars are:

  • WITNESS by living the Good News as revealed through the Gospel of St Luke
  • MANAGE self
  • RELATE with others
  • COMMUNICATE and COLLABORATE with peers and experts
  • THINK CREATIVELY and CRITICALLY through deep and rigorous reflection

Each pillar

  • has a rationale with reference to the Australian Curriculum and explains its importance in our context
  • contains a number of elements from various General Capabilities, and
  • adopts the continuums from those elements to describe the relevant attitudes, behaviours, skills and dispositions relevant to each stage of learning.

Here is a sample…


Overall, the ‘6 Pillars’  assist teachers to plan for the development of social skills and enterprise skills as students engage with the curriculum. The ‘6 Pillars’ figure prominently when preparing and evaluating student learning and are priorities when we provide feedback to students. Furthermore, there is the commitment for students to increasingly self reflect and peer assess the ‘6 Pillars’, as well as provide real time feedback to parents about each child’s development along the ‘6 Pillar’ continua. This work will not be easy but it will be worthwhile!

As always, comments, feedback and questions are welcome.

Until next time.


3 thoughts on “Bringing social skills to prominence”

  1. agl13 says:

    Great blog Greg. You have captured the essence of the AC’s General Capabilities. I believe the content in AC overshadows the GC. Well that is what teachers are mostly concerned about anyway. Some teachers tend to gloss over these important skills. We must bring it to the top – as literacy and numeracy is important across the curriculum – so are these general capabilities! Good on you for highlighting and making theses GC prominent in your school with your new staff and others in the community!

  2. Thanks Greg. Looks like great (but not easy) work going on at St Luke’s.

    Just wondering how involved students have been or will be in evaluating and taking charge of the 6 pillars?

    Best of luck with what I’m sure will be a great adventure in learning.

    1. Hello Matt,
      Great question. Teachers are at the beginning stages of introducing this to students with the intent of students increasingly taking responsibility to self reflect and peers critique appropriate evidence demonstrating growth along the continua. We also wish to engage parents with real time feedback via electronic means. It may be a good 12-18 months before students are precise with it.


4 thoughts on “Bringing social skills to prominence

  1. Hi Greg
    I enjoyed your blog. It looks like you and your team are doing a great job in the exciting times of establishing St Luke’s. Building a culture is exciting but challenging.
    I very much agree with your focus on the importance of both social skills and enterprise skills. Whilst literacy and numeracy is obviously important, I think many schools become too consumed with improving these academic skills and in the process, lack emphasis on the ‘soft’ skills which are vital for long term success in life. We have adopted a Positive Education approach at our school based on the 5 Ways to Wellbeing model: ‘Connect’, ‘Be Active’, ‘Keep Learning’, ‘Take Notice’ & ‘Give’. This is an evidence-based approach to wellbeing which originated in the U.K. These 5 areas permeate through school life; explicitly through regular Pos Ed sessions, implicitly through the adoption of a strengths-based language, and communally through the tone of school gatherings such as assemblies, year assemblies, liturgies etc. Such a whole school approach is essential in successfully embedding it in the community. There is a focus on equipping students with essential skills to lead a meaningful life. The simplicity of the approach and ease of embedding in the school was an attraction to our staff when researching different frameworks. Have you given thought to a particular framework or approach at St Luke’s? You have a good opportunity to survey your community and gauge effectiveness along the way.

    I am interested in how you incorporate your pillars into your school’s Mission, Vision & Values Statements. Last year we renewed our own and our 5 Ways model blended with our 4 Dominican pillars (Prayer, Study, Service & Community) to contribute to what I feel are statements that very much reflect our school and what we are about.

    Social skills and enterprise skills must be prioritised in schools settings if we are to equip our young people for the world they live in. Research tells us they are crucial in order to succeed in future workplaces. Great to see you have taken such a thorough approach at St Luke’s.

    1. Hello Scott,

      Thanks for taking the time to offer your thoughts in a detailed way. I really like your 5 areas of ‘Connect’, ‘Be Active’, ‘Keep Learning’, ‘Take Notice’ & ‘Give’.

      With regards your question…Have you given thought to a particular framework or approach at St Luke’s? We are working with a system based well-being approach called Positive Behaviour Support for Learning, PBS4L. It is an adaption of the positive psychology approach originating our of the UK. We are in the early stages of developing a values based and strengths based approach to behaviour, well-being and even careers; but, more about that when the time is right and we are clear on the way forward after catching up with parents and students in the first half of this year.

      No doubt we will catch up over the social media airwaves throughout 2017. have a great year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s