From the Principal

Growing Great Teachers

At the moment the shortage of teachers has overtaken the quality of teachers in the minds of the public and journalists.

Trying to staff classes in today’s climate has become the new rubik’s cube of life in every  school.

That does not mean the issues surrounding teacher quality have gone away, they have merely been pushed back as schools struggle to have a “warm body”, let alone a high quality professional, in each classroom each day.

Hiring the very best teachers has always been one of the key strategies of St Columba. Continuing their further development as high quality professional educators has also been one of the keys to our academic and all-round success.

“Governments have long known that teaching quality is the most important in-school driver of student performance. ….Sustaining effective classroom teaching day in, day out, does not just happen. It requires expert knowledge and skill, as well as substantial time for preparation and practice. Expertise develops gradually, as teachers’ knowledge and classroom proficiency builds. Working with instructional experts and coaches, both inside and outside the classroom, is key…School education in Australia is at a turning point. Either we continue to accept stagnating or declining student results, with much hand wringing but no genuine commitment to change, or governments and school leaders do the tough work required to reform schooling, starting with a genuine commitment to building and deploying expertise within the teaching profession.”  
Key teaching roles must be part of education reform, Jordana Hunter, Education Program Director. Grattan Institute.

St Columba recognises that providing professional guidance and development opportunities are the keys to great teaching and these are often hard to find in regional schools. The Halsey Report on Regional, Rural and Remote Education opened with this statement:

 “The key challenge for regional, rural and remote education is ensuring, regardless of location or circumstances, that every young person has access to high quality schooling and opportunities.”

A 2019 Grattan Institute survey found that instructional leadership roles in schools today often lack necessary support and credibility, and rarely lead to changes in teaching practice.

To address this reality of regional education, St Columba has taken steps to offer our staff the opportunities to develop their professional expertise in a structured and user-friendly manner.

Examples of how this approach is activated at our school includes:

  • Professional Learning Teams: Time is set aside for teachers across different curricula specialist areas to meet and discuss and develop their teaching skills, and this is incorporated in the weekly timetable.
  • Director of Professional Learning: This position was created with the goal of providing a strategic approach to professional learning, developing and coordinating  professional development experiences in house, where possible, and support staff in meeting their NESA mandated professional development requirements.
  • Coordinator of Literacy and Numeracy St Columba has recognised that essential keys to education and life are the abilities to read, write and count. To ensure that every student at St Columba has the opportunity to develop these foundational skills, this role was created.
  •  Educational Data Manager: We recognise that not all “bright” educational ideas are productive. To ensure that we are able to measure the growth of our students, the use of educational data is one of the foundations of our educational strategy.

We agree with the approach recommended by the Grattan Institute: “Instructional specialists should work within schools to set the standard for good teaching, build teaching capacity, and spread evidence-informed practices. They would help teachers understand not just what to do but how to do it to meet the needs of their students.”

The alternative is to allow teachers’ and students’ learning to be held hostage to approaches and programs that change with the wind or are found to be ineffective, under-resourced or politically driven.

Bad idea! Bad approach! Bad education!

Want to share your thoughts on this story, or do you have something you’d like to add? Email me at principal@scas.nsw.edu.au

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