From the Principal

Is St Columba a Pioneer School?

St Columba has never hidden its intentions.
We aim to be the most outstanding school in NSW.

We agree with the dictum of Jim Collins that “Good is the enemy of great” and will never settle for being a “good” school.

This means that we are constantly reviewing what we do to find improvements and alternative ways of offering an outstanding all round education for our students.

A great school is generally regarded as one that:

  • Has a clear and shared focus;
  • Has high standards and expectations for all students;
  • Uses data to improve practice;
  • Has exceptional leadership;
  • Has high levels of collaboration and communication as keys to its operation;
  • Frequently monitors its learning and teaching structures and processes to ensure quality and improvement;
  • Uses focused professional development to ensure its staff are performing at the highest level.

As regular practice, we examine the best of the best in education across the world and determine if it can be adapted to meet the needs of our students.

Then we carefully introduce improvements, assess to ensure they are working as intended and then finetune them to make them even better.

We know this works.

A few years ago a well-interned and enthusiastic staff member declared that St Columba was a “pioneer school.”

I had to disagree.

A pioneer is a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area. The pioneers and the early explorers got lost, made serious mistakes, died in the wilderness and made “brave” decisions (A “Yes, Prime Minister” allusion there for those who know the show) based more on hope than evidence.

The education of our students is far too important to be based on excitement caused by the emergence of the new educational theory, piece of shiny technology or well-intentioned hope.

There is a cynical saying that “you should not worry about missing an educational theory or practice because there will be another one along next week.” Then there are the pundits who claim that today’s education is suffering from “change fatigue” and participating in “culture wars”.

A culture war is a cultural conflict between social groups and the struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs, and practices. It commonly refers to topics on which there is general societal disagreement and polarization in societal values.

This is often used to critique schools by those who refuse to support evidence-based improvement in education by those who hanker for a rose-couloured vision of a “beautiful and simpler time” in the past.

The fact is, schools like St Columba don’t focus on change, we focus on improvement and there is a very big difference between the two.

St Columba is, actually, what can be called an intelligent early adopter.

We examine what has been brought forward, examine its impact and efficacy and determine if it can be integrated into our educational vision.

We know:

  • our students deserve the very best in education and should not have to settle for a ”good” education just because they live in regional area;
  • our students should be able to benefit from us using educational data that shows what practices improve outcomes
  • students who are engaged in what they are learning enjoy education and retain knowledge;
  • that our educational practices plan to set students up for future education and career success.

So, we are deliberately setting out to create and sustain a school with the organisational agility to effectively adapt to sudden changes in society and education and one that can withstand unforeseen crisis.

Leading through uncertainty

Leading through uncertainty can be daunting – there are no easy solutions, and often no clear paths to follow. How do we lead when we can’t predict what’s going to happen next? Uncertainty requires leaders to adapt quickly to a rapidly changing situation, and to draw on different skills and types of leadership. When faced with uncertainty, school leaders need to deal with the immediate, while remaining focused on the future, to achieve the best possible teaching and learning environment, and outcomes for students.

Some activities differentiate effective leaders from the rest of the crowd when faced with adversity. What is required is a proactive, inclusive and transparent approach that does not downplay information or delay a response (Kerrissey and Edmonson 2020).

All of this can make today’s schooling very different from the one St Columba parents and grandparents experienced. This can lead to disquiet and concern that things are “too different”.

If this is your concern, please talk to us. We are not afraid to explain what we are doing and why. An example is:

So far our improvements have taken us from struggling “village” school to one that is recognised by its peers for its quality of all-round education, quality teaching, excellent results across the fields of learning, examinations and academic competitions, sport and performing arts and graduating students who are ready and willing to go on to further success.

Not a bad track record, but not the end of the journey.

Terry Muldoon

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