From the Principal

School Growth

Schools are (or at least should be) all about growth.

We should be offering our students:

  • The growth of knowledge and self-knowledge.
  • The growth of skills.
  • The growth of capacity.
  • The growth in awareness of how to live in society.

To be able to do this within the context of a world that is rapidly evolving, schools themselves have to grow. In terms of how schools operate, there are two ways of looking at growth: Growing in size or growing in effectiveness as educators. Both are worth planning for.

 St Columba knows that good growth happens if you plan it and that staying static is not an option.

We are currently the dominant educator in the region but as the Head of the Department of Education and Communities, Mark Scott, says: “Early domination in any market does not ensure future success”. That means, in the words of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, “If we want things to stay as they are, everything will have to change.”

Looking forward, some of our “big questions” are:

  • How do we want to grow?
  • What improvements will this growth bring to our School culture/learning community?
  • What impact will this growth have on our financial capacity/sustainability?
  • Does our current structure make successful growth possible?
  • Do we have the people and the facilities to support growth?
  • What happens if we build it and “they don’t come”?

School Vision:  At St Columba we will transform the lives of our students by offering the educational opportunities that will allow them to have lives of purpose, service and engagement.

To achieve that we must be willing to transform our structures, practices and approaches so that we are able to offer an educationally transformative experience for our students. If we are not willing to do this we accept mediocrity and not only betray our students but the school’s sustainability.

“Seriously, why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option? “

In our plans for grow (in capacity or numbers), we will  consider the following critical developmental questions:

  • Where have we come from? 
  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?

The fact is that history shows that the same organisational practices often do not remain effective throughout different phases of a school’s life span. Often failure to grow and prosper, or even survive, occurs when management principles, practices and approaches are bogged in the morass of “That’s how we have always done things!”

Time institutionalises approaches and these can become so rigid that schools, like other organisations, cannot adapt or pivot in the face of changes in circumstance or competition. Remaining “steadfast” to the old ways of operation can make it more difficult for the organisation when change becomes necessary for survival.

And change does not go away:

The inability or unwillingness of a school to effectively plan and act to support growth can result in a failure to recognise that the individualistic and creative activities that were  essential for the school to “get off the ground” can become a problem that may undermine the future. In other words a yearning for the past can lead to an inability to change leadership, structures and styles to match emerging challenges.

Our school must be able to respond to changing circumstances as it moves through the different stages of its development. The task of our School leaders and managers is to be aware of these stages, and recognise when the time for change has come.

We must be ready to go with the flow of the tide of changes that confront the school and its graduates rather than swim against it. We know that organisational evolution is not an automatic affair; it is a contest for survival.

If we are to maintain success, we must consciously introduce planned improvements that not only solve any current need/crisis but also fit the next phase of our growth. We must be willing and able to adapt to face today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

That is a goal that, no matter what changes the world throws at us, will not change at St Columba.

Terry Muldoon
School Principal

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