From the Principal

St Columba Anglican School: Good but always getting better

At SCAS 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.

As a school leader I ascribe to the philosophy that ”Good is the enemy of great” and it will never be enough for St Columba to be merely a good school.

To that end, we constantly look into research that can inform our school leaders how we can rise above being merely good.

What makes a great school? The research says that great schools:

  • create and perpetuate an intentional culture that speaks of a coherent philosophy of learning for students
  • capitalise on the best ideas about what works in schools
  • make a substantial commitment to professional development for staff
  • adopt a big vision
  • define the school beyond its borders into the local community, the region, and the world
  • embrace stewardship of the school and its resources
  • track student outcomes over time to make data-rich (not opinion-rich) decisions
  • educate the board and parents thoroughly about how the schools works, and about what student and parent needs a school can and cannot meet
  • market the school with messages that tell a compelling story
  • know their priorities when making difficult decisions, ranking first “what’s best for the school,” then “what’s best for the student,” then “what’s best for all other interests.”

We also ensure that we learn from the best so that we can be the best.  In this we have learnt that the best schools ensure that:

  • early childhood education (play-based) is offered before formal schooling begins in Kindergarten
  • all our teachers are trained, treated and respected equally
  • we have teacher figures who care about the class and individual students
  • teaching and learning is personalised
  • children have access to individualised support and help based on their needs from the beginning of their schooling
  • social skills are also honed through collaborative projects with other children
  • we have an extensive co-curricular program that encourages creativity and imagination, fosters social skills, improves mental and physical wellbeing, and builds a sense of confidence and independence
  • school is important for developing a good self-image, a strong sensitivity to other people’s feelings and an understanding it matters to take care of others
  • we are helping our students develop a lifelong love of learning
  • we teach students in a way that is encouraging and motivating, helping to guarantee their present and future success

One of the things we know is that it is the quality of our staff that can allow us to rise up from being merely good to become a great school.

When it comes to learning, the importance of great teachers can’t be underestimated, not least because teachers have a significant influence on student achievement. Almost everyone can name a teacher who stands out in their memory because they were particularly engaging, encouraging or inspiring.

As some of the most influential role models for developing students, teachers are responsible for more than just academic enrichment. They connect with their pupils and reach them on multiple levels, because the best teachers are committed to their students’ well-being both inside and outside the classroom. By forging strong relationships, educators are able to affect virtually every aspect of their students’ lives, teaching them the important life lessons that will help them succeed.

Our capacity to attract and employ the very best educators and continue to work with them as they constantly hone their professional craft truly makes all the difference.

Our great buildings and excellent facilities pale in significance when compared to the impact of our staff, teaching and non-teaching, in creating a safe and engaging learning environment.

We know we are getting better all the time but there are always areas where we want to improve. One of these is that we need to better communicate to our parent body what we are doing and why we are doing it. And we are working on finding the best ways to do this because in education, almost everybody is an “expert.”

Everybody went to school at some time and each adult brings their positive and negative perceptions about their education into their child’s education.

“We want schools for our kids that mirror our own experience, or what we thought we wanted. That severely limits our ability to think creatively of a different kind of education. But there’s no way that tweaking that assembly line will meet the 21st-century world. We need a major overhaul.” Tony Wagner, Harvard Educational Innovation Centre

What this means is that the reality of a high functioning 21st century school can be challenging to some adults.

For those who enjoyed their schooling, these new approaches can seem a betrayal of a loved childhood experience and have them question why what worked so well (for them) had to be changed.

For those adults who did not have a positive experience of formal education the excitement and engagement of their child in this new paradigm can be unexpected.

Going from a good school to a great one is a worthwhile aspiration but that aspiration sometimes means lots of hard work, changing “what we have always done around here” and making changes that can make some uncomfortable.

In short, it requires dedication and hard work. But the results – engaged and happy students becoming successful adults – makes it all worthwhile.

Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School
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