From the Principal

What Makes a Difference?


A recent report, Life Chances, by the Brotherhood of St Laurence makes interesting reading for those who think about what allows young people in our society to succeed.

The report, summarised in the Guardian under the title, Dumb luck, nurturing, hard work: how class does not always dictate fate, posits that “class does matter in Australia.”

But it also identifies areas where intervention can overcome “fate”.

“Love and nurturing matters, and aspiration, and dumb luck, and hard work.”

So,  the most important circuit breakers are the impact of a positive parental attitude to education, hard work and the “right” school.

“Other things, some informal and some formal, play a role too. It shouldn’t be that the family you are born into determines your life chances, but to some extent they do. Lives are not predictable, human beings surprise. There may be a really good teacher. You might have access to a really good school. You could when you are first getting into work have a mentor and someone to support you.” Dr Dina Bowman, Life Chances.

The report backs up years of research that show how important it is for parents to actively show how much they respect learning as a precursor to academic success.

“Parents and families play an important role in supporting their child’s education. Research has shown that when schools and families work together, children do better, stay in school longer, are more engaged with their school work, go to school more regularly, behave better, and have better social skills. Parent Engagement in Children’s Learning, DEC,  2018 ( › parent-engagement-children-s-learning)

There is no doubt that a great education provides opportunities for our young people to succeed and can even be a significant factor in breaking out of negative social and economic circumstances. Research shows that, from the youngest age, the quality of education, plays a significant role is setting a child on the path to success and career options.

Early learning: Social and economic benefits

  • more likely to finish school.
  • more likely to find higher paying jobs.
  • more likely to own their own homes.
  • less likely to be involved in crime as adults.
  • less likely to need support with emotional and behavioural problems.

“Research suggests that good quality care is expensive to provide; it is associated with well-trained and educated staff, low staff–child ratios, low staff turnover rates, good wages, and effective leadership”.

Perhaps that is why Columba Cottage is so well regarded and popular with parents.

Australian education has a history of valuing the parental opportunity to choose the type of education they want for their children.

Often the choice parents make is an expensive one, requiring significant sacrifice to ensure their child receives the best educational opportunities, particularly if they choose an independent school.

The question is, “Is this investment worth it?”

Academically, research studies using the raw NAPLAN data show students in Independent schools have substantially higher scores in all the NAPLAN domains than students in other sectors, with a higher proportion of Independent school students among the highest achieving cohort and a smaller proportion among the lowest achievers.

“The evidence suggests that Independent school students benefit from the capability and professionalism of their teachers and a school climate that values academic achievement, provides personal support and a safe and ordered environment, and fosters a sense of belonging to a community.”

The aspects of quality schooling experience associated with higher achievement include:

  • Teacher quality – without question the greatest school-related influence on student outcomes. Teachers who exhibit  strong pedagogical and content knowledge, a commitment to continuing professional development, a good knowledge of assessment and a range of teaching strategies for different students.
  • A school climate which encourages respect, orderliness and a sense of social cohesion that is felt by students and staff.
  • A good disciplinary climate and excellent classroom management.
  • A sense of belonging.
  • Positive relationships between students, between students and teachers and between parents and the school.
  • High expectations and an emphasis on high standards.

Finally, the willingness to grasp opportunity is important – Working hard is really important, trying is important.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Hard work applied to natural talents and instincts will take a student to levels others may never attain. Talent alone will not do it to achieve true success, students must perfect their “talents” through hard work -­ practice, training and exerting effort.

The individual student’s attitude and capacity to take a level of responsibility for his/her educational development play a big role in what we call success.

If you have those three things behind you, success is not guaranteed but you have  the best opportunity  to do something wonderful with your life!

Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School
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