From the Principal – 21 September 2017

Recognising and knowing each other’s stories is something I value. It is my intention to travel to Sri Lanka this break in an attempt to get to know Sri Lankan culture better, especially as there are a number of people in our community who share such heritage. Growing up in South East Asia has taught me much about the value of intercultural competence and understanding and I am particularly excited about exploring the Sri Lankan culture as it is one I know sadly little about. St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar School families and staff have been noticeably generous with regard to sharing plans and ‘must dos’ while I am there. I am extremely grateful and look forward to sharing what I have learned on my return.

Strategic Plan
Thank you to all who have contributed thus far. We are now at the stage of putting it all together so that it may be presented in Term 4. Some key elements are emerging through the revised values and virtues of Character, Courage, Respect and Curiosity that will be a focus for action in the near future.

Areas of focus will include:

Quality Teaching and Learning
There is no doubt that quality teaching is the major in-school determinant of student academic success & wellbeing and this area will be a significant part of the School moving forward. The School will be establishing a Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching and significant time and energy will be directed towards making our teachers the best in the country. We have had broad interest in the new Director of Staff Learning and Research role from outstanding educators around the nation. The second most powerful determinant of student success is quality leadership and we are in the process of putting together what I believe is one of the strongest leadership teams of any school. Quality leadership with quality teaching and learning programs will be one of our flagships.

Certificate of Global Citizenship
Another innovation that is emerging from the Strategic Plan is the Certificate of Global Citizenship with which our students will graduate. This will sit alongside the VCE and will be a significant point of difference for education at St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar School. All schools claim to teach Global Citizenship, but very few schools can clearly articulate what this means. As a previous member of the Council of International School’s pilot program for certification as well as our strong relationship to the University of Melbourne and Asia Education Foundation research in this area, I know we are in a strong position. I have just had the honour to represent us in a program for Global Citizenship aimed at language teachers in the Department of Education. Our teachers have also been selected to speak at the AHISA conference in 2018 on Global Citizenship and we are the recipients of two grants that recognize the leadership we are taking in this area. This builds on the foresight of predecessors who implemented the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program.

In a world where over 80% of all graduates from Australian universities will work overseas, this is a necessary and important endeavor.

One School
I am hoping that the School community is noticing a move towards a ‘One School’ approach, while honouring the recognized benefits of the provision of gendered education from years 7 – 12. Our unique educational model really does benefit our families, permitting single sex classes in a number of areas, while allowing the girls and boys to interact together in meaningful ways. There have been a number of student led initiatives this year including the activities afternoon recently where boys and girls enjoyed a number of joint activities in a positive and collegial atmosphere.

For the first time next year, we will see a limited number of combined VCE courses that involve SMS and BGS students working together. This ensures students have access to an increasingly broad range of subjects that will maximize life choices for our students.

These reflect our unique positioning as a co-ed school that branches into a separate boys and girls school. It truly is the best of all educational models – one that preserves and celebrates what we know about best teaching for boys and girls.

A new curriculum leadership structure will underpin a major curriculum review in 2018
Another benefit of a multi campus school is the opportunity to share curriculum, assessment and pedagogical knowledge. The school is in the process of developing a common understanding of what good teaching and learning ‘looks like’ and the ‘de-privatisation of practice’ is a key element of this. Staff are increasingly opening their classrooms to colleagues, mentors and coaches to learn from, with and about each other. Expert knowledge will continue to be brought into our community through the relationships we have with key organisations such as ACE, ACEL and the universities.

This process will be directed by the new Director of Staff Learning and Research (commencing at the start of 2018) and the new Director of Curriculum and Innovation (commencing during 2018) as well as our existing leaders. The increased focus on ‘what works’ and ‘how do we know what works’ through research will aid us to target and improve our practice.

Wellbeing review.
Communication is a key element of relational trust, and trust between schools and families is a key characteristic of a successful school. We have been reflecting on the nature and quality of the communication between families and the school. Closely linked to this is the imperative to ‘Know the Student’. At SMS and BGS we are ideally placed to know every student. The next step is to maximize the communication between families and the School as the student moves through the school.  To this end, a wellbeing review is commencing Term 4, 2017 that will include a focus on strategies and structures that really help us to know every one of our students intimately as learners, and most importantly as people who can be agents of change for a better world. A system that allows families to have clear lines of communication, feel well informed, and understand the power of schools and families working together for the benefit of young people is a key driver. Combined with this will be the knowledge we have regarding maximizing the mental health of our young people and how we may best include this in a wellbeing scope and sequence.

The school is moving from strength to strength with Junior School already full with waitlists in a number of levels for 2018 and very strong enrolments in other parts of the school. Enquiries are a three times the levels of recent years.

I am delighted that you all are part of our journey.

Year 12 examinations
I wish all senior students the best as they prepare for their forthcoming exams. I know they will use the study time wisely and I encourage them to contact their teachers should they have any queries. To families also, the school is here for support and advice as required.

Virtute et Labore: Be the best you can be, now and in the future, for all humanity and the planet.

Ms Annette Rome