Saturday, 16 December 2017

Engaged and motivated students design learning spaces with award winning architects

Engaged and motivated learners always faithful to our loving God is the vision for the St Patrick's school community. Community consultation over a year ago led to a renewed vision for teaching,  learning and living. Learn more at this link. Further to this, the redevelopment of internal and external learning spaces as a stimulus for authentic engagement and motivation was one of the drivers for a school ten year masterplan. Other drivers are: student and staff well being, collaboration, security, child safe standards, sustainability and maintenance of the buildings and grounds. The Parish Education Board formed a Masterplan Committee who shortlisted and appointed the award winning architectural firm K2LD to design the masterplan.

The Student Representative Council (SRC) with two reps from thirteen of the fifteen St Pat's classes met with the team of architects and designers from K2LD for the first masterplan visioning workshop. It made perfect sense that the students were the first to be consulted in the process. K2LD will lead two more visioning workshops; one with staff and the other with the parent and parish community during the first two weeks of the 2018 school year. This extensive consultation will contribute to the development of a unique masterplan for creative change for the St Patrick's community.

The K2LD team introduce themselves to the SRC

A slideshow presentation highlighted the role of the architects and designers and included reference to the following : perspective, plan, elevation, collaboration, details, interior design, existing spaces and benchmarking. The students were asked to draw or write three suggestions to help improve the school. They played a card game and were asked to choose one card to describe how they felt about the current school and one card for how they would like to feel in the redeveloped school. 
Tisha and David Lee, Directors of K2LD working with the SRC
The following short video vignettes capture some of the feedback from the student visioning workshop. We look forward to seeing how the K2LD team incorporates the students ideas and suggestions into the masterplan. Working alongside award winning architects is certainly one way to engage and motivate our students to learn how to be connected, collaborative leaders of creative change.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Students become the leaders of the future through internally driven change

In a 'school that delivers', the principal carries the vision, sensitivities, and skill sets of cultural change and creates the conditions in which teachers become the leaders of instruction and students become the leaders of the future (Edwards, J. and Martin, B., 2016, p.xiii).

When I began in my leadership role at St Patrick's, I became immersed in the vibrant school community by carrying out a visioning process. You can read about the outcomes of the process at this link. The staff have since spent the 2017 year carrying out action research using the Spiral of Inquiry action research model as a guide. You can read about the process at this link. As an outcome of this process, staff have worked on self chosen projects linked to our School Improvement Plan that have immediately impacted processes of positive change across the school. These have included: 
  • an e-learning team who have agreed the St Pat's way forward for skill development and devices aligned with the rationale of the Victorian Digital Curriculum.
  • a school reporting team who are reviewing current reporting practices to better meet the needs of the community.
  • a specialist PE & art team exploring ways to address fine and gross motor skill development.
  • a social skills team forging a pathway for developing resilience in students and addressing ways to support parents to do this. 
The next stage is to embed this new learning and further develop it through deep consultation with the community. To enable this stage to embed and flourish, St Patrick's staff will join the Schools That Deliver Network.

The professional learning from this network provides a process for taking ownership of our own growth. The following extracts are taken from the Schools that Deliver book and I acknowledge the authors for permission to publish their material in this blog. Details of the process can be found in Chapter One of the book: Edwards, J. and Martin, B. (2016) Schools That Deliver. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press. 

'Schools that deliver' are dedicated to enhancing others (teacher & leadership expertise) who in turn, ultimately produce maximum growth in students' acquisition of desired outcomes (Hattie, 2003; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; Edwards & Martin, 2016). This is done through these key concepts:
  • The knowledge is in the room - people feel liberated, committed and collaborative
  • Creating a culture of trust and thoughtful collaboration - relational trust needs to flourish
  • Liberating leadership in others - developing others' capacity to solve their own problems
Dr John Edwards, is an Australian international researcher, using research to drive an award-winning practice in education, in business and industry, and in high-performance sport. John is Managing Director of Edwards Explorations, an Australian based company concerned with developing human potential and internally driven transformation of schools. He has a long and distinguished international career in research on how people think, and has been one of the major research grant recipients in cognitive science in Australia. John has worked in over twenty countries on teaching thinking, on tapping human potential, on organisational learning, and on leadership. 

Bill Martin has forty-nine years of experience as an educator and has won numerous awards for his successful leadership of schools in America. Bill has also presented invited addressees at International Conferences on Thinking in United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Spain and Malaysia. Bill has facilitated long term professional development programmes to grow leadership capacity in Norway and Sweden.

Clarifying what is in the hearts and souls of each school community are at the core of John and Bill's work. Having the understanding and processes to make this a reality on each school site is the 'deliver' part of the solution.

We are ready to join an international community of educators who share faith in internally-driven change. We are looking forward to embarking on a three year whole school staff development and leadership programme. We are ready to take ownership of our own growth based on a deep faith in the staff and families to design their own ways forward for the enhancement of student learning so that students at St Patrick's can indeed become the leaders of the future.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A Sustainable Culture of Child Safety: Filling in the Holes of the Swiss Cheese

This is an active response to a Catholic Education Melbourne workshop Child Safe Standards: Next Steps on the Journey presented at the Catholic Leadership Centre August 2017.

Key note speaker, Professor Daryl Higgins, Institute of Childhood Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, stressed the importance of having multiple practices in place to ensure a Child Safe school. Higgins described the context of an organisation as having holes like those in Swiss cheese. The more layers of cheese we can provide, the less holes. Just as steering wheel locks were a visible deterrent to car thieves before car security improved, we need to send a strong, visible message that we promote and reinforce a Child Safe School.

The new Child Safe Standards through Ministerial Order No 870 became mandatory on the 1 August 2016. On 15 November 2016, further legislation was passed in Victoria providing the Commission for Children and Young People, powers to oversee and enforce compliance with the Child Safe standards by relevant organisations. 
Here is a link to an excellent VRQA 2 minute video summarising the processes so far
St Pat's and every other school in Victoria introduced a new Child Safety Policy and Code of Conduct in Term 4, 2016. The introduction of the standards, coincided with the beginning of my tenure as principal in Melbourne. Having now completed ten years as a primary school principal, I believe that the challenge to support the community to adjust to the necessary and ongoing changes to the school culture in relation to the ministerial order have been my greatest yet.

To comply with the Child Safe Standards, we have made a number of necessary changes to existing practices. Some of these have included the introduction of an Alcohol Consumption Policy in relation to school community events. This has meant a change to expectations around pizza nights, discos, working bees and our school fete. The Child Safe Code of Conduct is now visible on the visitor sign in ipad, including the importance of wearing lanyards and the registering of Working With Children Checks. Parents are expected to report to the office to pass on messages and pick up children instead of freely wandering through the school.

Catholic Commission Education Victoria 1 minute Child Safe Video 

The move from an informal and trusting environment to formalised visitor expectations has been a challenge for some of our parents. Changes in the way the school community has traditionally held events has been another challenge. As principal, I understand the enormous change of culture needed to comply with this legislation. It is our responsibility as leaders to educate our children, staff and our community to move beyond compliance to deeply embedding a sustained child safety culture. There are still many holes in the cheese. As we continually review our practices, we invite parents and children to be part of a newly established Child Safe Team. This will help to fill in the holes and engender much needed ownership and understanding about the need for change within our community.

On the 1 July 2017, the Children Legislation Amendment (Reportable Conduct) Act 2017 (Vic.), has been passed by the Victorian parliament, preparing the way for the introduction of a Victorian Reportable Conduct Scheme (Scheme). All of this legislation means further reviews of our practice. Ultimately, the message is that it must become the norm for Child Safety to be on every meeting agenda and part of every staff, parent and Parish discussion.

Next steps for our community:
  • Draw attention to Child Safe procedures with children, staff and parents during National Child Protection Week 3-9 September
  • Ensure the Child Safe Policy and other documents are visible on our website, newsblog and learning site
  • Initiate a Child Safe Team including teachers, parents and children
  • Work with the Student Representative Council to develop a child friendly Child Safe Code of Conduct and give our children a voice around Child Safety
  • Include Child Safety on the agenda of all meetings - staff, board and parents
  • Review camp and excursion Safety Action Plans
  • Use the CEM Embedding a Culture of Child Safety Reflection Tool with the community
Protecting the well being and sacred dignity of every child has been and still is an ongoing job for each and every member of our community. We invite all of you to be play your part in keeping our children safe. Together we can continually add layer upon layer of cheese to fill in the holes and create safe environments where every child can thrive and flourish.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Restorative Practices: "Open our minds and hearts..." one parent's reflection

When I created this change2flourish blog, the intent was to create a forum for authors to collaborate and share first hand experiences of change (learn more).

My challenge has been to find contributors willing to share their experiences. That is until now. I sincerely wish to thank Kate Cherfi, one of our school parents, for sharing an honest reflection about change in her family as an outcome of a Restorative Practice evening at school.

At the end of an enlightening Restorative Practice evening in the school hall, I stood up to thank the internationally renowned presenter, David Vinegrad. I explained that I had taken copious notes and asked if anyone else had done the same. One lone hand went up out of about one hundred parent and teachers.

I am thrilled to be able to share with you a very personal reflection from the other person who bravely admitted to taking notes - Kate Cherfi. Kate attended the evening with her husband Adrian. Kate and Adrian have two daughters at St Patrick's School, Ada in Year 3 and Willow in Year 2.

Here is Kate's reflection:

I think as a parent we need to be taught the right way to be the perfect role models for younger generations. Growing up I grew up with dismissive parents who led me to believe that this was the only way to discipline. How wrong I was to think and act this way. I too had taken their approach on board and its only done more harm than good. I was left powerless.

After hearing David's approach its just so easy to apply because he’s reminding us of what has been missing all along. Family values and respect for one another.

I LOVE his point about shifting the focus from the wrongdoers and promoting empathy for both parties. This is key. I had to use his approach with Ayda yesterday and it worked beautifully and given this was a new approach from me in the end she asked for a cuddle and looked me in the eye and said, “thanks for sitting down with me and talking about it mum”. I feel empowered as a parent and as a woman and I do hope that my kids will grow up using the same approach.

Every night now we play True or False. Two truths and one lie. I didn’t like using the word lie so changed it to false. The kids love it and it gives me an opportunity to make a new story up each night. Lol..There’s a big kid within!!

So in a nutshell I think it was amazing having David speak and helping us adults open our minds and hearts again, and showing us the way.

Kate Cherfi

David Vinegrad's website
Relationships, relationships and relationships
Here is a summary of the evening for those of you who attended or for those of you who were unable to come along and want to learn more about Restorative Practices. You can access the slideshow at this link. One word to sum up the powerful message from the evening was "relationships". David stressed that the 3 R's central to quality parenting are - relationships, relationships and relationships.

Within two minutes of our Student Wellbeing Leader Angela Yates introducing David, we were asked to move our chairs and sit in two large circles, an inner and an outer one. There was much laughter as we had to introduce ourselves to the person sitting opposite and answer questions. Before we knew it, David's chime sounded out and we had to move seats and talk with another person. In those brief conversations, we made new connections and shared insights into out fears, hopes and dreams for our children. At the same time we were building relationships and connections with those around us.
When David asked parents what sort of attributes they wanted their children to have when they left St Patrick's some of the responses were: compassion, honesty, resilience, empathy. Interestingly enough, being a star mathematician or a the best writer didn't feature. Aligning school values with family values will enable children to be supported to flourish.

Restorative Practices is the whole school approach that underpins the Pastoral Care and Behavioural Support programme at St Patrick's. It is guided by Catholic Education Melbourne's policies focused on student well being and building resilience.
As David explained, restorative practice is about managing behaviours through a relationship lens. It is about separating the behaviour from the child and restoring relationships to be respectful and productive. It is about moving away from a blame and shame model to genuinely understanding the harm and repairing the relationship. 

Restorative Practice is about enabling children to be confident enough to own their behaviours and understand boundaries, limits and expectations. It is about a balance between being firm and fair. It is understanding that being sorry means more than just saying the words, but it means a change in behaviour.
Have a W.A.R.R.M. Conversation
David uses the acronym "warm" to describe a restorative conversation. This is something that parents can talk through with children at home. Research supports that encouraging children to articulate their behaviours and feelings improves oral language skills whilst building resilience and self-esteem 
What happened ? (what, which, when, who, where, how?)
Affect (who has been affected and in what ways?)
Reflection (if you had your time over again what would be different?)
Repair (what needs to happen to fix things ?)
Moving on - (make plans and agreements for prevention and behaviour change)

Empower our children and build resilience
David spoke of the importance in letting the children learn to speak about their concerns with their teachers and friends. Sometimes, parents want to take matters into their own hands and solve their children's problems. We must encourage our children to learn to speak up at school to help solve problems instead of relying on parents emailing concerns on behalf of the children.

When you see your child at the end of the day you can ask "What was the best part of your day at school ?" Avoid asking "How was your day?" or "What didn't go well today ?" Focus on the positive and ask open ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer.

As Kate mentioned, play the "two truths and one false game" with your children. Spend quality time talking together. Open your minds and hearts to your children and to each other. 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Interruption & Hope : Purposefully wading into deeper waters

                                                                                                        "Do not be afraid" Mt. 14:27

A personal reflective response to THCT605 Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI): Introducing the Leuven Project
This is my early understanding in relation to the Leuven Project. It is a personal interpretation, a way for me to recontextualise my learning so that it will be meaningful for the local school community. In sharing this reflection, I welcome interruption to my thoughts through dialogue as we purposefully wade into deeper waters together.
 Jesus Walking On Water by Gloria Ssali Fine Art America

1. Interruption
How can a school leader abandon their school for five days after an emergency closure due to water damage ? This was the question I grappled with when an unexpected event, interrupted and displaced some of our school community from their regular teaching and learning spaces in the days leading up to this course.

2. Hope
Three valid reasons enabled the interruption to provide a space for new learning and formation:
a) I implicitly trust the capabilities of our very able staff. Emails and phone calls are reassuring. b) Prior enrolment in the Australian Catholic University (ACU) paper generously sponsored by Catholic Education Melbourne (CEM) meant that I was committed. c) A duty as a school leader to fully understand the ECSI Project in light of our school report and a personal challenge to further support and enhance Catholic school identity in the hope that it will flourish.

3. Interruption
Professor Didier Polleyfet and Jan Bouwens presenting the ECSI Project to Catholic school leaders, August 2017
After our first full day of learning, my head was spinning with theological terms, words and phrases associated with the ECSI Project. Like all learning, we have to be brave enough to fall into the pit (Butler & Edwards, 1994 cited in Nottingham, 2003) before we can truly rise to the challenge of new learning.
On my second morning, after alighting from a tram full of commuters staring at their mobile phone screens, my eyes were immediately drawn to the sun glistening on a large bronze crucifix outside the headquarters of CEM, James Goold House. This symbol was an interruption to the norm, an immovable presence amidst the hurrying passersby.
Image from Taiwan Today

4. Hope
Passersby appeared oblivious to the bronze crucifix, a striking symbol of Christianity. Yet, it was on the morning of our fifth and final day, when I finally believed my new learning was making sense, that my perception of the insignificance of the symbol to passersby changed. I noticed a single, white lily had been placed at the foot of the crucifix. Immediately, this simple gesture, had transformed a traditional symbol of Catholic identity into the present space where dialogue, personal encounter and hope could connect and flourish.

5. Interruption
The latest publication from Pollefeyt and Bouwens
As leaders and teachers in Catholic schools, we are called to enable space and place for personal encounters within the rich tapestry of Catholic symbols, prayer, scripture and tradition. Research from the Leuven Project (Pollefeyt & Bouwens, 2014), grounded in data from our Australian schools, suggests that Religious Education primarily based on Christian Values is not enough within the context of our secularising society. We have to challenge ourselves to dig more deeply, in order to purposefully connect the mystery and tradition of our Catholic faith, with the contemporary lives of our learners today.
To help explain this, I have likened this challenging interruption to an iceberg analogy.

Personal iceberg analogy to explain a way to enhance Catholic Identity in our schools today.

6. Hope
We can help our learners to engage in a sacred space, to enable a personal encounter with our loving God. Research from Pollefeyt and Bouwens (2014), indicates that the two main areas where we can make an impact are:
a) The creative use of scripture and
b) Engaging learners in prayer.

Let's support our learners to connect with and make sense of their personal life experiences in the contemporary world of today, by purposefully wading into deeper waters together.  "Do not be afraid" Mt. 14:27.

Through intentional interruption and by drawing deeply from Catholic sacraments, traditions, symbols and stories (Sharkey, 2015), we can enable a vibrant, living, contemporary Catholicity to flourish.

This reflection is an attempt to recognise the following theological interpretations:
Interruption - Boeve (2016) argues that a productive tension between theology and religious studies interrupting each other is mutually beneficial.
Hope -  Sharkey (2017) challenges us to reflect on and celebrate the seeds of hope we can identify in our current practise.


Boeve, L. (2016). Theology at the crossroads of university, church and society: Dialogue, difference and Catholic identity. London, United Kingdom: Bloombsbury.

Nottingham, J. (2003). The Learning Challenge. Retrieved from

Pollefeyt, D. & Bouwens, J. (2014). Identity in Dialogue. Assessing and enhancing Catholic school identity. Munster, Germany: Lit Verlag.

Sharkey, P. (2015). Educator's guide to Catholic identity. Victoria, Australia: Vaughan Publishing.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

SE Principals Seek to Scale Success with Glen Pearsall

Two terms into my new job in Melbourne and I had the fortuitous task of recording a synergetic session with Glen Pearsall.

As a newly formed executive of the South Eastern Zone Catholic Principals Network, we thought it timely to revisit our current mantra : Engaged, committed, inclusive, professional - Collegial support to maximise the effectiveness of our schools. The mantra was developed about ten years ago when only 15% of the existing network members were present.

Principals who had worked with Pearsall in the past, respected his practical, research based expertise. It was agreed that a personalised workshop with Pearsall would support us to action our effectiveness as a network going forward. We chose wisely. The outcomes of this engaging leadership workshop with Pearsall, will certainly guide a strengthened and puropseful approach to future network meetings as we seek to scale success.
I recommed this approach as a self-review tool for other networks and for leadership work within and across schools. 
Glen Pearsall sharing data
Here is synopsis of the session with some key reflective questions and references to other sources from Pearsall. I have taken the liberty to research and include some extra links and images.
  • Often vision and mission statements are generic. Are they are compass point or a mere goal or intention ?
  • Six key questions we had to rank and discuss -  1. How do we remain focussed on learning ? 2. How do we provide concrete support for our colleagues? 3. How do we share our expertise with each other ? 4. How do we address potential conflicts of interest ? 5. How do we turn our vision into action ? 6. How do we address when team members are not meeting our stated expectations ? 
  • Key questions aligned with the network reflections
Pearsall took our network reflections from an earlier meeting and aligned them with the key questions
  • Lencioni (2015) pyramid for a cohesive team is based on trust
Based on Lyncini's behaviours of a cohesive team. Image source bizz buzz
  • Two types of capital in any group (from Pearsall's leadership book) - human and social capital. Principals build human capital and help to grow pedagogoical espertise across the school. Principals need to aim to keep non instructional issues off the agenda to allow staff to focus on teaching and learning. What does excellence look like in our schools ? We need to have a clear understanding of what this looks like in practice. One school Pearsall has worked with agreed to video their practice.
  • Goddard's work (2000) around collective efficacy is powerful and relates to social capital - Collective efficacy is more important than self-efficacy.
  • What are we doing to spread good practice in this group in this room ? How can we spread the social capital ? How can we draw on the strengths of each other and move the knowledge around ? How do we get the most out of groups ? Sharing social capital, scaling success is a passion of Pearsall.
  • What are our concrete strategies for sharing the capital of what we already have in the room. Lilydale High School is very big and has a large turnover of staff. As a result they have a strong induction programme. What have we got in place to induct new principals into our network ?
  • The Nathalia Learning Community is made up of four schools with huge challenges. Their social capital is huge, human capital is challenging. They achieve success through a high level of social capital.
    “... Social capital provides the glue which facilitates co-operation, exchange and innovation.” The New Economy: Beyond the Hype ( OECD Insights - Human Capital).
    "Social capital are the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively." (Google)

  •  What are our strategies for purposeful sharing versus potentially being anecdotal and piecemeal ? What are our concrete actions at building social capital amongst our group ? This should be number one on the agenda. From a practical perpsective we could employ an expert to carry out some of the administrative work amd divide the cost across twenty-four schools. A retired principal who works for the group to action some of the things eg. an executive officer is being employed by the VACPSP.
  • Can we saving time through maximising our expertise and dividing labour to offset our costs ? Could we draw on external support as a group ? 
  • A red team in the military challenges the effectiveness of a group. Have we got a red team  - someone who pokes holes in what we are doing ? Do we do it as a group ?
  • Have we identified good practice amongst us or in our schools ? Sometimes we need to ask other people in the group to identify expertise.
  • Goodwin (2015) In The road less travelled - Changing schools from the inside out  focuses on the idea that the best practise for change is starting with curiosity. Wayne Bennet - their innovation is curiosity. Could small groups be working on focus projects ? These could be expert focus groups based around a curiosity or a passion.
  • Have we got a space to share our pooled resources ? We have Google community. Do we need another platform. Pearsall recommended SLACK.

  • An example of effective collaboration Pearsall has experienced is the sharing of staff goals. These are made anonymous and shared as a resource. This improves the quality of the goal setting.
  • We have a high degree of informal sharing at our network meetings but haven’t gone to the next stage of recording and sharing our work beyond the minutes of our meetings. This is about digging deeper and going to the next level. Pearsall believes in the power of social capital. As a network we need to optimise our time by pooling resources in a central depository.
  • Our Carrot ? What draws us to come together ? The success of going off to other countries to look at education systems every two years has been immensely valuable. Could we visit locally and go more often ? How can we capitalise on the here and now ? These meetings should be the carrot.
  • Challenge: Just knowing what is going on in our own network is very powerful. Do we get out to other schools and into classrooms to observe best practice ?
  • Do we have conversations around curiosity ? Eg. Embedding sustainability across all of our schools
  • Can we develop a register of what we are interested in so we can work on it ? We can build and connect through our motivations and passions. Allocate time to work in the curiosity groups during our day. Be creative about the way we use our time together. Trial something and see what works and doesn’t work. What would we form groups around ? SIP, personal goals, curiosity
  • Sergiovanni (1984) classified leadership into 5 'forces': technical, human, educational, symbolic and cultural. How can we ensure we focus more on educational leadership ? How do we share expertise ? Do we outsource or use our skills from within our network ? Do we know projects that are successful in our schools ? What is the feature lesson equivalent for us as a network ?
  •      Every principal actively engaged during Glen's workshop
  • Data chart - One of the big areas of improvement for all schools is to build social practice and scale success. A highly effective school can utilise the skills of their teachers to share best practice. This will make the greatest difference to improving performance for other teachers and learners. It’s not what school you send your child to but the quality of the teachers within and across the school.

Highly effective school with average teachers can make the greatest difference to learning outcomes

  • How well do leaders scale success ? Leadership groups must have an agenda to build social capital in the room. This is vital.

What is our strategy moving forward ?
Based on Pearsall's prompts and our discussions, the following proposed agenda items rose to the top. We voted on these items to prioritise them. Here are our results with the number of votes in brackets from the 22 of the 24 principals present:

  1. Move to full day meetings and use the time for focus groups to meet on our network day (20)
  2. Catholic Education Melbourne level or retired person to take on an executive role (19) 
  3. Induction for new staff and support (18)
  4. Forming curiosity based focus groups (16) What are we curious about ? Discuss as focus groups. Could be - I need to know about it, personal passion...3 or 4 key things..contribute and leave..sharing time/ stand up meeting - one thing we have noticed/check in. With flexible groups, seek our existing resources and get up to speed in our time. Record on a shared space within a shared structure.
  5. Register of expertise/ passion/ curiosity/ experience - peer or self nominated (16)  Develop the register for collective sharing. Social capital means utilising skills of our teachers and leaders. Source concrete ways for best practice to become everyone’s practice. 
  6. Opportunities to get into each others schools at classroom level  (14)
  7. Better use of google for sharing resources (12) Pearsall referred to this one as the slow hand vote. Some schools set up and function around the 5 spheres and use this as a structure to guide and plan.
  8. Sharing experts and funding (3)
  9. Motivators beyond curiosity (1)

Further thoughts...
  • Identify a couple of the above as the most pressing for us as a network. What should we do first ?
  • Pearsall's own goal is to always aim to leave any meeting with a strategy. What is our strategy going forward ?
  • Always take advantage of a hypothesis approach. Get public agreement about what we will trial rather than what will work when you are trying and testing new ideas.
  • Review our existing agenda to cater for our needs.
  • Do not lockdown when our curiosity wanes within action or inquiry groups. Be flexible and move between and across groups.
  • Meeting protocols. Resurface some of the protocols from this group in the past. 
  • There are obvious benefits that come out of this process - resources and expertise for all to use.
  • How do we preserve the best of what we do ? Are we sharing the extent of our challenges and abilities within the room ?
  • Do we revisit our mantra and new approach ?  Part of the process is setting the review date. When are we going to look and see if it is working or not ? The default is one year’s time. 
Quotes from Pearsall that resonate with me:
"Take time to pause in the busyness of our every day lives and reflect on what’s important not just what’s urgent "( Pearsall, 2017)
"We need to scale success in the room not just address any problems" (Pearsall, 2017).

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Strengthening partnerships ; Empowering parents & children through building social skills

Collaboration between a team of teachers digging into the data from children and parents led to a recent parent event. Here is a reflection around the process and outcomes so far. Thanks to the St Patrick's staff and Lucas Tuan-Mu for their valued contribution to the event and this post.

School Community Sphere
Target (Index figures for 2018)
Evidence of change
To strengthen partnership within our community
Community Engagement 77(Community Engagement Variable)
-Review and analyse feedback from parents/action learning events

-POPE parents as open partners in education meetings

-Develop Learning Community Site
-Creation of targeted goals and actions from feedback to promote school community partnerships
-Increased attendance at school/ family partnership events eg Family Masses and Host Family nights, Information Nights
-Learning celebrations, open sessions for the community and utilise skills from parent
Parent engagement in student learning is strengthened

The above actions form part of our St Patrick’s Annual Action Plan 2017 Here is the link. The School Community goal provides a context for our purpose to engage parents.

Research around the value of collaboratively sharing expertise and using the Spiral of Inquiry framework as a guide going forward, lead to the engagement of parents as partners in a “Building Social Skills” initiative.
Based on playground data and conversations with children, teachers and parents; staff innovatively created a renewed approach to supporting the development of positive social and emotional skills in the Middle Years. This commenced with the Year 4 children.

The action team began with the Deputy Principal, Student Support Leader and Principal. This grew to include the Year 4 teachers, Student Well Being Leader, teacher librarian and registered school psychologist. Many planning meetings took place, leading to the initial parent evening. Details around the specific wording of the invitation to parents, the format of the evening, proposed outcomes, the best venue and necessary resourcing evolved, as part of the depthening of this inquiry.

One goal for the evening was to allow time for parents to interact and share their experiences with each other as part of the planned parent activities.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 1.18.23 PM.png
Parent’s participated enthusiastically as they shared and discussed social challenges for their children and families at home. Common issues rose to the top of the ranking ladders. These included answering back/ arguing, sibling rivalry and electronic devices.Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 2.06.48 PM.png
Our Deputy Principal, Liz Hills, spoke about the social challenges some of our children may face at school. Liz explained that we want to empower all children to take ownership of any issues. If children are feeling anxious or worried, for example, about school friendships, they may not be able to focus on their learning.
Together, parents and teachers can help empower children to develop the life skills to handle worries and concerns. Instead of writing an email directly to the teacher, when a child shares a concern, parents can ask the following questions and support children to solve issues:
How did you manage that ?
Who did you tell ?
How did you feel ?
Our Year 4 teachers, mentioned the ongoing support for children in classrooms. In particular, the work with Friendly Kids, Friendly Classrooms. There is a display outside the Year 4 classrooms.
Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 2.55.16 PM.png
Our Student Support Leader, Kerryn Oliver, explained the importance of a holistic education. We have a large team of dedicated staff who want to support all children to succeed.
Kerryn introduced Lucas Tuan-Mu, our school psychologist, an expert in this field of work.

Lucas explained his day to day work and the importance of supporting all students to develop positive social skills. Developing social skills will enable children to be more successful and confident in relationships now and in the future. The following slide summarises a range of social skills topics that Lucas has had experience supporting.
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Thirty four parents attended the evening. This is 70% attendance from the Year 4 parents. Feedback from parents was overwhelmingly positive with a request from parents of other year levels for a similar event.
Potentially, a follow up event to this initial parent evening will be planned to continue to strengthen parent partnerships to support learning through building social skills. Supporting parents and children until the end of Year 6 at St Patrick’s will ensure a strong, positive transition to secondary school. The Spiral of Inquiry is ongoing. We will continually collaborate to strive for successful outcomes for the whole community.