I recently read two articles that attempt to describe the true value of education, or what it means to be an educated person. The first speaks scientifically about achievement, growth and statistics; the second highlights the values of freedom, fairness and democracy. It also describes citizenship and decision making as essential skills for informed decision making. Both articles were thought provoking and compelling and prompted me to think about a Gippsland Grammar education and how we would describe ourselves.
My musings coincided with a busy fortnight where I was fortunate to be present and support many student led activities; a weekend in Geelong with our female rowers at the Head of the Schoolgirls Regatta, watching Sinfonietta and Schoir perform with Kirsty Bromley at the Stratford Courthouse, or walking with Year 10 and 12 leaders as they participated in the ‘Relay for Life’ challenge on the weekend. I have also been involved in many other wonderful events at all three campuses in recent weeks.
As a School we certainly value academic progress and recognise that learning is our core business. We spend a large amount of time working with teachers to refine their skills and support them to be the best teachers that they can be; however, we also value the broader opportunities that are available at our School and encourage all of our students to find their passion during their time at Gippsland Grammar. We encourage them to give their best effort in everything they attempt and to find their own level of personal excellence.
At each of the rowing, music performance and ‘Relay for Life’, I saw students represent the School superbly, interact with others in a respectful and thoughtful manner and demonstrate real passion about a cause. I was incredibly proud of their efforts but, most importantly, I was proud of the citizens they are and the values they display.
I would like to congratulate all of our students for their efforts this term. In particular, I would like to commend our Year 12 cohort for the manner in which they have started their final year of secondary schooling, and I thank all of our staff for their care, compassion and influence on the character of our students.
I wish all of our families a very enjoyable and safe holiday period. May you feel the hope of new beginnings, love and happiness during this joyful Easter holiday.
A final reminder that many of our events and activities can be viewed on our Facebook site, so please check in and like our page to stay in touch.
Over the past few weeks I have been highlighting aspects of our Strategic Plan for your knowledge and explanation. In particular I have used the newsletter as a means of unpacking some of the language or eduspeak we use as part of our goal setting process.
Our final sections for explanation are our business practices and resource development. The key points that I hope you can understand and take away from these sections, are the manner in which we operate the School to make a modest, yet essential surplus to help fund ongoing programs and capital development, our desire to build a new Year 3/4 centre at St Anne’s and a Performing Arts Centre at Garnsey and a strong desire to offer a learning environment for our students that is technology rich and where ICT’s play a positive role in the learning process.
4.0 Ethical and Responsible Business Practice
Our future financial framework will be designed to ensure that the School will continue to be successful well into the future. Our framework will work within the values of the School and be designed to support the key areas listed above. The Business of the School is to educate students. Everything within the Business plan is expected to support or enhance student outcomes.
In 3 years
4.1 To operate the School in an effective yet efficient manner that responsibly balances the needs of the School with controlled expenditure.
4.2 To create modest and sustainable surpluses each year, that enable the School to achieve its strategic aims and ensure that the quality of our educational offering and opportunities for students are not compromised.
4.3 To invest in sustainable opportunities that deliver positive outcomes for the environment and long term positive outcomes to our cashflow.
4.4 To develop regular and effective communication and outreach strategies for the School that will maximise enrolments for each campus.
4.5 To continue developing best practice recruitment programs to ensure we have the highest quality and most effective team members at our school.
5.0 Resource Development
As a school we aim to offer our students the best opportunities to enhance their learning. Any development in our resources must aim to improve student outcomes and to support student-centred learning. To achieve this we must continue to develop and implement the master plan whilst also look to reinvigorate older areas of the School, ensuring that we are offering a contemporary, technology rich environment, for our students. Where possible, sustainable building practices and strategies will always be considered as part of the design brief for our architects. This will be complemented by our desire to create a safe and hazard free environment for the entire community.
In 3 years
5.1 To have a clear strategic plan for the use and implementation of best practice technology. Students will learn, and staff will work, in a technologically rich environment.
5.2 To redevelop the Year 3/4 learning spaces at St Anne’s and begin a refurbishment process for the older spaces on this campus.
5.3 To continue to refurbish the older rooms at each campus and look to have a well-developed plan for the Performing Arts Centre. All of our spaces will reflect our educational model, Academic Care at Gippsland Grammar. They will be genuine learning spaces that promote thinking and engagement. They will also be collaborative spaces that promote engagement, motivation and positive interactions with others.
5.4 To continue updating and implementing our Master Plan. To ensure that we plan thoroughly for each stage whilst also ensuring our current assets and resources and maintained in a manner befitting the image of the School.
This week’s newsletter concludes my outline of the Strategic Plan. I encourage you to download the full version from our website and also to ask questions of myself either via email or in person. I am proud of the plan we have developed and I am excited about the opportunities it presents for our School and in particular our students. Whether at a Board meeting or at our weekly Executive meetings, strategic thinking and decision making always comes back to our students and what is best for them.
Uniform Update: It is with great excitement that we inform the School Community of some updates we are making to our current Sports Uniform at Gippsland Grammar.
We recognise that sometimes change can lead to uncertainty, and with uniform; concerns regarding cost. With this in mind, we will have a two year transition period for all of our students into the new pieces of Sport Uniform. The uniform changes will be for all of our students from Prep through to Year 12 from 2018 onwards.
We have consulted with a number of businesses who specialise in sports uniform to ensure that the changes we make will be not only functional but also comfortable based on the activities our students participate in. We are also conscious of the cost of each item and have endeavoured to source quality garments without significant changes to our current uniform expenses.
Our students have also had the opportunity to share their voice during this process with members of our Junior and Senior Campus SRC, or student leaders viewing options and possibilities along the way. Staff representatives from all campuses were also involved in this process which has been a 12 month process up to this point.
One of the most exciting changes is our move away from our current white sports polo shirt to a polo shirt that is predominantly green and made from a more technical fabric seen in many sporting teams and uniforms. We will also introduce men’s and women’s fit in these shirts.
The sport shorts will be updated to be made out of a more flexible stretch microfiber fabric allowing for ease of movement when participating in Sport and PE sessions. Again, these will be available in a men’s and women’s fit. They will be black shorts with our school crest embroidered onto them.
Our rugby jumper will be replaced with a jumper that is functional, wears well and is easy for students to put on and take off. Something I am sure our junior parents will appreciate.
Our track pants are also being updated in style and fabric. They will be warmer and more hardwearing than our current style. They will be black with a white crest also.
We will also be introducing an updated version of an outer jacket in place of our spray jacket which will be a fleece lined softshell waterproof jacket.
A sports cap will be introduced as an option for students to wear when wearing their sports uniform in place of the bucket hat.
Where possible we have worked with our suppliers to ensure retail prices will not differ too greatly from our current uniform prices. We have also chosen to work with a company who have a strong ethical business protocol.
In the upcoming months we will provide opportunity for students and families to see the final samples of these items to give you a greater understanding of the quality and design of these pieces.
Last week I was privileged to be given the opportunity to accompany a group of Year 9 boys on the Lake Tali Karng bushwalk. For many years the Year 9 bushwalk has been viewed as a ‘rite of passage’ for our Year 9 students as they bring together the skills and experiences of Year 7 and 8 to attempt one of the most amazing walks in Alpine Victoria and also one of the more challenging walks.
At this stage of their Outdoor Education, our students are competent in the bush, they know how to work together as a team and how to manage themselves through challenging situations; however, I felt that I needed to experience this challenge first hand to understand the feelings of triumph and satisfaction that our students feel every year when they complete the walk. I was also interested to know if this walk is too challenging. Are we expecting too much of our students?
Upon reflection, I found the walk to be amazing. This is truly one of the most beautiful places on our planet and, as a Gippslander, it was great to experience this in our backyard. I found the walking aspect to be challenging, particularly the Valley of Destruction; however, I survived with the assistance and support of the boys in my group. An ageing body was the cause of my pain and the young people around me completed the walk more easily than I did. It was beneficial to place myself on the journey that our students experience each year and understand the challenges that they face, before and during these expeditions. It was great to be part of this journey with them, to hear the way in which they encourage each other and how they manage the diversity of opinions and abilities within a group. To watch the way that they manage themselves when their tolerance levels have been reached and the group becomes a little bit niggly, usually when they are hungry.
Do we expect too much of our students when they attempt activities such as this. Do we expose them to too great a risk when they spend time in this environment? I know that many schools are withdrawing from such activities, as they feel they are too hard for the students and the Schools are becoming too risk averse. I strongly feel that experiences such as this are a deeply ingrained and positive aspect of our school culture. Yes, they challenge students, however, our programs are designed to support students as they meet challenges. To give them the opportunity to achieve great things and experience that sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that is only felt when we challenge ourselves and triumph.
I pushed myself to my absolute physical limits during the week and so did some of the boys in my group, yet we all survived and we all felt that exhilaration from finishing. We all now know what we are capable of experiencing and what we can achieve. Not all of the boys in my group will go on and become avid bushwalkers; however, they now know what their physical limits are and how to manage themselves when pushed to these limits. They are stronger of character and stronger of mind.
We have a very unique and very positive Outdoor Education program at Gippsland Grammar that takes our students on a developmental journey throughout their time at the School. This is a program that is much admired by other Schools. Throughout the program it is very pleasing to note the growth in skills, resilience and confidence within our students, as they complete each expedition.
I would like to thank Cass Booth for her vision for Outdoor Education and her commitment to developing young people in the Outdoors, Mr Ripon for enduring my endless whining throughout the hike and the boys in my group for supporting me and waiting for me to catch up.
The third area of our Strategic Plan is aimed at developing and supporting our community.
Our community is defined by the many support groups that comprise our School and also by the broader Gippsland community and the many committed groups that support our region. For a school to be healthy and successful, strong connections with the various stake holders and support from our interest groups ensure that our culture is strong and sustainable. As a regional school we value the interdependence that country regions rely upon and look to foster relationships within the School and beyond. We value the connectedness that comes from positive interactions within the community for our students and families.
In 3 years
3.1 To develop a professional and up to date data base to maximise communication within our community.
3.2 To develop links between the School and community groups (within the School and beyond) to foster a strong sense of interdependency.
3.3 To develop a strong collaborative community model to ensure that effort produces effective and appropriate outcomes.
3.4 To ensure that all of our community groups are well supported as they develop effective and efficient processes to connect parents and friends to the School.
These are ambitious goals; however, they clearly articulate the importance of community to the School and this is also clearly articulated in our mission statement. Gippsland Grammar is an Anglican school community committed to opportunity and excellence. When I first came to Gippsland Grammar it was the strength of our community that surprised me the most about the School. Support was readily offered whenever a need arose and I have witnessed our magnificent community rally on many occasions. Whilst our School community groups have always been a strength of Gippsland Grammar, we must look for further opportunities to connect with the broader Gippsland community and beyond. These connections will provide opportunities for our students, our families and our staff and ultimately strengthen the School. We must also ensure that we don’t take our School community groups for granted and ensure that we have a robust model of support and engagement.
My own family has been heavily involved in the McColl Club for the past four years and as a family new to the area, this has been a wonderful way to become involved in the School’s co-curricular program, to support our daughters and also to meet and work alongside other like-minded parents. My children often joke that we enjoy rowing more than they do!
I would like to thank the Foundation for organising a wonderful community event last Friday. The Soiree was an outstanding evening of music and friendship within the beautiful backdrop of Kilmany Park. In particular, I would like to thank Melissa Farley, Meredith Lynch and the members of the Foundation Executive- Alison Hamilton, Andrea Norman and Les Hardy for ensuring that we had a great night.
Following my newsletter article from last week, I am pleased this week to discuss the second goal of our Strategic Plan- Our team.
As a School and also as an employer, we aim to have the highest performing staff working at our School and educating your children. We know from research that the teacher has the highest impact on the educational development of students and we aim to have the highest quality teachers teaching at our School and the highest quality staff working at our School. As a regional School, this can at times be difficult; however, our data has shown that the number of appropriate candidates we are attracting to apply for positions at the School has increased significantly in recent years. This may be due to our reputation, it may be due to the economy or it may be due to the more sophisticated strategies we are using in our recruitment campaigns. In particular, the use of social media.
Once people join our Team, we have a responsibility to develop them as professionals and ensure that they can be the best version of themselves. We also expect them to be role models at school and in the community and to demonstrate the same values that we expect from our students. We have developed an extensive professional growth and development program for our teachers, we continue to use our PLP (Professional Learning Projects) to drive improvement and innovation and our non-teachers all participate in a thorough and effective goal setting process.
Whilst we are pleased with the development of our programs, we still need to embed these into our culture over a period of time. We also recognise that we wish our Team to be given opportunities to develop their leadership skills, their mindfulness capacity and to further work towards a collaborative and exciting professional culture, based upon respect and responsibility.
Our Goals in this area for the next 3 years are:
Our team members, whatever their role, are a strength of our school. It is through enthusiastic, motivated and connected team members that we are able to successfully maintain a great school. High team morale and a strong sense of efficacy ensures high levels of performance and improved school outcomes. What we wish for our students, we should also wish for our team members and ensure that we role model a culture of lifelong learning.
In 3 years
2.1 For our team members to continue to be recognised as a strength of our school.
2.2 To empower and build capacity in our teams and individuals to enhance effectiveness and develop a sense of pride and fulfilment.
2.3 To further develop the leadership capabilities of all team members.
2.4 To ensure that we have a culture of positive support and collaboration.
2.5 For our teams and individual team members to be self-aware, take responsibility for their own wellbeing and role model outstanding leadership for our student
2.6 To review and refine our PLP (Professional Learning Projects), along with our Professional Growth and Development model, to ensure that the desired outcomes are effective and positive for our students and capitalise on the talents and passions of our teachers.
We aim to be an employer of choice in our region and to be recognised as a leading developer of individual teaching capacity across the state, if not nationally. Your children will be the beneficiaries of outstanding teaching and outstanding leadership.
I would like to thank all of our community for your rally to attend the Foundation Soiree this evening. We have great numbers attending and I am looking forward to a fantastic night. See you there!