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Last week, at both our Parents and Friends Welcome drinks and a School reunion, I was able to speak to parents about our new Strategic Plan, Gippsland Grammar towards 100. Whilst this plan has a life span from 2017-2019, it has a particular focus towards the future and our School centenary in 2024. The plan is available on our website and can be downloaded in PDF format.

I mentioned to those present on Friday, that the strategic plan is written in language that is consistent with current educational terminology and may not be fully decipherable to everyone who reads it. We debated this aspect of the plan with the Board and staff when it was written; however, we feel that the plan needs to accurately reflect our actions and to do this, we need to use the language of education. I am hoping to use my newsletter over the upcoming weeks to unpack the 5 areas of our plan and hopefully give you reassurance as to where we are headed and help us to keep on track.  

The first area of the plan refers to Academic Care. This is a concept that we borrowed several years ago to describe our educational model or philosophy. It is a set of statements regarding what we teach (curriculum), how we teach (pedagogy) and who we teach (pastoral care). This philosophy inextricably links all 3 areas within our School culture and our teaching and learning. You cannot have one without the other. Once again, a full copy of this educational model is available on the website. In short, we are stating that you cannot effectively teach a student without understanding who they are, how they learn and how we can motivate them in the classroom.

Academic Care at Gippsland Grammar promotes our five core values of compassion, leadership, excellence, respect and responsibility. 

Academic Care, where students are understood not just as learners but as part of a caring community of learners, requires teachers to develop curriculum and approaches to teaching and learning that are made visible and enhance student learning, well-being and resilience, and to embed these in classroom experiences. 

Academic Care at Gippsland Grammar builds positive self-esteem, connectedness and self-efficacy through pedagogies and organisational structures, and through adults’ relationships with students in and beyond the classroom.

Academic Care activates personal growth. This mindset enables one to cope with challenges and struggle; to endure and persist; and to create and develop a range of strategies and skills which can be used in a flexible way to flourish. 

Academic Care is underpinned by our teachers’ passion to the ongoing development of their professional learning, collegiality and collaborative practices, and their commitment to students at the centre of everything we do.

In 3 years

We aim to:

1.1  Develop, consolidate and implement a whole school approach to making learning          visible for each student.

1.2  Routinely use targeted data to ensure teachers understand their impact on each            student’s learning.

1.3  Purposefully support the wellbeing of each student in the classroom and beyond.

1.4  Develop and allow space for programs that activate citizenship through service              learning opportunities. Service learning, not only provides a direct service to the              community, but students also learn about the context in which the service is                    provided, the connection between the service, and their own learning objectives              and their roles as citizens.

1.5  Make visible to each student the value of and their capabilities as a leader.

These goals are quite ambitious and we are currently mapping these out over the 3 years of the strategic plan. Departments and Campus teams have already mapped out strategies for these goals for 2017 and will now work with individual teachers to determine how they can support these goals with their own professional growth this year.

Our start of year conference focussed on how we can make learning visible for each student in our classes. Visible to our students as learners and also to our teachers. Together they should have a clear view of where the student is on the learning spectrum, how well they are going and what is their next step. We use the SOLO taxonomy to help both teachers and students describe where they are, with regard to their learning, in a common and accessible language.

For example, my Year 10 Maths students were recently developing linear equations from a real world problem and plotting them on a Cartesian axis. The different levels of their learning were made visible as

Multistructural- they understood where the data came from, and were able to create coordinates and plot these on a graph.  

Relational - they were able link the concept of real life data with a linear equation and then a graph.

Extended abstract- they are aiming to be able to interpret graphs in a manner that identifies trends, relates these trends to other contexts or equations and allows for in-depth analysis. The students are aware of where they are placed with regard to their learning, can articulate how they are going and plan their next steps. Their learning is visible to both the student and the teacher.

Whilst these methods are not new to teaching, we believe strongly in their effectiveness. We know from research at both the University of Melbourne and Harvard University, that they work and we are committed to creating a consistent philosophy or approach to teaching at our school. Finally we are improving the effectiveness of our use of data to ensure that our teachers can target their teaching, their pastoral care and know their impact.

Our pastoral teams are also using data to measure the wellbeing of our students and use this information to target programs and support mechanisms to enhance the wellbeing of all of our students.

I would like to thank the P&F for providing a wonderful Welcome Drinks last Friday. It was a relaxing and enjoyable chance to meet and speak with members of our community in an informal manner. In particular I would like to thank the Year 8 parents, Alistair and Catherine Hicks for providing wine from their winery, Blue Gables and TNT Catering for providing wonderful food. I look forward to seeing members of our community at the Foundation Soiree, on Friday 3 March. Tickets are selling fast and can be purchased from the School website.