From the Deputy Principal, Head of Secondary School
Dr Adrian Johnson - Deputy Principal, Head of Secondary School
In the week prior to students return to the College this year, Father Richard and Reverend Erin conducted a wonderful Commencement Service for staff. In our 35th year, they asked us to reflect on the values underpinning the College. TB Millar, after whom our hall is named, spoke of his hopes for the fledgling College at the first staff meeting in 1984:
“We are … particularly concerned about the atmosphere of the College. Most children prefer, and do best, in an orderly atmosphere, but not an order based on fear. Thus we want Radford to be a caring school, a Christian-based community, where the worth of every student is acknowledged and [their] potential fulfilled; a school in which parents, teachers and students will feel engaged in a common purpose; a single team; a school to which old students will look back with affection.”
Right from the outset at Radford, staff were concerned about creating an appropriate setting within which learning could take place. And this commitment from staff is something I have witnessed every day since I started at the College last July. The manner in which our staff engage with our students is truly inspiring for me.
Ever the pragmatist, Tom Millar ended that paragraph with: “I am not unfamiliar with some of the problems of implementing these ideas.” And so, I already feel very grateful to those people who have gone before – those people who have made this College what it is today. Such a positive and productive culture takes years, if not decades, to shape.
We are, all, custodians of a precious legacy.
But, as educators, it isn’t in our nature to rest on our laurels. Educators are always looking to do things better as we judge our success through the achievements of our students. And then there are the external forces which change over time and impact us: societal factors, such as the greater scrutiny of schools, youth mental health issues, social media, variations in government funding, even new light rail systems and the impact this has on bus services. And so, schools cannot rest on their laurels either.
In our discussions over the last semester, and more recently with the School Improvement work we completed with the Association of Independent Schools NSW, there were some points which really resonated with me and are now the subject of ongoing discussions at the College.
On the academic front: how do we increase time available for quality teaching and learning?
We can reduce interruptions by, for example, running two Outdoor Education Camps simultaneously – which is our plan for Year 9 and 10 in Term 4 (and then Years 7 and 8 as well, in Term 1, 2020). This would be a good time for us to run excursions for other year levels if we can (in an already disrupted week).
Bill Weigall, Assistant Principal Curriculum Assessment and Reporting, has been working closely with Heads of Department following last year’s successful trial of ‘in-time online’ reporting. With more informal feedback to students offered immediately following assessment tasks, rather than in traditional reports at the end of the semester, not only can students make timely adjustments to their work practices to improve outcomes, but teachers can spend more time teaching (no longer drafting and proof-reading report comments at the end of Terms 2 and 4).
Perhaps this style of reporting also provides us with an opportunity to slow the pace of delivery? Consequently, we can place greater emphasis on the use of formative assessment to inform classroom practice and enable teaching teams to collaborate to promote differentiation and visible learning, for instance. I know Louise Wallace-Richards, Assistant Principal Teaching and Learning, is keen to work more closely with Heads of Department to explore the possibilities here.
With regard to our pastoral programs, Claire Melloy, Assistant Principal Student Development, and her team are always seeking a proactive approach in support of students. We are looking at ways to further promote open communication with parents as we have much to learn from our students’ ‘first teachers’.
Research by Dr Thomas Neilson, from the University of Canberra, offers support for our plan to establish Giving Groups this year. This program, developed for our needs by our staff, represents a vehicle by which our students might seek ‘meaningful happiness’; to be part of something larger than themselves.
And expect more news on the co-curricular front as well. Dylan Mordike, Head of Co-curricular, is already promoting additional offerings for students: Music, Drama/Dance/Oratory, and Clubs; and Brent Larkham, Head of Sport, and his team are doing the same with our burgeoning sporting program.
Given the benefits to individuals’ academic and wellbeing outcomes through involvement in co-curricular activities, we are looking to build on the 85% of students in the Secondary School already involved in three or more activities.
We are also looking for synergies between Round Square, Dirrum Dirrum and Service Learning Programs, ensuring these vital programs work in concert with one another.
As thinking about the next College Strategic Plan commences, I sense an opportunity to further contribute to the legacy TB Millar dreamed about 35 years ago. And we look forward to input from our parents and collegians in this process.