Optimising and enhancing student progress – our key priority.
Welcome to 2021 at Tintern Grammar, both to new and continuing parents. We continue to live in an uncomfortably uncertain world and as our attention is understandably being drawn to immediate and very concerning issues around the pandemic, it is even more critical that as a learning community we keep our eyes up to anticipate and plot our students’, children’s, and society’s futures. Our 2020 Year 12 students did this through last year, and I am very pleased to report that they have achieved very reassuring Round 1 and Round 2 further education offers to this point in 2021, maintaining the remarkable results our Year 12 students have achieved in the last 5 or more years. This is certainly a key part of a Tintern education and will continue to be so.
On the topic of the pandemic, describing COVID-19 and its impact on our world as containable, or controlled, would certainly be naive. But there is a positive, COVID-driven, future beyond the projected end of the virus, after the 7 years postulated by The Age on 7 February, and we need to be looking to this. This is particularly a future for our children, and our highest priority task as a school, must be to prepare them well for this future.
Alongside this (and accelerated by the pandemic) universities, the business and corporate world, and the employment market have all further shifted their expectations, and as a school valuing excellence, we need to move with, anticipate, and lead this shift. Already we are looking at an employment and further education landscape where, while an ATAR offers a key to a door, advancement beyond that is not based on examination results, or even workplace KPIs, and certainly less on knowledge and experience.
It will be based on broader and less binary personal attributes and capabilities such as innovation and creativity, collaboration and measured risk-taking, to name a few. It will need to be underpinned by an excellent formal education, and it will be fuelled by work ethic and what I think of as ‘courageous curiosity’. These will be the levers of work and personal success in this future (and many would argue they have always been).
Feedback to Tintern and my colleagues in other independent, Catholic and government schools, from business leaders, business owners, professional leaders in law, finance, and in medicine and the health sciences are clear on several things:
- The ATAR is a filter, but it is a coarse one. It may be the primary criterion of university entry for the moment and the next few years, but it is already fraying as it reaches the end of its shelf life. Examination results are likely to always play a part in the selection of candidates for university and industry options but are clearly shrinking in their significance in both domains.
- Industry will increasingly offer options outside of university pathways, particularly in finance and business, looking to recruit and train talent not selected using a relatively binary set of measures.
- Schools need to adapt, not just now, not just as their environment changes, but continually as the landscape shifts around them and anticipate future changes if they are to serve their communities well.
- One of the key elements valued in organisations is collaborative capability, and we need to develop this in all students at school.
For all the reasons above, along with what we learned last year from our online 2020 Parent/Student Teacher Conferences, we will be making some changes to these. 2020’s online conferences resulted in students being more willing to be present, and they were, in far greater numbers. Teachers felt that this improved student engagement considerably, and student presence was something we needed to emphasise even more than we had been doing for the last two years or so. Before student presence, these conferences historically involved the transfer of information on grades, effort, and behaviour from teachers to parents and have almost always excluded the key stakeholder in the relationship, the student. I cannot emphasise too much the importance of parent, teacher and student all playing significant roles in reviews of progress and in how improvement might occur in the future.
In 2021, “Student Progress Meetings” will be just that, a meeting of the key people in the learning team. One or more parents, the subject or class teacher, and the student. They will involve reviewing key elements of the learning journey up to the time of the meeting and where that learning pathway needs to lead in the weeks and months ahead. These will be age and stage appropriate, looking different in Junior School than they would for a Year 12 student.
Clearly the key person in the learning process is the student, and it is critical that they are present in these meetings if they are to be engaged, invested and aspirant in optimising their own learning with the support of parents and teachers. Hence the change in language around student presence in these very important meetings. “Students are expected to attend” and for good reason, I am confident you will agree.
I am very excited about us adopting this change and what I have heard through Principals of schools in Australia and in other countries who have adopted this is that it produces greater engagement and commitment to learning in students as they are truly partners involved in navigating their own future, not compliant passengers accepting instructions and directives.
factis non verbis