As noted in an earlier edition of this blog, CFS is working closely with CIRCLE to deepen and broaden the outstanding research already on Character Education. For those seeking a brief introduction to this vast project, in this interview Prof. Mark Hutchinson speaks with Dr Cummins about Character Research in Schools, and what they have found.
VIDCAST001: Character Education in Schools, with Philip S. A. Cummins.
Blue Mountains Grammar School is now, along with William Clarke College, the Scots College, and a number of other leading Sydney schools, a foundation member of the Sydney Teaching Schools Alliance. Building on the model established at the multicampus St Philips Christian College in the Hunter Valley, the STSA foundation members this week formally indicated their intent to cooperatively undertake new approaches to Christian teacher formation in 2020. The interim Chairman of the STSA noted in his letter to the Dean of the Faculty at Alphacrucis, "we share the common desire to markedly increase the supply of high quality, Christian teachers available to our schools, who can operate out of an integrative understanding of faith and learning." This, noted Professor Hutchinson, 'is history in the making'.
The core value proposition of most Christian Schools to parents is about character. Of course, each school has its own particular emphases, but essentially the core 'clients' of the school are those parents who are prepared to pay more so as to gain for their child involvement in a formative environment which will maximize their chances of become well formed, happy and successful people. To this end, the School of Education at Alphacrucis has been working with Dr Philip Cummins and Brad Adams at CIRCLE Education on the results of a large international study of character education in Schools. The Final Report of the project to the International Boy's School Coalition was completed in November 2018, and the book exploring the results of the extensive project (The Way: The character of an excellent 21C education) was released earlier this year. Involving 48 schools for boys, nearly 40,000 students, and 4,500 teachers, it is one of the largest studies of its type yet to be carried out.
The results of the study demonstrated not only what can be done to improve our approach to character education in schools, but why schools often don't live up to their value proposition. It is clear from the evidence, for example, that 'while [school] leaders have a clear picture of the work' that needs to be done to form students, schools have 'little opportunity to reflect on how this work can be situated within a model or series of models that allow for the development of a cogent theory of character leadership'. (Final Report, p. 270) In other words, schools are often too busy to be consistent in the pursuit of their core proposition. Schools need to build deliberate cultures of reflective practice, around clear strategies, plans and HR resourcing in 'character leadership', to break through the busyness of the day, and so do what they go to work to do.
Character formation emerges from the convergence of character leadership, character labour, and character capital. 'Character leadership', the report notes, 'refers to the specific character labor exercised by leaders in modeling character and developing character competency, as well as reinforcing character education.' Character labor refers to the deeds, words and decisions that reveal a leader’s true character and promote the character labor of others and the character capital of the school as a whole. As Dr Cummins notes:
Character education efficacy results from the will and their capacity of leaders to embed a shared commitment to “what we want, why we want it and how we do” it in character education. Character leadership is associated with the Theory of Culture which states that character education is reinforced by character leadership that attends to [the school's] honorable traditions, rituals, artifacts and models.
The Way: The character of an excellent 21C education, is available from the CIRCLE Education website.
The handing down of the Napthine Report (formally known as the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy) last week brought a welcome affirmation (in broad strokes) of the innovative developments occuring through the Centre for the Future of Schooling at AC, particularly in the development of the Hub approach to teacher training. As Chris Ronan, of the APPS Policy Forum noted,
In the last decade, policy initiatives have focused on encouraging RRR high school students to attend university, and have been increasing accessibility through mechanisms like the Demand Driven Funding System. These policies have largely been successful in getting students into higher education, but have ultimately failed to ensure that RRR students stay in university and complete their degrees. (Ronan, Reimagining retention for rural, regional, and remote www.policyforum.net/reimagining-retention-for-rural-regional-and-remote-students/students, APPS)
Worse, even when they do finish their courses, the funding models underpinning teacher education effectively reinforce the brain drain towards the cities.
The Regional Education Expert Advisory Group recommended, inter alia, that the government seek to 'Improve access to tertiary study options for students in RRR areas by:
providing demand-driven funding for university places in regional areas
exploring new higher education offerings focused on professional skills development
expanding access to Regional Study Hubs
addressing problems with student access to affordable, reliable, high speed internet services, and
improving access to high quality VET programs in RRR areas.
Each of these elements are functional parts of, or point to the need for, a Hub-based model. The impact on training on country for country is an essential element of building sustainablility for RRR settings. Whilever government continues to fund large 'retail' programs which pull students out of the communities, and do not create investment in RRR communities, the additional funding announcements (e.g. the $42 million announced by the Victorian government last week) will continue to just prop up an unsustainable system by rewarding ineffective behaviours.
A large and representative group of schools met at St Andrew’s Cathedral School to consider the Alphacrucis College Hub model for training Christian teachers. Under the chairmanship of Dr John Collier, Principal of St Andrew’s, Dr David Hastie, Associate Dean for Education Development at AC, gave an energetic account of the program, to which three wider sector contributors (Dr Ruby Holland, University of Sydney; Dr Norman McCulla, Macquarie University, and Professor Trevor Cooling, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK) responded. Dr McCulla and Prof. Cooling noted the international practice, the importance of formation, and warmly applauded the model, proposing improvements on the paper. Dr Holland countered with the opinion that the current ‘big tertiary’ approach was working well, and that there was sufficient critical space within a general neo-Marxist intellectual environment to challenge the system from the inside.
Delegates were then given the opportunity to ask questions, both of Dr Hastie, and of two delegates from an existing Hub-based Initial Teacher Education based in an expanding six campus networked school -- Graeme Irwin (CEO and Executive Principal) and Samantha Van de Mortel (Director of the St Philip’s Teaching School), St Philips Christian College. While one delegate noted that, due to location, they had little problem finding ethos-aligned staff, numbers of school leaders in the seminar expressed the fact that quality teacher supply was becoming a critical issue for their schools’ respective missions. St Philips Christian College is now actively fielding a large number of applicants for their third annual cohort of ITE candidates, and is shaping up to offer positions to their first conditionally accredited teachers in 2020.
Since the meeting, five schools have engaged in conversations around formalizing a Sydney-based ‘Teaching School Alliance’, an association which is forming under the interim chairmanship of Mr Ray Jarratt. The first invitations to potential applicants are expected to be issued in late September.
For further information, please contact Dr David Hastie ([email protected]), or for the Teaching Schools Alliance, please contact Mr Ray Jarratt ([email protected]).
Director of the Centre for the Future of Schooling and Associate Dean, Dr David Hastie today thanked the ABC for its interest in innovative Hub-based teacher education models, and for permitting him some time on ABC TV to clarify elements which have elsewhere been misreported. The footage of the live interview can be found here. The program does not, he noted, allow students to 'skip attending a university'. Rather, what the program does is transfer agency from a tertiary-centred model, to a school-centred model, in which students complete an accredited tertiary degree in the sort of cadetship mode very common in other disciplines. It was not, Hastie noted, a direct appropriation of the British model, but rather it takes 'the best of British' and dispenses with the ideologically-driven applications which elsewhere have proven ineffective. It adopts the leading practices of the University of Melbourne's Clinical Practice Model, and improves on these by focussing on the student experience and career track.
For further information, please contact: [email protected]
An Alphacrucis National Roundtable on "Planting Christian Schools: Reigniting Missional Momentum" will be held on the Gold Cost on October 21. Hosted at the expanding Kings Christian College, Reedy Creek, this invitation-only gathering will see the first common meeting of the great practitioners in the independent schools space, committed to seeing the Christian mission of Independent schools sustained through the efficient and agile development of new schools and campuses.
As Dr David Hastie notes, reflecting on the new head of the National Catholic Education Commission's comments in The Australian last Friday: "Jacinta Collin’s call for more capital funding for Catholic schools anticipates one of the great challenges for governments in the coming era. The challenge is even greater for Independent schools. It is one of the trickiest elements of our social contract: public / private partnerships for essential services."
According to the School Infrastructure NSW Advisory Council: “There will be a massive 21% growth in student numbers by 2031. This means NSW schools will need to accommodate an extra 269,000 students, with 164,000 of these students in the public system.” In other words, inbuilt state under-provision of new schools is no secret: it’s public policy. NSW is expecting the Non-Government sector to enrol ten thousand new students every year for the next decade.
The Roundtable will explore solutions for this great challenge, ahead of a planned National Summit open to all in 2020.
In a radical breakthough for alternative pathways to ATARs, Alphacrucis is partnering with St Philip's Christian College to offer the Certificate III in Education Support (Teacher’s Aid), for 17 students, including a significant number of indigenous students. The Cert III translates into a 67 ATAR. According to the Hunter region Hub Regional Director, Andrew Youd, “Alphacrucis is the only RTO offering Cert III Education support in schools in the entirety of NSW. It is a brilliant way for indigenous students to fast track into teaching support roles post school, and so to get a foot on the pathway which will take them into teaching careers.” The 17 students from 4 local schools have paid positions, signed with the Apprenticeship Support Australia for two years in various local independent schools. Each has a supervising teacher within the school. A further 40 students in the St Philips group are taking Cert III in Tourism, again including a large cohort of indigenous students. “The Hunter Valley has so many tourism employment options”, said AC VET in Schools Coordinator, Donna McLean, “this is a classic example of the AC Hub adapting its offerings to local needs.” According to AC Associate Dean of Education, Dr David Hastie, the College has a high priority to partner with indigenous Australians in education. “Alphacrucis already has a strong presence in training for Indigenous Australians, and we are committed to seeing this extend to Indigenous school students and trainee teachers, particularly in rural areas.”
CFS is excited to announce that Dr Stephen Codrington joins a small team of just 25 Council of International Schools (CIS) affiliated consultants, accredited to provide support to CIS schools in all parts of the world. He is one of only two Australians on the high-powered list.
Stephen, Alphacrucis College Director of School Governance and Leadership Development, was recently accepted by the CIS team in the area of Leadership Training and School Governance.
“We are so glad that Stephen’s extensive background in international education, his wide experience in school leadership positions, and his work supporting school boards through the CFS affiliate consultancy organisation, Optimal School Governance, were pivotal in being accepted by CIS as one of its affiliated consultants.” Dean of Education Professor Mark Hutchinson remarked upon hearing of the elite appointment.
Based in Leiden (Netherlands), the Council of International Schools is a non-profit association of 734 schools and 622 colleges and universities in 116 countries. It provides program certification and quality assurance through school accreditation, assistance with teacher recruitment, support for institutional governance and professional development for teachers and school leaders.
Its program of affiliated consultants began about five years ago to provide expertise in specific improvement areas that are identified as priorities by member schools. The consultants must be individuals with proven experience helping schools develop in targeted areas of need. To become a CIS affiliated consultant, applicants must be thoroughly evaluated by CIS to ensure they meet standards for quality service according to stringent application requirements. “The appointment further strengthens Alphacrucis CFS as a globally oriented Christian tertiary provider,” Associate Dean Dr David Hastie observed, “the world is a big place, and we are going there.”
CSF staff have been energetically promoting the Hub model to the Federal House of Representatives STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING STATUS OF THE TEACHING PROFESSION.
“The political response to our innovative model has been very exciting”, said Dr David Hastie, Associate Dean of Education, “Policy makers are keen to find more effective ways to train teachers, and the school cluster autonomous, clinical practice model in annual cohorts, has definitely captured the imaginations of many elected members on both sides of the house, and in between”. Nick Jensen, Alphacrucis Political Liaison, former director of The Lachlan Macquarie Institute, has been amazed at the reception: “there is a rare naturalness to the way policy makers are receptive to the Hub Model. We always thought it an elegant solution to a multi-faceted entrenched problem, but it’s been interesting to discover that many others are thinking likewise.”
“The Hub model allows schools to choose who enters initial teacher training, rather than just waiting to see who comes out of the other side of a tertiary training process and trying their luck in a cold – call job application,” reflected Alphacrucis Dean of Education, Professor Mark Hutchinson. “ by embedding them in schools through a clinical training model, school clusters are getting what they see, and who they train.”
The Alphacrucis submission to the Federal Inquiry (no. 50) can be found here: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Employment_Education_and_Training/TeachingProfession/Submissions
Public hearings for the inquiry start in early March.
CFS researchers and staff contribute regularly to the FSB. The aim is to keep you in the loop as to the range of our activities, perhaps suggesting points of common interest.