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]).
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.