DR STEPHEN CODRINGTON JOINS AC
Thursday, 21 December 2017 is worth marking on your mental calendar. That's the day that the St Philips Christian College network and Australia's largest Christian liberal arts College, Alphacrucis, signed a historic service agreement to revolutionize Christian teacher supply to Christian schools. Each year, 8 pre-service teachers will be selected and supported by the St Phillip's School cluster, and trained in Alphacrucis education degrees in an on-site cadetship -based programme across the 7 schools.
'We have been thinking about this for some years', says St Philips Executive CEO Graeme Irwin, 'but have not really found the right tertiary partner to make it happen until Professor Mark Hutchinson explained what AC were thinking. It turned out that we had been thinking about the same issues from different ends.'
St Philips has grown from its founding in 1982 to include 5 campuses and 7 schools on various sites, most of which were added to a developing St Philips cluster model due to the difficulties they faced as independent schools. This raised the question - what is 'best practice' in cluster models, and what does someone who has found themselves fulfilling an Executive Principal's chair actually do? On a sabbatical in England, Graeme came across the 'academy school' model, instituted in London and other British cities to deal with the problem of failed schools. The policy aimed to improve struggling schools, primarily in deprived areas by placing them within a cluster model overseen by an 'academy trust'. The Trusts were funded to make decisions around quality and delivery rather than the other social agendas which tend to creep into government-led bureaucracies. One of the largest changes they made was in teacher training, government funding enabling Trusts to contract with tertiary providers to provide the sort of teacher education which they thought they needed.
'While those schools have often focused on adaptive values such as entrepreneurialism', said Professor Hutchinson at the signing event, 'the same model is suggestive of solutions to the problems of supply in Christian teacher formation in Australia, and the struggles which Australian national education leaders are having with the huge burn-out rates in federally-funded university teacher training programs.'
The first eight 'cadet teacher trainees' will commence at St Philips in January 2018, followed shortly afterwards by implementations in continuing teacher professional development and research culture development. With a booming population in its drawing areas, and teacher supply in decline, St Philips is showing extraordinary energy and determination in coming up with sustainable solutions to problems that are shared by many types of school across the nation. For Christian schools in particular, this 'cuts the Gordian knot' which has held back increases in Christian teacher supply and quality.
[If you are interested in the Alphacrucis approach to in-school, cadet teacher training models, please contact: Dr. David Hastie, Associate Dean, Education Development, firstname.lastname@example.org]