Preparing our Students to Walk Confidently into their Futures

Chris Ivey / Academic

Last Tuesday was our Secondary presentation evening. We celebrated with many of our students both their academic and personal capacity achievements.

19 November 2021

Last Tuesday was our Secondary presentation evening. We celebrated with many of our students both their academic and personal capacity achievements.  During the ceremony I shared a short reflection that I hope all parents across our College would like to read.

‘In 1989 an epic film was released.  It was the second in a series that was a blockbuster and had all of us ready to see where the next script might take us.  It was, Back to the Future 2.  Now some will groan, some will have fond memories of the series and some will have no idea what I’m talking about.

For those of you who need reminding, the teenage character Marty McFly time travels in the infamous Delorean and things get messed up, due to changing things in the past which alters things in the future. In this film, Marty goes forward to 2015 from 1985 and then of course we know he has to return to 1955 in order to fix up 1985.  However, what I love about this movie in particular is the way in which the director, Robert Zemekiss tries to predict what 2015 might be like. Remember this movie was made in 1989.  If you have the chance to see the clip, there are floating cars, automated petrol stations, a sequel to the Jaws movie, but they still have phone booths! 

For all of history, humans have tried in one way or another to predict the future, or what might lie ahead. Will electric or hydrogen be the way of the future for vehicles? Will we see issues of social inequity disappear and will the mighty North Melbourne AFL team, ever win a premiership!?

So what about in education? About 6 years ago, the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority embarked on a journey to revolutionise the way Queensland would approach Year 11 and 12.   I was part of the Ministerial Working party that met to establish what would eventually become the Senior Assessment system under which we now operate.  At the time, we knew we had to review the old OP system but there were also whispers from down south that the ATAR wasn’t necessarily the best way forward.    ATAR is an anacronym for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank.  Sadly like many government steering committees, the path of least resistance was chosen and we find ourselves with an approach that claims to take the best of other Australian states’ Senior systems and in many ways they are right.

However, where our group missed out was in not stopping to try and see into the future, to respond to the fact that the ATAR mark was  increasingly being sidelined as Universities explored broader means to select their students.  Studies by the Mitchell Institute a few years ago raised questions about the ATAR as a consistent measure of ability. In other words, Universities and indeed employers are interested in more than a simple number.  Obviously, we need to establish ways of ascertaining academic capacity and as we celebrate this tonight we acknowledge the role it plays.  However, we know that a bigger picture is required.  

What this means for those of us at the coal face in schools is that if we have to look into the future and ask what our current Year 7 students or even our current Prep students will need to move confidently into their futures.  We believe it is a balanced and holistic education, one that is concerned with both an academic path and the whole person.   One that encourages students to become active and caring members of local and global communities.  To become inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. These attributes represent a broad range of human capacities and responsibilities that go beyond intellectual development and academic success.  These are the skills required in our current and future workforce.

But how do we achieve this?  We have been talking throughout the year about our personal capacity pillar and how this underpins all we do.  It is about the knowledge, skill and personal and social capabilities that promote effective management of self, relationships and learning. This encourages flourishing and the courage and commitment to positively shape the future.  It’s being intentional about the opportunities St Andrew’s provides for our students.  But it goes deeper.  It also goes to our culture.  It goes to how we value and support each unique student.  

In life, every St Andrew’s student won’t be time-travelling back and forth to sort things out, but instead  will forge a path into their future one small step at a time, and it is our goal here at St Andrew’s to do our very best to equip each student with the foundations to allow that to happen. A rigorous education of the basics, spreading out into an approach that includes the ability to nurture an inquiring mind and the capacity to critically think and reflect.   This is why we continue to offer a broad array of opportunities for every student. A St Andrew’s student should develop a mindset of ‘having a go’, in order to find out about themselves and to develop and embed these qualities. They should be exposed to the Arts and culture, to the outdoors as well as have opportunities to see what they can achieve in both competitive and non-competitive physical pursuits.  As an Anglican School, we see the exploration of service to others and faith as integral to all we do.  And they need to develop a sense of personal responsibility for their own pathway into the future, learn how to deal with mistakes, and how to truly be mindful of others.

Whatever your thoughts on the Christian faith, there is a wonderful verse from the bible, an Old Testament prophet, called Micah who wanted to highlight what God required of his people.   I think he summarised it beautifully and should be an aspiration for all.  And what does the Lord require of you.  To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.  You see the qualities and traits we are talking about are ones that the Bible speaks of time and time again. 

So, like Marty McFly, I do not have any special ability to see into the future any more than anyone else does, however  as we consider the way in which we best prepare our students, it will have an impact on the sorts of pathways and opportunities we provide right now and more importantly that we need to develop and enhance.    Long gone are the days when there was a clear and linear progression to Year 12 and beyond.  It is my job, supported by our Council and leadership teams to be constantly assessing and re assessing strategically - how we best prepare our students for life beyond Year 12.  To be clear, everything we do here at St Andrew’s aims to never lose sight of the premise that each and every student needs a very solid and rigorous foundation in literacy and numeracy.  You cannot begin to dig into some of these additional skills without an explicit and intentional foundation on which to then springboard into everything else. 

But if COVID has taught us anything it is that the future can’t be taken for granted, that flexibility and agility are the key to everything we do.  So as a College, we endeavour to remain agile, to try and see where the future lies, we seek to be realistic and respond with excellence.  One thing of which we can be sure is that we want our students to walk confidently into their futures, having as their foundation, an outstanding primary and secondary education.’

Author Profile

Chris Ivey

In his own words, Chris “enables things to happen” at St Andrew’s. As Principal of the College, he leads the development and progression of St Andrew’s by enabling staff and students to achieve their personal best. Chris is a Reverend and has been the Principal of St Andrew’s for more that 15 years. He also represents and advocates for Independent schools across Australia as the National Chair of AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools, Australia).

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