Experience can be a great thing 

Shore , Church of England school, Sydney

Last week I met with an experienced school leader who runs one of Sydney’s most prestigious private schools. 

He was honest, deep, questioned and debated with me and encouraged me to take this project forward. He cares deeply about education and has even been to Omagh ( for his sins!!) Sometimes I judge people. Sometimes I am wrong. This man was so decent and affirming that I was a little shocked as he handed me over some more materials and articles to read. Ah the joy of being pushed and being esteemed. 

So that’s my take away. Don’t judge or if you do, be prepared to be wrong. 

Final thought I need to wear sunglasses or  sunnies as the ozzies call them. 

What a view from the school lawn


Koalas and creativity 

Just spent a week in Sydney and yes I did manage to see a cute, short haired grey male. His name was Bert and he was an eight year old Koala bear.

And as for schools, well I saw three totally different ways of sound education.

One was an amazing elementary school in Wollogong.  The principal arranges rooms to have enough desks for 80% of kids so that teachers use the corridor spaces outside their rooms and do pupil lead work throughout the day. Loved it. Loved the principal’s balance, wisdom and risk taking.

The other school was performing arts school. If you ever saw Mr G and Summerhills High on the BBC then you might appeciste this type of school. 

The school is highly selective as pupils want to access the brilliant facilities and will travel outside their local school zone to go there. This school has limited behaviour issues to deal with, illustrating the importance of offering a really strong curriculum. 

The school has old buildings and recently has put in lifts and miles of outside ramps to allow  free access for a pupil who uses a wheelchair. The principal was enthusiastic and I loved the prominacne of art work  and creative pieces throughout the school, including knitted items covering a bland area of old pillars. 

Wollongong, you did not disappoint. 

British Columbia, Vancouver

Vancouver is a long way from Europe. It has a great vibe and the schools were interesting.

What did I learn ? 

The main thing that made sense to me is the importance of having rigorous programmes for students and also lots of things outside the classroom, in this case clubs. The school had only 4 classroom assistants to service the needs of over 100 students. I think those working in Special Needs in the UK would be shocked by this. 

Leadership programmes, ways to raise self esteem and finally connection with adults were also muted. 

The other school was really impressive in terms of the leadership dynamic. Loved the principal’s style and courage. He shared the survey results from his pupils, which are done an annually, with around 2/3 of the student body participating. 

His emphasis was on getting the right support for students in terms of mental health issues and his programme which has a multinational paired with school and mentoring around 50 kids each year. The real life connections with the work places and the fail fast and fail often approach shows brave leadership and risky teaching. They also do film production, the teacher mainly works at night time and weekends rather than being timetabled in during the day. They bring in producers and professional makeup artists to work alongside students. 

This was such a positive leadership style and I would hate to be a competitor school. 

Next stop, IBSC conference in Vancouver. 

Vancouver Winston Churchill 

Arrived at 22:30 Vancouver time, picked up a hire car and got to where I’m staying at midnight. First school visit here booked for 9am start- such a rookie mistake booking visit so soon to landing.

Watched the news this morning and 15 schools have been  given notice to close by the local government. They give one years notice and then the kids are reallocated to other schools in the area. Spare school spaces, the reduction in student numbers and reduced budgets were cited as the main reasons. 

This visit was to a huge secondary school with over  1900 students. They offer selective programmes in English and French immersion- by selective I mean the International baccalaureate or IB programme, so they have high levels of student attainment. I guess having many hard-working Asian students also helps, and the fact that they work hard and do well is no myth. 

The principal is retiring  and was only in the school six years. By UK standards that’s short, but not out here. They shift administrators around, some Vps only stay 2 years before they are shifted on by the school board.

I spent some time with the principal and vice principal, and as its the second last day of term here, that was great.

More nice school related gifts to add to my suitcase. Canadiens are so generous. Gotta love this country. Vancouver is simply stunning.

Amish country

Today’s visit was to a school for 11-14 year olds- a middle school. This school was highlighted by Michael Fullan as an excellent school, particularly for its use of technology.

I was in several classrooms and spoke with students who were articulate. They were able to show me how they were editing a story or were using an app to code in order to make a short sequence appear on their screen.

Technology appears to take around 3 years for teachers to get totally competent with and , like our students, it is learnt one short piece at a time- which begs the question -why do we train people in whole day events?

I saw an Amish student who was in a DC ( Developmentally Challenged) class. He was wearing his traditional Amish outfit ( including a round hat made of corn) and a plain blue and white suit. At age 21 he is just about to leave middle school. 

A final thought is why are the Canadiens educating their kids so well ( according to PISA ) and yet they do not have an inspectorate like us in the UK? Do we need inspectors to raise standards or does it merely cause stress and paperwork hell for UK teachers ?

Monarch Park

Today I saw a reengagement program in north Toronto. The subject leader was tough as old boots and expected perfection and a 80 % achievement rate to pass.

More kids apply than can be accommodated. He has a wall of fame in his office. He takes on at risk kids who would struggle with straight academic work. The boys and girls were so engaged with their work. It showed me the power of the right staff and a structured programme. And what was the programme ? 


Educating Males

Winston Churchill Fellowship Blog number 1

After one week in Canada I have seen 3 schools and had one meeting with the ministry of education.

Tomorrow I’m in my final Toronto school. Traffic in the city is bad so I have to leave at 7 to guarantee 10 arrival.

Two schools have been Catholic and one technical college so far. The drugs bust at my second school is a reminder that even when schools are great, kids are still kids.

Got my hire car and within 30 mins had a speeding fine. First time ever  oh the shame

Education in Canada so far appears to be more holistic than the UK.

So my quest continues. How do we create schools which engage boys ?