Welcome to Term 3, traditionally one of the busiest terms of the school year. There is much to look forward to this term, including next week’s musical Annie Jnr and our NAIDOC celebrations. In Week 3, our secondary students will also begin the process of subject selections and later in the term, many year groups will attend their camps. We also have several academic competitions, 2022 leadership selections and mock external examinations for the Year 12s.
Next week, the Board of Trustees will continue the school’s strategic planning process, in consultation with Independent Schools Queensland, Executive, staff and parents. This process occurs every 3-5 years and is vital to identify the future needs of Rockhampton Girls Grammar School. As part of this process, the Board will be discussing many of the key challenges facing schools, including how we teach students to develop their cognitive capacity, how we support and upskill teachers with the practices that have been proven to provide the best outcomes for students and how we ensure our girls graduate equipped with the skills and attributes they need to confidently take their place in society.
These questions are being asked by education leaders and policymakers around Australia, as they grapple with key educational challenges and what these mean for the future of schooling in Australia. According to the report CEO Perspectives: The Future of Schooling in Australia, released by the Association of Independent Schools in NSW, we are facing a new era of work where individuals need to be lifelong learners who are curious, adaptable, autonomous, driven, self-disciplined and confident. This is supported by research by the Foundation for Young Australians, that argues that not only is learning on the job increasingly important, young people will need to exercise enterprise and communication skills much more than they do today, and be much more independent and entrepreneurial than they are today.
The report interviewed 15 CEOs about economic and societal changes, the future impacts of these changes and the possible implications for students and schools, with several key themes emerging:
CEOs want teams that are multidisciplinary, high-functioning, diverse and focused on problem-solving. They are looking for employees who understand different points of view and work well in teams. Competencies such as enterprise skills and interpersonal skills are highly valued as is being able to prioritise the performance of the team above individual performance.
There was a desire for young people to be good citizens, not just good workers. To meet emerging societal challenges, young Australians need to focus their learning on understanding the world outside Australia and gain a broader sense of local and global citizenship.
Australia’s economic growth will increasingly depend upon entrepreneurship, and creating new products and markets, which will require well-developed enterprise skills.
Emphasis was given to the importance of curiosity and the intrinsic motivation to be lifelong learners. Many CEOs saw future learning as personalised, driven more by students’ interests, capacities and the problems they would like to explore and solve.
Real world and authentic learning were seen as important to ensure students are more job-ready at the end of their schooling. CEOs expressed concerns that a sole focus on attainment of high Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks (ATAR) may come at the expense of more engaged and intrinsic learning during the final years of schooling.
Reports like this one provide important considerations for Girls Grammar as we enter into our strategic planning process. We need to think about how we are preparing students with the skills they need to be effective global citizens and how our educational offerings are preparing our girls to effectively meet the challenges they will face when they graduate.
The process will see us reflect on how we continue our 130-year commitment to quality teaching, including through continued investment into our teacher professional development program. At the end of last term, our teaching staff reflected on their teaching practices, using the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) Professional Standards for Teachers. Moving forward, as part of our participation in ISQ’s Teacher Growth and Development Program, we want to investigate Cultures of Thinking as a means of embedding a learning culture where group as well as individual thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted. This longer-term project will develop pedagogical approaches that enhance student engagement and cognitive capacity, promote curiosity, creativity and problem solving and build rigour, deep knowledge and the ability to understand complexity.
The holistic development of our students also remains deeply valued and therefore we will continue to seek opportunities for our students to engage in external activities that promote collaboration, creativity and interpersonal skills. This includes annual offerings, such as our school musical, Girls Rock and House competitions, as well as participation in extension activities such as the Maths Teams Challenge and opportunities to serve and give back to the community. Girls Grammar students have a proven history of generosity, through service at school events, by participating in community events such as last term’s Rocky River fun run or by fundraising through events such as the Ponytail Chop or our annual Pink Gate Day.
Given that employers and industries are more reliant than ever on subjects that prepare young people for science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions, rich STEM opportunities remain a priority. Our weekly STEM Club provides regular opportunities for girls to engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics learnings and girls are provided with many opportunities to apply for external programs, including the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA) and the Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) STEM-tacular Experience. Our Old Girls Mentoring Program also continues to support girls through individual, personalised advice and guidance around STEM careers.
Girls Grammar also values connected educational experiences and therefore builds relationships with universities, industry and community in order to provide richer, dynamic and authentic learning opportunities, ensuring our girls are job ready when they graduate. Many of our girls engage in work experience, job placements and school-based apprenticeships. We also have students who participate in CQU’s SUN program, students who are awarded internships and students who undertake opportunities such as the Mater Hospital’s Heroes in Health Program.
Consistent messages throughout the report also focus on attitudinal traits such as the ability to recognise failure as central to learning, and the importance of developing grit and determination. Dealing with conflict in a constructive way is also highly valued. These are life skills to be reinforced in a range of settings, including at school and at home.
As we move forward with the strategic planning process, the school’s aim is to ensure the approaches taken over the next 3-5 years best contribute to Girls Grammar’s next chapter in preparing girls to graduate as life-long, confident, connected and flexible citizens, ready to make their contribution to the global world they are entering.