From the Principal
This week I would like to provide a little detail around a bold and ambitious new series of documents from Catholic Education Melbourne which provide an educational framework for the Archdiocese. What has been particularly pleasing when reviewing the newly released Horizons of Hope is the clear and visible links between the curriculum imperatives of the Catholic system and our own strategic planning here at De La Salle. This reinforces our belief we are working from a sound platform with the plans to drive improved student outcomes being supported by contemporary curriculum research, consultation and design.
While it is not a mandated program or blueprint like the Victorian Curriculum, Horizons of Hope presents a clear vision to support and drive Catholic education. As its theme ‘Learning Brings Hope’ suggests, the set of booklets on Vision and Context, Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogy in a Catholic school present a wonderful guide to the principal elements of quality education. As A Quality Education is one of our five Lasallian core principles this strikes a particular chord for me. Horizons of Hope articulates goals for building Catholic learning communities in our schools, such as:
- building a culture of learning together through collaboration, partnerships and life-giving relationships
- honouring equitable access and opportunity for all, committed to those most in need
- commitment to achieving the highest standards possible, based on reflection, evidence and research.
Not only do these fit very neatly with our 2015–18 Strategic Plan for learning at De La Salle, the thrust of these goals is very Lasallian. As we build on the traditions to create the future of our choice, the decisive features Horizons of Hope lend credibility and momentum to our creative approaches to improve in all we are doing.
The focus of our staff Professional Learning Teams this year has largely centred around an increased understanding and appreciation of standards. “It is through a meaningful and purposeful interpretation of formal curricula that the learning community can respond to the needs of the learner… the Victorian Curriculum provides the learning community with an informed understanding of the curriculum content that should be taught and the standards learners should attain as they progress through school.” (From Curriculum Foundation Statement: Horizons of Hope)
You may have heard me speak or seen me write this year in relation to our emphasis on measuring progression, rather than simply levels of achievement. Learning progression is one of the central tenets of enacting curriculum in Horizons of Hope: “Curriculum Design in a Catholic school embraces multiple entry points for learners, which enables them to work through the progression of learning at their own pace. Learners are supported to identify pathways that best suit their learning needs. They are supported to engage in a broad range of learning experiences both within and beyond the classroom.” As we continue to strive for improvement and innovation in all areas of our students’ learning experiences, it is gratifying for our learning leaders to see our latest initiatives being held up as cutting edge practice in a very public, system-wide advisory publication such as Horizons of Hope.
‘To make a difference in the world, inspired by the Gospel to act for justice and the common good’ is another theme from Horizons of Hope. I saw in this a parallel with a wonderful program we are working on in partnership with the Sydney-based Lasallian Mission Council. Australian and New Zealand schools are establishing “twinning” arrangements with our brothers and sisters in Papua New Guinea and Pakistan to support the arduous but crucial work in their underprivileged Lasallian schools.
From our Mission Action Day funds we have supported a range of schools in Pakistan with essentials like pumps to provide clean and reliable running water, power generators, desks for classrooms which had literally none, paving playing areas, musical equipment and similar. Our relationship with Bomana High School just outside Port Moresby sees us provides funds and manpower for a building project each September. As an extension of these twinning arrangements two New Zealand schools have sent teachers to work in various PNG Lasallian schools. I have copied extracts from their reports below which you may find interesting. This is a proposal we are planning to be able to offer De La Salle staff in 2017.
Papua New Guinea Trip (Twinning Project)
This is a brief report on the visit of Peter Smith and Joseph Keane to La Salle Technical College, Hohola, PNG, as part of the “Shared Mission” initiative of the NZMAC.
The visit was from 2 October to 8 October 2016.
This was the first visit by teachers from De La Salle schools in New Zealand.
The week in Papua New Guinea was both enriching for all the individuals involved both personally and professionally. Being able to get into classrooms and see some ‘real life learning’ happening was key to the experience being so beneficial for the all of the Lasallian community that were involved in the project.
A combination of both professional development, classroom observation, teacher dialogue and resource development was key to raising the teaching standard in a variety of subject areas. The week started with classroom observations of a variety of subjects and teacher’s getting written and verbal feedback of both their teaching content and how they can improve their practice and content knowledge.
Professional development was held in the three Lasallian schools in which I focused on literacy strategies, vocab building and lesson development and plenary.
The sessions ran well with all the staff participating and contributing to the different topics and ensuring that the focused remained on improving teaching and learning in the different communities.
A sharing session was participated in at the end of the session with images from De La Salle College, Mangere, being shared with the group.
In conclusion the week was a huge success, with all involved having contributed in some capacity to the development of the twinning program. The Brothers community were amazing hosts and allowed us to experience the rich culture that both the Lasallian Papua New Guinean schools and country have to offer.
I am a teacher and proud fellow Lasallian who has been at Francis Douglas Memorial College in New Plymouth for the last 33 years. In December 2015 I was invited to be a participant in a new initiative, that of developing closer working relationships with our schools in PNG.
My participation in the “recovering the inspiration” program (Sydney – 2015) had reminded me of the great work that is carried out daily by members of our wider Lasallian Asia Pacific family and the positive impact of that work on the lives of others.
The decision to go (why did I go?): To me it was simple.
When the opportunity came to support our brothers and sisters, “assist” a fellow Lasallian school, there was really no question in my mind of “do I go or don’t I?”
The way I saw it was that, if a teacher in my own school asked for my assistance and I am able to help of course I would (as we all would). So to me this was a group of teachers in one of my own schools (which just happened to be located in another country) asking for some help.
When the offer was made, it was not clear on exactly how I could help but the decision to go was not really a decision at all. I was going. It gave me the opportunity to be actively involved in the wider mission. I was excited about that.
We spent the first part of the first day, observing classes then we were invited to do some teaching in our specialist areas while the local teachers were invited to observe us. Later we gave some staff professional development.
Later in the week we continued to teach classes and have teachers observe and we presented staff Professional Development in two other schools, Bomana and Jubilee High School. On the last day of our visit we were chauffeured around Port Moresby by Br Thomas who took us on a tour of the area to gain a perspective of the scope of life in Port Moresby. This experience was certainly educational for me. On the last night, we enjoyed a meal out with the Brothers.
Would I do it again? Definitely!
Not only inspiring and unselfish commitment from our Kiwi brothers, but a great source of ideas as to how we in Malvern may be able to assist in our already well established twinning with PNG. For those not so handy or keen on the tools, this project offers great opportunities well beyond the building game. Hopefully we can arrange of some of our staff to be involved in 2017.
Mr Peter Houlihan