10 Steps for Building Whole School Learning Culture

Last night I watched #4Corners program detailing the jobs of the future and one of the questions the host asked at the beginning was:

What will the jobs of the future look like and are we educating our children for them? @FergusonNews#4Corners #edchat


Most educators out there would have loved the show and the online discussion that was generated around the relevance of much of what ABC highlighted.  Many in school leadership roles around the world have been witnessing many many schools struggling with an adequate response to this question posed by Sarah Ferguson.  I think the short answer is NO many schools are not adequately teaching students for their future and the struggle schools are having is how can they shift?

What resonated with me was the section that focussed on the schools behind the scenes. I think I saw at least two in the show — one of them being the Australian Science and Maths School in South Australia. Both schools looked and sounded like they were committed to whole school change processes, not simply one or a handful of teachers innovating in their classrooms that probably more accurately reflects the many schools I have worked in or visited.  I noticed the huge engagement on the part of the students and the excitement they had about sitting in the driving seat of their learning.

This made me reflect on my school and what I see as the key issues in building such excitement and engagement with students in my school.  Here are some of my thoughts.

10 Factors to help Build Whole School Culture 


The show and comments I read later on social media reinforced to me the idea that if schools are to change their learning culture they MUST:

  1. Be Whole School Focussed and Committed to LEARNING

  2. Have Leadership that MUST resource and drive the learning VISION

  3. Build Learning experiences that are authentic and linked to real world problems

  4. Reinvent their notions of what relevant curriculum is for students

  5. Knock down walls and open up new learning spaces – no more industrial rooms

  6. Engage parents and wider community as “experts” to give feedback on students projects – invite them in to student showcases of work

  7. Commit to training of teachers as coaches and experts in new models of delivery of learning to students

  8. Be Future Focussed as a school learning community on the students future careers

  9. Build TEAMS of students that work on 5 week projects to create a PRODUCT

  10. Be places of continual reinvention and innovation that reflects digital disruption in society


Project Based Learning Curriculum – one way forward

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 9.29.42 am

In San Diego a consortium of schools called New Tech run schools such as High Tech High that has achieved remarkable success by building the entire school culture around a carefully designed project-based curriculum.

Many schools in Australia have discovered this holy grail of building student engagement success.  My learning portal into the future has been heavily influenced by Parramatta Marist High School in outer Western Sydney that as been on a similar journey to High Tech in rebuilding their school and in the process has reinvented one of the oldest schools in Australia into what is arguably now one of the most successful and innovative schools.

Click here to read more about High Tech High, visit: www.hightechhigh.org

PBL Journey at Parramatta Marist High

“In 2007, the school principal (Brother Patrick) visited Napa New Technology High School in the Napa Valley, San Francisco. The school was considered to be part of a small but crucial educational revolution in the United States which focused not solely on the content that students needed to acquire before they left high school, but also on the 21st Century skills that students would need in order to be successful in life. With guidance from an overseeing organization (New Tech Network) and support from the strong underlying model of Project Based Learning, the school was successful and had strong community and parental backing.

On his return, Brother Patrick spoke to staff about the changes he had witnessed in schools overseas and to consider the future direction of Parramatta Marist High School. Several staff intrigued by this PBL model attended a week-long conference in the United States and then on their return, began the task of planning for the implementation of this model at our school, for 2008. Since then, Brother Patrick and the CEO (Parramatta) have shown their belief in the model and their dedication to improving the learning of students by allowing further staff to train in the model, by redeveloping current learning spaces and also encouraging staff to strive and achieve their Train the Trainers Certification. This certification enables staff to provide teacher training in the PBL model, both at our school and overseas.”

Centre for Deeper Learning (CDL)


The ongoing journey of transformation that began in 2007 continues to this day in ever new and exciting ways.  The school has established its own staff training facility called the Centre for Deeper Learning that has trained countless teachers in their PBL method of curriculum delivery.  I have been a visitor many times to this outstanding school and group of educators that lead the vision of PMH.

I am now in the privileged position of leading a school community and I like many leaders am constantly looking for a recipe that guarantees school success for each individual.  We are now in the process of committing our school to a vision of building a Project Based Curriculum starting in the Middle Years in 2017.

Why Middle Years PBL?


Most resistance, disengagement, boredom and resistance to learning comes in the teenage years when students, particularly boys, but also girls, get past the point the age of Primary schooling and early High School years of learning to do the ‘right thing’.

Some would say pick Year 7 which is an easier group arguably for a new program to succeed.

Building a PBL Curriculum

So how does/will this look for your typical Year 9 or Year 10 student next year?  My school is currently researching and planning this.  Conversations around where to start and who or what subject areas to start with are in discussion with Leaders of Learning.  Of course we are using Parramatta Marist as our ‘critical friend’ and people such as Kurt Challinor, Director of the Centre for Deeper Learning is helping us in many ways.

Most of the modelling and inservicing behind Parramatta’s success has come from networking as part of the New Tech Network and Buck Institute of Education (BIE) in the United States.

So what are the Core Components of a Project Based Curriculum?

This is a snap shot of our learning so far using language of PBL

  1. Need to Know – what do students need to know?
  2. Driving Question – what is KEY question driving the project for the students?
  3. In-Depth Inquiry – giving students time in their project teams to build deep learning
  4. Voice and Choice – students own their learning (student voice)
  5. Revision and Reflection – time for students to review and reflect on their learning
  6. Public Audience – having students present their project work to ‘real’ audience


So wish us well as begin our journey of transformation like many other schools who want to engage students in their learning and re-imagine learning with the simple desire to improve student outcomes.


Learning that Changes the World…….

Like many colleagues around the globe we are stopping for the holiday season here in Oz that is upon us.  As with any break it is much needed time to step back, enjoy the view, read, do more reading, talk, swim, run, read more, reflect and grow.

Sunset 2015

I  am also finishing my time at my current school as Head of Curriculum and next year move my family to the country to begin the next part of our journey.  For me this involves becoming Principal of a small Catholic Co-ed High School in Grafton, NSW about 6-7 hours north of Sydney and 3 hours south of Brisbane.

I am eagerly preparing for this new position and all the amazing people and things that lie ahead for me. No doubt the next few years will be a HUGE learning curve for me which I cannot wait to begin. I am so thankful for all my previous schools and leaders I have worked with because now I have found myself reflecting on all the great learnings I experienced that I can now take with me to my new school. The good stuff stays the course in any school or organisation and the other stuff becomes a rich learning about what to change!

But that is next year (only a few weeks away!!) and here I wanted to give thanks for the many gifts and opportunities I have experienced over the past 4 years. There have been many highlights, too many to list them all so here goes a short summary with some broad themes.

1. Building a PLC with Amazing colleagues – the best people I have encountered are the ones who have challenged me and forced me to grow as an educator. They didn’t always agree with me but they questioned and were prepared to grow theirs and my mindset. I am thankful for people who helped me grow and develop my leadership skills here.  All the research about teachers being the single biggest influencer of learning outcomes for students is spot on.

The move in Australia and globally about connecting teachers in schools and linking to professional bodies like AITSL and NSWIT is a natural progression that will only make our profession an even greater one.  The reality is we cannot afford teachers in our schools to not be effective.  Every teacher must have an impact or otherwise our children suffer.  Ask any teacher who is a parent: you  want your child educated by a teacher who  cares, has tonnes of compassion or understanding, is a 21C professional connected educator and who is prepared to go the extra mile for all the kids they educate. As with any organisation we need the best teachers in schools because -:

The simple formula is:

If you have a school of GREAT teachers then you have a GREAT school!

The many thousands reading this (insert big belly laugh I Want to hear from St Schols in Glebe to HW Longfellow in Virginia, USA !!!) would automatically say ” I know this already Mark!!!!”

The big money question hence the huge book, conference and consultants on offer world wide from Dylan William to My mate Pasi and Andy, sorry Mike and George nearly forgot you, is………….

HOW do you build a workforce of great teachers?



Well keep reading……..


Building a Professional Learning Community through shared practice


2. Access to Learning Innovation – schools need to be all about CHANGE and adopt rapid and long lasting change methods. I have been lucky to be in a position to lead this.  Leading change in schools is a challenging proposition, as well as demanding as you age (I’m getting older now nearly 27 but then my daughter says add another 20 Dad!!)

Working with resistance is tiring but worthwhile mostly in part because the students are the big winners of innovation in learning. I think change has more to do with giving our students the best rather than pandering to a small handful of staff who place their interests in front of their students. Get on with it the j0b we were employed to do!!

I have spent last 4 years working side by side with Westley Field, who assumed the position in my school of leading innovation in learning at the same time I began in my role.  Westley was responsible for leading and developing a model of learning called LIBERATE.  He built this from the ground up working with all staff and teacher leaders to build a common language.  This has been a key role for our teachers who have been reskilling and learning new concepts about what it means to be a connected educator who understands and practices blended learning with students.

Vital!! And led by Westley who started getting the school investing heavily in……


Turn every space into a new innovative space


3. Professional Learning as Leadership Capability Building – no amount of money is enough that can be spent on this particularly for leaders. Do not put your Business Manager anywhere near the PD budget!!

I have been privileged to be part of eye opening PD opportunities in my time and this budget, an investment in conferences, but even better overseas school visits to international schools that builds networks and opens eyes for teachers is CRUCIAL for the modern connected school has for most part come with Westley and his role of innovating to learn.

Investing to bring international and national scholars like Gary Stager, Stephen Heppell, Anthony Muhammad, Greg Whitby, Dr Rinda Montgomery, Professor Donna Cross, and Dr Leoni Degenhardt to name just a few of the more well known educators that have visited our school or have worked with our teachers.  This has come from the direct impact of having a key figure leading learning innovation and being closely involved was one of my professional highlights. Presenting with Westley on our schools model of learning with our boss at the  2012 ACEL conference was our combined attempt to fast track the execs notion of professional learning. School leaders must be out and about networking, sharing and exposing themselves and their school to huge new opportunities that flow from this investment.  Administrative school leaders that do not talk learning are a relic of the past.  Leaders in the digital age must be leaders of INSTRUCTION!!


Transformation of schooling is KEY


Teachers need to SEE and be exposed to national and international best practice to innovate and change practice.  Global education has broken down considerably and Australian educators need to step up here and start leading the way on the international stage. Everywhere American educators dominate the market with conference presenters and books and it will be great to see a little Aussie flavour  here soon too!!! A great aussie read here is one schools story of complete transformation DANCING ON A SHIFTING CARPET  by Leoni Degenhardt ( no offence here to all the amazing US educators I follow and buy books from just a bit of aussie flavour this xmas time).  Here Leoni talks about the creative and capable learners our schools need to be producing for the information future and the transformation that schools must undertake. A good read of one schools journey over a number of years.


4. Learning Space Design + Time – critical to new   Learning methods and design.  This goes hand in hand with innovation in learning.  The more I read about online learning and huge global market growth the more schools need to grasp the new role of the Blended teacher is ALREADY here.  Some schools have grasped the concept of Blended learning easily because they realise that much of student learning doesn’t take place in the traditional classroom anymore (read the book mentioned above)


Photo reprinted with permission by Unsplash. Photo by Sonja Langford
Time to build PLCs VITAL!


Successful schools I have visited like @ParraMarist reveal students working harder outside the 9-3 school bell timetables accessing teacher materials online.  The notion of the one teacher 25 student classroom is morphing to something NEW and innovative hence their numerous awards and recognition from worldwide leaders like Apple and New Tech for their bravery in breaking the mold of traditional schooling. This puts the emphasis on LEARNING when students gather with their teacher for discussion in their 100 minute lessons instead of wasting time introducing new content during the lesson. They are not alone but are ahead of the pack.

Some schools are still negotiating this. The world has changed drastically since many teachers attended school so the obvious questions needs to be asked and answered by schools:

1. Why do many school classrooms still look like they did in 1986 (when I left school) desks and rows?

2. Does learning space or the environment influence the learning outcomes for students?…..Yes so lets get on with changing them…..

3. Can students access your learning materials completely online ( modern space)?…..if not then make it so…….

4. Do you provide feedback or online discussion boards as part of your assessment of student learning (contemporary learning design)?

5. Does your school provide Professional Learning Team time during the day to meet in teams plan and discuss student work?

6. Are we taking too long to hand hold teachers through change processes when we need to spend more time on asking what is best for our students FIRST and then get on implementing this change? Is school about teachers or students and which comes first? ……students come to learn and teachers are trained to assist this right? If we agree with this then schools are all about STUDENTS!!!


School leaders must lead through collaboration and innovation


5. Leadership – crucial crucial crucial.

Just like teachers but even more important to have a great leader  and leadership TEAM and teacher leaders prepared to chart a course or way forward for the school. Great schools NEED great leaders.  Two of the most outstanding I have seen in Sydney that is influencing me greatly has been Parramatta Marist (a little bit of a fan!!) and Schools like Northern Beaches Christian School that have visionary leadership under Stephen Harris who I met years ago at a ACEC conference in Cairns.  A thoroughly impressive leader then who has transformed his school in every way. Some talk about Innovation Stephen does it.  Stephen and his team under Anne Knock Stephen Collis and others have been leading tours for leaders to places like Germany, Finland, Sweden to experience first hand what eye opening, amazingly wonderful design exists and what can Australian schools learn from them.  It is best to book a tour and visit NBCS to see.

I have enjoyed being part of a leadership team for the past 4 years, all different in personality and backgrounds but united in our pursuit of a common vision and bringing that vision to fruition. That work can ultimately only be beneficial for our organisation. I am thankful for this great gift and for all my Principal taught me about keeping things positive. I feel positivity will be key theme of senior leadership!!


6. Wellbeing…… The student part!! All about the students…… I could have put this first because schools exist first and foremost for students but it helps the students if points 1-5 are in place to build a great school for them doesn’t it?

Learning is the OIL of Student Wellbeing


My school has spent the past four years deeply immersed in building more holistic student wellbeing structure whilst also transforming the vision, culture and environment.  I did not “live long enough” to see the whole wellbeing house constructed but certainly saw many of the building blocks get put in place.

What did I learn?

Let me quote of my heroes and good friend Professor Donna Cross who says:

“Wellbeing is the OIL of learning!!!”

Nice, simple and easy to remember or was it –  learning is the oil of wellbeing?!?!!…….. Anyway hopefully you get the point the two are intrinsically linked.

If a child is Happy and positive about their school and who they are  in the world then learning will look after itself and that student will thrive and prosper.

So like many schools we visited on huge trips and research missions it all comes down to this simple message . Keep them happy!! And they will engage, thrive and learn and grow.

Again this is harder in reality that it sounds but building wellbeing programs into the curriculum is a big step in recognising the need for schools to adapt and adopt new ways of doing traditional pastoral care programs. Mindfulness and positive psychology programs are two just to name a few that should be incorporated into what students learn whilst at school.

All schools want to produce outstanding socially responsible citizens who not only are outstanding role models with their learning but also contribute to making THEIR world a better place.  To this end when you see one of your students, who also just happened to the the Dux, then head off on a 750km+ walk from Bondi to Byron to raise funds for others in less developed world then you can sit back and feel proud that something came out of their Timor Leste immersion in Year 11 to lead them to this!!!! Amazing stuff. I often read about this kind of stuff happening in schools but feel very proud this time it’s my school!!!….or was my school but the idea lives on in me for my next school….learning that will change the world and make it a better place!!

At this time of year so much to give thanks for so I’m glad I just spent the past few hours sitting in airports  across a few days thinking about my year but more importantly writing this outstanding post. Thankful and humble too!!

In my best French to all those who helped me this year, or over the past few years or will help me, famous or not so famous alike, ‘Joyeaux Noel’🌲🌲🌲

And have a great New Year wherever you are. I look forward to making more connections and learning so much from you all in 2016!!

Being a Connected Educator Takes Time

I am on leave presently so I find myself with more time on my hands than normal so my reading and online activity is a little higher than it is usually.  I am reading more but haven’t reflected on my reading for a while so here goes.

Recently I was in a chat on Twitter and the question was posed how are you connected online and what do you use more regularly for your professional learning? This is a hot topic at present in several forums so it got me thinking about my own use, how I connect, what I connect to and how often etc etc

I am also reading on my Ipad at present a great book on Being a Connected Educator and keep interrupting my reading to do the online activities at the end of each chapter – I am finding it disruptive with all the online links and activities the book draws me off too but also enjoyable connecting with even more educators across the globe like Jimmy Cassas, Todd Whitaker, and Jeffrey Zhoul. Each of these educators has been there done that and I am enjoying reading their books.  I am also in process of trying to stop buying hardcopy books as they take up so much of house now, the Kindle cloud version on my Ipad is much easier, not to mention cheaper.

I think I am your typical educator, one always looking for ideas and new and more improved ways of doing things. This is where being connected comes in handy. My social media and learning networks give me a wide range of connections to so many great people it is hard to find the time to keep up with them all, then of course you realise you can’t but you keep reading anyway.

I think the best place to look to find what people follow are the apps on your phone. So what are my some of the networks/apps on my phone that keeps me CONNECTED and how do I use them?

1.  Twitter is easily number one for me. So simple so easy to use and connect with like minded educators everywhere. I view it as a daily news read forum where I jump in and out of discussions. My phone or iPad is constantly buzzing with news from Twitter. I connect with a lot of groups but largely educational work related stuff with some other interest sport politics travel forums etc. Twitter is a daily, many times a day quick read forum, post, favourite, link, share, retweet, chat, DM place.


2. Instagram is a relatively new one for me. I am  a big lover of design, learning space, photography and so forth so I love the simplicity of taking a photo editing on my phone and posting somewhere. I think, like many, the artist, builder, designer in me finds a little community in this space so photos and art live here. Once a day photo, edit, create, share, play. Very enjoyable. I follow a few groups so see great pictures here.


3. WordPress. A great connection and another news read forum like Twitter but no character limits.  I use as my website but also like many connected educators their reflection space – just another space or home to collect ideas. I am inspired by fellow educators here in the great land of Oz where I live such as Greg Whitby who was one of the very first people I followed after hearing him in the flesh at a conference years ago.  He is one of the few Educational leaders I am aware of in Australia at a senior system level of leadership, at least in Catholic education land where I belong who blogs regularly and as such is a great example of model for others like me.  I am always in awe of how he finds time to blog but I figure it’s like anything else in a busy week; schedule time for it in your calendar and it happens.  Another Principal I follow and enjoy reading from Australia is Greg Miller who has been good to follow and read how learning is being transformed in his school, a good example of where the research is put into action!





4. LinkedIn. Another interesting space and similar but different connections to my Twitter and Blog space. A lot of HR, Business, IT types meets Educators (my world) here. Great for connections online then people who want face to face meetings. I view it a bit like an online resume for myself. If you are going to be CONNECTED you need an online presence here. It’s also interesting because I meet a lot of senior leaders who may not necessarily be on Twitter but use LinkedIn for whatever reason. A lot of jobs appear here and consultants spruiking their skills but also some great connections. Maybe once or twice a day, or every couple days.


5. Slideshare. Great for presentations. Often finish up here when a lot of speakers put conference notes or presentations here.

6. Coursera. Short courses online that grab my fancy. Occasionally scrawl through for ideas. It’s a bit like Uni study need a fair bit of time commitment here but I have enrolled some accelerated students at school so much more to be explored here for schools in how to use these amazing courses.

7. YouTube Channel. Great place to store all videos I’m watching or using.

8. Google. Enough said. Connections everywhere. Google Drive. Google Projects. Docs…..

9. Prezi. Love to use for jazzy presentations for staff. Many presenters moved to this and other similar products when they wanted a change from Powerpoint in 1995! Hah just kidding.


10. Storify. Everyday I get great news feeds from many sites that come to my Storify space. Storify curates or collects and gathers stories based on topics and tags so this great place to read or scan articles a bit more in depth than Twitter.

I could go on but I think these are my TOP 10 apps or sites I am using at the moment for my own professional growth and learning.  It is great being connected because there is so much to READ.  The issue is finding the time to read it all and this takes commitment.

Constant Feedback and Communication in Schools: building GREAT teachers

I was recently at a Professional Learning meeting with the great team @ParraMarist and spent the day with other teachers talking about learning and teaching in our schools.  Some of the conversation shifted off in the breaks to how things were done regarding communication structures in our schools.  It was interesting to note some of the similarities as well as differences in how great schools are constantly looking at refining their processes of communication to staff and leaders.

Weekly Communication

Some short whole staff briefing about core events in the life of the school either at the start or end of the week. When I asked one teacher why the end of the week because my schools had always done their briefings at the start of the week ( ie. Monday) I was told this allowed their school to not only deal with the organisational side (calendar events coming up next week) but gave time to celebrate and share teacher and classroom success THIS week! A nice shift from operational to strategic items without many possibly realising. This certainly helps getting short conversations around teaching by teachers with other teachers in a short meeting format on the agenda in a simple communication format. I liked the simplicity of the format. Not to say that couldn’t happen on a Monday but ask any teacher let alone worker the obvious difference in the staff room between a Monday and a Friday and Friday becomes a great natural day to celebrate other things too like birthdays, anniversaries, etc for the week all before the weekend.

Embedding Staff Professional Learning Time. 

I also heard great ideas about this one. Many schools struggle with whole staff gatherings. Either some can’t see the point of 100 teachers in one meeting or how to structure communication in smaller groups. Scrap the staff meeting concept entirely and rethink how things need to get done. One school took a whole staff day to do compliance training for First Aid while another did this across the year in smaller groups thus freeing up more time to focus on core business of building growth and capacity of teachers which struggles to get enough time as it is.

The best was timetabled PD. One 60 minute period a week for all staff built into their weekly timetable. The good thing about a timetable is it is guaranteed to come around every week or 10 days depending on your TT structure. The other good thing was it was done in isolation but in a small group or team structure meeting.  This allows for REAL work to be done on the curriculum when you bring a group together who have their teaching classes in common. Teachers who complain about never having enough time to program, this approach fixes this one but also embeds learning and growth for teachers and learning from each other.

Other things can be added to this structure like sharing PD, talking about assessment tasks, integrating course content across KLA areas, analysing NAPLAN or data tools to better inform practice, giving each feedback and the list goes on. Professional readings, analysing student samples of work and provoking a conversation about this, feedback on leaning walks or lesson observations etc etc.

It became clear as I reflected on my major learnings from the day that:

  • Building team approach to learning is a crucial and strategic ingredient for a whole school transforming to GREAT because it requires leadership, planning and at the end of a day structural ingredients crucial for success;
  • The LEADERS are crucial and require more than ONE. Great leaders build leadership in others so when you visit a school and you see multiples of people speak to you and they are all impressive leaders/teachers then the change management process has worked. This can only assist communication because in time some of your best teachers TRANSFORM into your outstanding members of your leadership team.
  • Professional Development is KEY. I have already mentioned this one but it appears the GREAT schools have quickly/already worked this one out. Put all other nice distractions in schools like sport, excursions, speech days, external exams and competitions etc behind EMBEDDED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TIME FOR teachers. When your school does everything else but then struggles to find time for colloboration then you know teachers are going struggle to find time to learn and do everything that GREAT schools require.
  • Once you have PD time and the LEADERS in place then a big part of the battle is over  because the structure is in place to build the culture and the communication and feedback mechanisms to become a GREAT school for the students.

Some schools and teachers think you need great kids, really bright, high achievers to become outstanding but at the end of the day my experience and journey in the schools I visit for my own growth and leadership is the exact opposite.  GREAT schools begin with leaders who have a vision to push the boundaries and place learning front and centre of everything at the core for each student.

Let me use the example of DATA in schools. This sometimes gets a bad wrap especially around testing or NAPLAN time of the year.  In reality all leaders know DATA is crucial when it forms part of a conversation around tracking student growth. But where in the school day do you factor time in for teachers to have a conversation about data?  On a Monday afternoon for 30 minutes once year? In a faculty meeting once a term? In a leadership meeting as one bullet point on an overcrowded agenda?

It then follows that GREAT teachers is the next crucial ingredient for success.  This makes the argument for schools embedding ongoing weekly time for teacher communcication because ultimately this time is an investment in GROWTH and building GREAT teachers!

Professional Growth Models

Reading the recently released horizon report from @aitsl revealed some really interesting examples of how countries and schools are dealing with professional learning within schools.

One of the models that many would be familiar with is the PBL framework in the High Tech High School system within the USA.  It is interesting to read the huge and intense professional learning model for teachers built into this very successful high school learning framework described in the AITSL report.

The Integrated Model of Learning

In High Tech High in San Diego, California, USA, project–based learning (PBL) is a radical and highly disciplined pedagogy practised by all teachers across all subjects and age groups. Teachers in High Tech High engage in sustained and formal professional learning, including:

half a day every fortnight spent in workshops delivered by specialists from a field, often outside education;
participation in a study group of their choice, which meets every two weeks and is required to deliver output of use to the whole staff;
• the annual summer school – called the Odyssey – that inducts new teachers and refreshes existing ones.
There is also a state accredited teacher education and leadership academy attached to the school.

Performance and development are characterised in High Tech High by close analysis and critique of student work and outcomes data, both in peer groups and one to one with a mentor. Similarly plans for new projects are scrutinised and critiqued, a quality assurance process incentivised and moderated by the simple fact of all teacher developed resources being made available online, on an open source basis.
This accumulation of consistent, high visibility, high value engagement makes professional learning and performance and development ubiquitous in High Tech High. As one teacher told us “every day is a development day.”

Raising the performance stakes considerably is the one year contract on which High Tech High engages teachers. Each May, based on progress made by their students and feedback from their peers and mentor, teachers learn whether or not they will be employed for another year at the school.
High Tech High receives hundreds of applications and has not had to advertise for teachers for years

There appears to be a very strong and disciplined pedagogical approach that is consistently applied across the whole school by all teachers working within this model.  The PD framework certainly adds plenty of meat on the bones to support teachers in the implementation of this model to students.

I have been keenly following Parramatta Marist, a Catholic Marist high school within the Diocese of Parramatta, here in Sydney Australia that has been implementing PBL school wide across the past 6 or 7 years in their school.  The school has achieved great success with their PBL model that I believe is heavily based on the High Tech High model. Many of the ingredients for success I read, hear about and see in schools like New Tech and Parramatta Marist in this case study appears to be built upon:

  1. Strong and Effective Pedagogical leadership that provides the mechanism to allow consistency of approach and methodology across all subjects within the school;
  2. Reframing of traditional assessment of learning to include greater focus on real world integration of learning projects to enable all students to easily link the “outside or real” world to the classroom;
  3. Strong use of student feedback and inclusion in this learning and teaching model to empower and enable the learner (student) to take greater responsibility for their own learning in the process;
  4. Restructuring of learning environments and timetables to allow greater focus on all students working collaboratively in groups producing new knowledge;
  5. And arguably one of the most important ingredients is the amount professional learning time that is allocated, but also built in to teachers daily work to prepare and plan for the PBL model to be successfully implemented in the school.

The message is change takes time to implement in any school but within the High Tech High PBL model there is great expectation but also great investment in the teacher.  School leaders at  Parramatta Marist have obviously absorbed learnt this from many visits to San Diego as well as the Hattie visible learning research about the effect size of the role the teacher makes and their successful model reveals to the education community that proper investment in teachers will bring a huge return for students.  There is also very strongly held accountabilities of the teacher performance in these schools.  The American model is an interesting one with annual contracts in the High Tech High system.  I think this would be similar to many top tier private schools in Australia that have teachers on 2-3 year contract and renewal process.

We are wrestling with some of these issues in my school as we debate the many competing interests for time in the school day and how we allocate appropriate time to enable teachers to grow in their jobs and become the excellent, continuously improving leaders of learning that our students today demand.  

What is certainly clear is that AITSL is doing a great job of providing worlds best practice to Australian school leaders evidence like the horizon report that show many schools are pushing beyond the boundaries of what we have defined as “typical” in schools for too long.  I will be taking my learning gained here from reading this report across a holiday weekend and share it with my colleagues about the imperative for continuous  “relearning”.
Those famous words of futurist Alvin Toffler spring to my mind.


Feast of St Marcellin Champagnat 6 June


The development of Marist Brothers schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney from 1880 to 1950




Marcellin Champagnat 

Photo taken of St Marcellin Champagnat by Adriano DiPrato, Rome 2014


*Research essay completed for final Master of Theology unit  at University of Newcastle. Graduated in 2015.


The continuation and spread of Marist schools in Sydney between 1880 and 1950.”


This paper will detail the development and spread of the Marist Brothers’ schools in the Sydney Archdiocese in the period 1880-1950. This was an interesting and unique period in NSW that began with the abolition of state aid to religious schools and the call by the Bishops to import a willing labour force from Europe, in the form of religious nuns and brothers, who would have the dual effect of keeping school fees low for poor, working class Catholic parents, whilst at the same time imparting a Christian education for the young that met the needs of an increasingly secular and even, an immoral society that was seen by some to be developing in the colony. The Marist story is common, characteristic of many of the religious orders that originated and progressed Catholic education in Sydney until state aid returned in the 1960s, whilst also being a distinctively French-Australian story told through the unique lens and charism of their founder, Marcellin Champagnat and his Petits Frères de Marie (Little Brothers of Mary).



Time will not permit a detailed analysis of all of these schools but some attention needs to be given to the complete picture of the total number of schools that the Marist Brothers’ opened (and closed) in Sydney Archdiocese in this period 1880-1950[1]. The aim is to understand the reasons for this growth and that will require some analysis of the religious, social and political situation within the Catholic Church in the Polding period (1842-1877) that impacts on the education debate, and more specifically the Marists. So to set the scene we need to begin the story before 1880 because much of what transpires with Catholic and Marist education after this may, arguably, not have transpired had it not been for the social and religious issues and the political decisions made that resulted in the Public Instruction Act of 1880.

The Education Question 1848-1880

The main educational issue in question in Sydney from 1848, when the NSW government split state funding for public and religious denominational schools was who was going to pay for religious schools in NSW into the future? The key issues of funding for the Government and leadership from the Catholic bishops was central to understanding the drive and rapid development of Marist schools in this period. The Public Schools’ Act of 1866 “was a genuine effort to overcome past defects of the education system”, but it was also a forerunner to the eventual abolition of state aid to religious denominational schools.[2] Catholic education was under threat and “leading politicians such as Henry Parkes and John Robertson after 1877 favoured a single non-denominational system of schools”.[3] The reality came with the introduction in parliament of the 1880 Act. Br Ludovic, the Director of the Marist mission to Australia, and the first Marist Brothers who came with him to Sydney in 1872 arrived into this environment.

The Marists in Australia

Much of the impetus for growth and development came from the Sydney church leadership on behalf of Archbishop Polding in the late 1850-1860s.[4] The role of Archdeacon John McEncroe cannot be underestimated. Both Polding and McEncroe recognised early the need for Catholic teacher training facilities and this was the reason why McEncroe had “tried to obtain the services of the Christian Brothers”[5] as early as the 1830s.[6] With the loss of the Christian Brothers in 1846 McEncroe turned his attention to the Marists. Polding had warmly received the Marist Fathers in Sydney in 1843 and this, combined with the sincere relationship and favour the Marists held for McEncroe greatly assisted the decision to send the Marist Brothers to Sydney.[7] What was to become the site of the first Marist school at St. Patrick’s, Church Hill, was to a degree due to the close working relationship McEncroe had built with the Marist Fathers there prior to his death. On McEncroe’s death in 1868 there is a strong oral tradition among Marists that before he died, McEncroe asked Polding if the Marist Fathers could succeed him at St. Patricks. [8] The bequest McEncroe left in his Will to support the work of the Marist Brothers was a good example of this solid relationship and trust McEncroe had with the French fathers.[9] The significance of the Marist Fathers story is important for the Brothers as we trace the beginnings of the first Marist Brothers school, and Marist novitiate [10] in this period, St. Joseph’s College in 1881. Archbishop Vaughan was comfortable with this arrangement due to the close location of the school to the Marist Fathers monastery, Villa Maria, at Hunters Hill.[11]

In Meliora Contende, St. Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill 1881

St Joseph’s College, as a boarding school, began on 18 July 1881 with the arrival of 55 boarders from St Patrick’s Church Hill. Under the visionary leadership of Br Ludovic, a novitiate had begun for the training of young brothers at Church Hill. Due to increasing size and enrolments of the first school, space quickly became an issue and the Marist Brothers, under the leadership of Br John Dullea, moved their novitiate to the site of the present College at Hunters Hill in 1878.[12] Br Michael Naughtin acknowledges the significance and connection St Joseph’s College had, as early as 1869, to the first Marist school established at Harrington Street, Church Hill in 1872; “It will be even easy to establish here, or in our neighbourhood, a boarding school which would have every chance of success”.[13]

It is important to understand the need for boarding schools in this period. This was closely aligned with the increasing need for secondary schooling in the colony at this time as families, particularly those in country and isolated areas, were unable to obtain access to secondary schooling unless their child boarded away from home. There was limited access in the city to a Catholic boarding college at this time, even though the Jesuit Fathers had started St. Aloysius’ College in 1879, originally in Woolloomooloo, and then St Ignatius College at Riverview in 1880. We will see shortly with the next Marist school in 1888 in North Sydney, the nature and quality of education being offered to the growing population of Sydney was different and met different needs in the colony. This was in part the social story of the Sydney Catholic population but was also one that had been transported from Europe. The story of the provision of an intellectual classics education offered to the elite upper middle classes by the Jesuit model, contrasted with the French Marist pedagogical model, aimed more deliberately at the poorer, working class Catholic, aimed at getting most Catholics an education to primary school level at least. This was Champagnat’s original vision based on his own childhood in Marlhes, France. The other significant factor that naturally led to the development and rapid expansion of St Joseph’s College as a boarding high school was a flourishing economy in the 1870s and 1880s in NSW and the demand for secondary education from an “an influential commercial class that was arising”.[14] St Joseph’s College filled this vacuum in this period and prospered and grew quickly.

Virtus Ubique Vincit, Marist Brothers North Sydney 1888

The Marist story continues to evolve and spread when the Jesuit Fathers of North Sydney asked the Marist Brothers to establish a school in Ridge Street. At this time according to records North Sydney was a “rapidly developing, working class area well known for times of poverty, depression and struggle”.[15] The development appeared to come again from the rapid expansion of the Sydney population as it moved north from the city. The Harbour Bridge had not yet been built so ferry transport was the only way to cross the harbour for the brothers. The original St Mary’s Church in North Sydney had been built in 1854 but due to increasing numbers of Catholics living in this area attending church, the building had been modified in 1867. Again it appears the close relationship the Marist Brothers had with the Jesuits, especially Fr. Michael Kelly, who had preached at retreats for the brothers, was instrumental in the decision by the Brothers in starting this school.[16] Br John Dullea, Superior of the Brothers in Australia, in writing about the request from Fr Kelly in 1887 said:

“I have just received the letter enclosed from Rev. Fr Kelly, Superior of the Jesuits of North Shore. He has often asked me for Brothers for his parish. He would build a residence later. It is one of the suburbs developing most rapidly. He has already sent us several postulants and the Brothers are very fond of him. I believe it will be good to ask him for a residence and school near the present presbytery, that the distance is too far from St. Patrick’s. He would assure us of $120 per Brother per year”.[17]

A hallmark of the strong Marist style of leadership in this period was evident in the North Sydney story. The idea of a guaranteed salary for the Brothers teaching in a parish school dated from the rule and practice of their founder.[18] The Jesuits later tried to renege on this agreement that Kelly had signed with the Brothers but the Provincial stood firm on this. Regardless of this issue “the teamwork between the Jesuit Fathers and the Marist Brothers resulted in a mutual appreciation and a firm religious environment for the boys”.[19] This relationship combined with strong leadership from the first Director of North Sydney, Br Walter Moore ensured the school would grow and flourish as it did in the years and decades ahead.

Challenge and ObstacleServo Fidem, The High School Darlinghurst (MBHS), 1910

The account of the strength and ability of the Brothers to stand up to church hierarchy when challenged is a significant factor in the continuation of the Marist story in this period. Several obstacles were placed in their way even when clear invitations had been given from Archbishops or parish priests. The North Sydney episode of the late 1880’s was repeated in the Cathedral school in 1910. In 1887 the Brothers acceded to the wish of Cardinal Moran and transferred their high school from Church Hill to St Mary’s Cathedral.[20] However, “disputes developed with the Cardinal who in 1910 requested the Marists to move the high school to a property in Darlinghurst”, at the corner of Darley and Liverpool Streets.[21] Again the Marist Brothers held their ground and did not give in to church hierarchy.

The Darlinghurst story is hugely significant in this period because this school traces it origins to the original high school established at St Patrick’s Church Hill in 1875, transferred to St Mary’s in 1887 and then to the Darlinghurst site in 1910.[22] In 1968 the Darlinghurst story continued when the school moved to the newly established suburb of Pearce in Canberra, where a new primary school adopted the colours, motto and crest and more importantly the continuation of the Marist story, it’s history and traditions dating back to 1872.[23] Indeed Frank O’Shea in his very comprehensive history of Marist College Canberra, gives a picture of the significance of MBHS Darlinghurst.

To give an indication of the importance and prestige of MBHS, for many years it shared with St Joseph’s College the distinction of being the only full secondary school run by the Marist Brothers in Australia. It was, in the words of Br Alban Doyle, “cherished as one of the foundation schools of their beginnings in Australia”.[24]

Whilst the Darlinghurst situation had been going on, the Brothers had finally decided to found their first southern Sydney school in Kogarah, established conveniently on the train line as the population continued to increase and fan out from the city to the suburbs. As there were no other Catholic schools south of Kogarah yet, the proximity to transport made the school accessible to those families living further south.

Finis Coronat Opus, Marist Brothers Kogarah, 1909

Cardinal Moran arrived in Sydney in 1884 to much fanfare and quickly set about putting “his impress on things”.[25] His first major decision was to call a plenary council for the Australian Bishops in 1885. Moran’s presence and authority as an apostolic delegate would have major consequences for the development of Catholic education during his reign as Archbishop of Sydney. One of the decrees from the Diocesan Synod of 1883 in Bathurst that was made more explicit under Moran and the 1885 Plenary Council was, “a primary or elementary school was to be established in every mission where there was a priest”.[26] This had helped drive and shape Catholic education and counter the secular push for funded public schools only in NSW. Indeed this would have been the foundation for the first parish, St Patrick’s Kogarah in 1887 and another driver for a school under the leadership of Father Peter Byrne as parish priest, though there is evidence the first school building actually built in the St Patrick’s parish was in 1865.[27]

The continuation and development of the Brothers’ move to Kogarah owes its existence to the persistence of the then parish priest Father J.J. O’Driscoll. He had been pressing the brothers since he began in the parish in 1904 and was not put off by the Marist Brothers initial refusals to begin a school.[28] The opening of the railway line to Kogarah in 1884 and the “combined effect of railway and trams on Kogarah was dramatic and rapid” and really changed access to the Kogarah area.[29] This would have had the effect of bringing increasing commercial and residential development that would have caused the Brothers to eventually look more favourably on the requests by Fr O’Driscoll for a school. There was another development in the City in 1908 that helped this decision. Tony Butler recounts this development in his excellent history of Marist College Kogarah for it’s centenary year in 2009.

“The Brothers’ provincial superiors have always been under pressure to open new schools and the early years of the Twentieth Century were no different. Not put off by refusals, Father O’Driscoll pressed his application. His persistence was rewarded when the Sydney City Council in 1908 decided to resume the site of the St Francis church and school in the midst of the markets area of Sydney known as the Haymarket…. The closure of the Marist Brothers Haymarket school enabled Fr O’Driscoll to approach the Marist Brothers Provincial, Brother Victor Ludeke, with more confidence”.[30]

The Brothers school at Kogarah eventually opened on 3 February 1909 with 91 pupils enrolled coming from “near and far”.[31] The story of the Marist Brothers going to places of need continued at Kogarah despite the province wanting to consolidate it’s vast number of schools in this early period of the twentieth century. Alban Doyle highlights a clear personnel problem with decreasing numbers of postulants persevering in their vocation.[32] Again despite small numbers of brothers, three in the first community at Kogarah, under the strong leadership initially of Br Gonzaga, then Athanasius and Pius, the school did well and prospered. The leadership of Br Pius is given special mention in the official Marist history.[33] The issue of declining personnel did see a temporary slow down and consolidation of schools in this period in Sydney province after Kogarah until the demand again came from Mosman to the North and Randwick to the East in 1923.


Aeterna non Caduca, Marist Brothers’ School, Randwick, 1923

The official Marist annals give only a perfunctory record of the history of the brothers’ move to the Randwick area in 1923. It appears the Archbishop of Sydney, Michael Kelly had the idea of founding a boys’ college at Randwick when he visited the Randwick parish in 1921.[34] Again the local parish priest was significant, in this case Fr Treand M.S.C. who acquired a suitable property central to the church and tram lines and the Provincial of the MSC order made application to the Marist Brothers to staff the school. This acceptance was made in January 1922 according to official records but there appear some months of negotiations that followed.[35] Charles McGee in a history on the occasion of the 75th anniversary year of Marcellin College records some of this drama that nearly did not see the Marist Brothers arrive on the site.

Some drama then followed as to which order of Brothers would staff the College. In January 1922, the Marist Brothers indicated that they could open at Randwick in July 1923. But the Christian Brothers, with their College at Waverley and their Sunday School activity in the Randwick parish, had also received an offer and indicated that they were also able to start a school at Randwick. However it appears the Marist Brothers in June made a better offer and the Christian Brothers were informed if they could match it, they would still have the school.[36]

Once more the strength of leadership that previous Marist leaders had shown, shone through when Br Clement, Provincial of the Marist Brothers in Australia declared, “we are not prepared to go to an auction to secure any school”.[37] By August the decision had been made by the Brothers to staff the school. The earliest report of the school is found in the Visitation Book, made by the provincial Br. Brendan, for October 1925.[38] It records outstanding work of the founding brothers and the high quality Christian education happening.

Br Walstan, the first Principal and obviously a keen race goer at Randwick, spoke of the solid foundations years later in his reflections of his time at Randwick. “I sent Randwick to the front from the lifting of the barrier. I knew I was on a winner. Time has proved this”.[39] Some of this obviously referred to the outstanding response the school received from Catholics in the outlying suburbs judged by the nearly four hundred names on the schools register by the end of the first year. Perhaps some owed to the future priests, Marist Brothers and brilliant scholars they had on their books. Perhaps part of what Br Walstan was also referring to in his famous quote was the exceptional quality and depth of leadership that was to follow him; Br Andrew Power from 1926 and then Br Ignatius from 1931. The standards set by these two outstanding Marist leaders was high and in no small way paved the way and laid the foundations for the schools expansion and continuous growth over the ensuing decades. Marcellin College, Randwick, which continues today as an outstanding Catholic Marist school serving the church in the Eastern Suburbs has had a continuous Marist Brother as it’s principal since foundation. Surely a sign of the importance and significance this proud school holds in the Marist story.


The development and spread of the Marist Brothers’ schools in the Sydney Archdiocese in the period 1880-1950 was a direct response to church leaders inviting the Marist Brothers to come to Australia in 1868. State aid had ceased to Catholic schools and the Bishops needed the brothers to keep Catholic schools open. The Bishops saw the possible loss of a religious education for Catholics as a threat to the maintenance of a just and civilised society in the colony. The Marist story in Sydney took shape at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill 1881; North Sydney 1888; moved south as transport developed to Kogarah 1909; relocated to Darlinghurst 1910 from the Cathedral site; competed against the Christian Brothers to open a Catholic boys school in Randwick in 1923. Other openings came from invitations to Woollahra in 1928, Eastwood in 1936, Lidcombe. The story was representative of the tensions and achievements that many religious orders endured to survive in their own right until the Wyndham scheme and state aid returned in the 1960s. The Marist story in Sydney schools is a distinctively French-Australian story that began in the foothills of post revolutionary France when a young uneducated boy had a dream to start a teaching order that would, and continues to, influence generations of young people to this day.

Appendix 1:


Chronological List of Marist Schools Established in the Archdiocese of Sydney







* Source: Br Brian Etherington, Good Christians and Good Citizens (Sydney: Marist Province, 2010).

**MBHS Darlinghurst continued its proud history relocating to become Marist College Canberra 1968-

*** In 1995 Benedict Senior School Auburn merged with two regional schools to form Trinity Catholic College



Ayres, Philip. Prince of the Church Patrick Francis Moran, 1830-1911. Melbourne: Miegunyah Press, 2007.

Birchley, Delia. John McEncroe: Colonial Democrat. Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1986.

Butler, Tony. A Hermitage in the South: A History of Marist Brothers Mittagong 1906-2006. Drummoyne: Marist Brothers Sydney Province, 2006.

Butler, Tony. No Truce with the Rocks: A History of Marist College Kogarah 1909-2009. Sydney: Monteray Print Services, 2009.

Doyle, Br Alban. The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972. Sydney: E.J. Dwyer, 1972.

Fogarty, Br. Ronald. Catholic Education in Australia 1806-1950, vol. II, Catholic Education under Religious Orders. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1959.

Etherington, Br Brian. Good Christians and Good Citizens. Sydney: Marist Province, 2010.

Luttrell, Br John. St Mary’s to St Catherine’s – Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Sydney 1836-2000. Sydney: Catholic Education Office, 2000.


Marist College North Shore 1888-1988. Sydney: 1988.

McDonald, Ian. A School of their Own: The Story of Parramatta Marist 1820-2000. Sydney: Australian Print Group, 2000.

McGee, Charles. On a Winner – A History of Marcellin College Randwick 1923-1998. Sydney: Star Printery, 1999.

McMurrich, Peter. The Harmonising Influence of Religion: St Patrick’s Church Hill, 1840 to the Present. Sydney: Patrick Books, 2011.

Naughtin, Br Michael. A Century of Striving. Sydney: Macarthur Press, 1981.

O’Shea, Frank. Keeping Faith – 40 years of Marist College Canberra 1968-2008. Canberra: National Capital Printing, 2008.


College Annual

Valens, Br. The First Fifty years history of Marcellin College 1923-73 in the Marcellin College Annual 1973.


Luttrell, John. Catholic Schools in NSW 1820-1950. Sydney: Course notes from RELT 6027 Masters unit University of Newcastle, 2014.



www.stmns.com/aboutus Accessed 21 June 2014.

http://www.stpatrickskogarah.org/mod/entity-information/ Accessed 21June, 2014.

http://www.kogarah.nsw.gov.au/council/about-kogarah/history-of-kogarah Accessed June 21, 2014

* Many thanks to my copyright editor, unpaid research assistant and beautiful wife Fiona who I met at Marcellin College in 1996 and has forever changed my life in ways too numerous to count, but most blessed gift was a little cherub God gave us in 2006 that we called Samantha!!  Thankyou Marcellin!

Photo taken from St Patrick’s Marist College Dundas http://www.stpatricks.nsw.edu.au/general-information/about-the-college/



The story of Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers teaching order,

and the brothers’ story who came to Sydney in 1872


founded their first school, St Patricks, Church Hill

that was later moved to Dundas

where the school continues to flourish to this day.

[1] See Appendix One for comprehensive list of all Marist Schools opened in Sydney archdiocese 1880-1950.

[2] Ian McDonald, A School of their Own: The Story of Parramatta Marist 1820-2000 (Sydney: Australian Print Group, 2000), 81.

[3] John Luttrell, Catholic Schools in NSW 1820-1950 (Sydney: Course notes from RELT 6027, 2014), 6.

[4] Br Alban Doyle fms, The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972 (Sydney: E.J. Dwyer, 1972), 626-627. Archpriest Sheehy, secretary to Archbishop Polding, in a letter dated to Br. Luis María, Superior of the Little Brothers of Mary in France, February 28, year unknown, but likely to be 1867-68. Dr. Polding invites the Brothers to assist Catholic education in Sydney in light of the Public Schools Act (1866) and the “heretical” threat this posed for the future of Catholic education.

[5] Delia Birchley, John McEncroe: Colonial Democrat (Melbourne, Collins Dove, 1986), 117.

[6] Birchley, John McEncroe: Colonial Democrat, 122.

[7] For an account of the influential role McEncroe had in first building good relationships with the Marist Fathers, and by virtue of this relationship how this in turn influenced the Superior of the Marist Brothers to commit four brothers by 1868 who arrived in Sydney in 1872 see Birchley, John McEncroe: Colonial Democrat, 126-128.

[8] Peter McMurrich, The Harmonising Influence of Religion: St Patrick’s Church Hill, 1840 to the Present (Sydney: Patrick Books, 2011), 18-19.

[9] Doyle, The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972, 12.

[10] A novitiate is a house of formation for postulants and novices. The novitiate was integral to the success and development of Marist schools in this period 1880-1950 because they provided the educational training and spiritual formation for the numbers of young men training to be Marist Brothers who would supply the schools with teachers. For more on this see Br Tony Butler fms, A Hermitage in the South: A History of Marist Brothers Mittagong 1906-2006 (Drummoyne: Marist Brothers Sydney Province, 2006).

[11] Br Michael Naughtin, A Century of Striving (Sydney: Macarthur Press, 1981), 13.

[12] Br Brian Etherington, Good Christians and Good Citizens (Sydney: Marist Province, 2010), 12.

[13] In a letter written from Villa Maria by a Marist Father, Fr Poupinel SM to Br Louis Marie, Superior General of the Brothers in Rome. See Naughtin, A Century of Striving, 1.

[14] Naughtin, A Century of Striving, 3.

[15] Quoted from the history archives of St Mary’s Primary School accessed www.stmns.com/aboutus. Same records appear in the history of Marist College North Shore 1888-1988 (Sydney: 1988), 8.

[16] Doyle, The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972, 311.

[17] Letter from Br John Dullea, Superior of the Marist Brothers in Australia writing to the Superior General of the Marist Brothers in St Genis, France in 1887 quoted in Doyle, The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972, 311.

[18] Doyle, The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972, 315.

[19] Marist College North Shore 1888-1988 (Sydney: 1988), 15.

[20] Etherington, Good Christians and Good Citizens, 14.

[21] Br John Luttrell fms, St Mary’s to St Catherine’s – Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Sydney 1836-2000 (Sydney: Catholic Education Office, 2000) 1. See more on this in Frank O’Shea book, chapter 3.

[22] For a more detailed analysis of this story see Frank O’Shea, Keeping Faith – 40 years of Marist College Canberra 1968-2008 (Canberra: National Capital Printing, 2008) 14-19.

[23] Etherington, Good Christians and Good Citizens, 28.

[24] Frank O’Shea, Keeping Faith – 40 years of Marist College Canberra 1968-2008 (Canberra: National Capital Printing, 2008) 16.

[25] Philip Ayres, Prince of the Church Patrick Francis Moran, 1830-1911 (Melbourne: Miegunyah Press, 2007) 127-129.

[26] Taken from the 1885 Plenary Council, decree 240 in Br. Ronald Fogarty fms Catholic Education in Australia 1806-1950, vol. II, Catholic Education under Religious Orders (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1959), 309.

[27] Br Tony Butler fms, No Truce with the Rocks: A History of Marist College Kogarah 1909-2009 (Sydney: Monteray Print Services, 2009), 11.

[28] To give an idea of the size of the rapidly growing area of the one huge Kogarah parish O’Driscoll was ministering too in 1904, this parish later divided into eleven separate districts or churches that included Hurstville, Rockdale, Penshurst, Arncliffe, Cronulla, South Hurstville, Sutherland, Brighton, Sans Souci, Bexley and Carlton. See http://www.stpatrickskogarah.org/mod/entity-information/ Accessed June 21, 2014 from “St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Kogarah.”

[29] Accessed June 21, 2014 from http://www.kogarah.nsw.gov.au/council/about-kogarah/history-of-kogarah

[30] Butler, No Truce with the Rocks: A History of Marist College Kogarah 1909-2009, 12.

[31] Butler, No Truce with the Rocks: A History of Marist College Kogarah 1909-2009, 14-15.

[32] Doyle, The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972, 478.

[33] Doyle, The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972, 480.

[34] Doyle, The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972, 490.

[35] Doyle, The Story of the Marist Brothers in Australia 1872-1972, 491.

[36] Charles McGee, On a Winner – A History of Marcellin College Randwick 1923-1998 (Sydney: Star Printery, 1999) 7.

[37] McGee, On a Winner – A History of Marcellin College Randwick 1923-1998, 7.

[38] Refer to the first Fifty years history of Marcellin College 1923-73 by Br Valens in the Marcellin College Annual 1973.

[39] Br Valens, Marcellin College Annual 1973, 21.

Why Isn’t Antarctica on the World Heritage List Sir?

Year 7 Geography

Iceberg shaped by melting, Drake Passage, Palmer Peninsula, Anta

You have to love curiousity!! We were doing some research on World Heritage Areas the other day and the boys had a great interactive lesson using google maps plotting various world heritage sites from continents across the globe onto their interactive map. A follow up lesson because literacy is crucial and the boys need to practise their writing they had to add a few sentences explaining why they believed the sites they had chosen were World Heritage Areas. We are like many countries around the globe that are test driven so the boys have to carry their laptop and books still. Writing is crucial!!! I predict by 2020 writing will be less crucial for Year 7 but meanwhile………

We began the lesson examining what a World Heritage Area was and they quickly came up with words like “old stuff” and moved to “unique place in an environment” to “cultural significance to the world”. They came up with some great sentences to explain the concept. And then I left them to it to discover, learn at their own pace, assist each other, race to get the most sites done or simply compete to win the award for the lesson for “Best Effort”. Teacher as facilitator so learning is front and centre.

I’m reflecting here at the end of long week nearing the close of the the first Term about how my few lessons with Year 7 are going. We are in the midst of some program rewriting and implementation of new Australian curriculum syllabus material whilst also adding our own flavours to it. The lack of team planning or the struggle to find enough time to collaborate is typical of most schools but doesn’t help the continuity of lessons even if I try really hard but the boys don’t seem to notice this too much – maybe this is my hangup? They are engaged with the games we play and they are at such a brilliant age 11,12,13 years where their heads are simply eager to discover. I know things will change as they grow into teenage years but at the moment despite the inadequacies of time to plan and make everything perfect things aren’t too bad.

I didn’t forget that question either at the start of the lesson when one boy very quickly looked at a world map from UNESCO and asked “Why isn’t Antarctica on the list Sir”? Of course never answering such a question from my socratic 101 uni course led me to set him some extension learning to share with the boys next week. He wasn’t the only one asking deep questions and that is always a telling sign of an inquiring mind. It’s the silent class you need to be wary of.

I finished with that great Chinese proverb to the boys:

Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself

And off they went home for the weekend to do some more discovery at home with their parents.  Now there’s been a bit in the news this week about homework and whether it is good or bad, should kids have it etc etc. In my class I said nothing. By Week 8 the boys know the minimum standard set for the lesson and those who don’t reach it within classtime have to catch up it in their own time. Call it homework, or work at home, or catch up time but anybody involved in learning knows that core skill requirements closing the learning gaps between students is crucial.  For some they don’t need homework at this stage but their thirst for knowledge will never be met in a 50  minute lesson.

No Progress Without Struggle


I was reading this great quote on Twitter recently @Primary_ed posted and it got me thinking about the expectations we have in schools about the academic standards we set for our students. How much do we expect of our students? How far do we extend the students in our care? Do we set high enough standards? What are the base line indicators for the work that we accept in the form of homework, assignments and in class? How do we know when the work presented is acceptable? Teachers who have been teaching long enough know the answers to most of these questions but I doubt if they would all have the same responses.

One of the common denominators on this topic is the fact that learning requires effort and that nothing worthwhile comes easy – this is the ‘No Progress Without Struggle’ part of the equation. Students who are successful at school work hard at it; some might be smart but there is a lot of time and perspiration put into it as well and I’m starting to think we need to be very clear with the high expectations we set for our students in our schools.

What can schools do?

1. All teachers set HIGH and very clear expectations about the standard of work to be submitted. When work is not of sufficiently high standard students need to be told, the feedback part,and given the chance to resubmit or not progress to the next level of proficiency.

2. Strong pattern of study and home learning schedule is crucial. Patterns need to be established especially in the early too middle years of schooling so students are giving time too learning outside of school hours. Just like music practice or swimming or tennis training commitment to preparation and building a solid skill set is crucial for student success.

3. Build Strong Parent Partnerships. Parents are crucial to ensuring their children succeed. Parents provide the support at home that students need especially as the academic and time demands increase in high school. Parents can also support their children as they provide the role models their child needs in their struggle with learning. Do they regularly see their parents read at home? Have their parents studied or are currently studying? Do they see their parents needing to make sacrifices to get work done at home?

4. Present real world examples to current students of those who have gone before them and are succeeding in their chosen fields whatever they may be. Present Old Boy or Old Girls at Academic or Cultural Assemblies and let students hear them talk about what it took for them to achieve their dreams. The more authentic the better!!

The Bottom Line

You need to build a culture of excellence if you want a GREAT school. Great schools are all about excellence and excelling everyday in every way. Students need to hear and see this as they walk the grounds of their school. Teachers also need to believe they are also working in a great school. Teachers are crucial and also a big part of the solution in this equation!

Teachers as Learners and Researchers

Another holiday break begins. I suddenly realise as I age I need the holiday break more from the daily grind of schoolwork and teaching. I also realise that my own learning can suffer which is part of the reason I continue to study at university. Last night just before midnight I finished my last uni assignment which certainly kept me busy over the past month. My interests are pleasantly divided between a great love of educational leadership research, teaching and learning, learning space, ICT, blended learning, learning taxonomies, to name a few. I forgot my latest which is where my school is currently pushing the envelope which is where student Wellbeing meets learning paradigms and how these interact in schools.

My first Masters let me concentrate on most of these which was great. Unfortunately my other great passion working in religious schools as I have has been religion. I have had a few attempts at study in this all important space. My first was years ago doing a dip ed in RE. I loved it. I later began a heavier Masters in Theology through BBI and Newcastle and am about to complete this so naturally enough I am now thinking about the next options which brings me back to the point of this post.

The learning. It’s all about the learning for us teachers. We need to remind ourselves that our best learning is when we engage in some study or a research project at work that stimulates and engages us. I know for me this makes me a better a teacher. Enjoy your holiday reading and keep learning new things all the time.


Professional Learning Everyday for the Modern Educator

As a new holiday day awakens me to a beautiful view overlooking the gorgeous Pacific Ocean from atop my hilltop mansion (temporary holiday residence!) I trawl through the news via my ipad, read some blogposts, check in with twitter and eat my breakfast!!


What a modern world we have become. At one end of the breakfast table sit two octogenarians reading the paper and doing crosswords and to my left sits my wife and brother in law on their ipads checking email, looking for cheap holiday flights etc etc. I guess this is a fairly typical scene for any household this time of year so having no one to talk too I blog a few thoughts away……

Over the last few days I decided to get into the xmas spirit and spend some “real time” with family and leave my ipad alone but now is time to get back into the “work”. I promised myself these hols I would be proactive with my professional learning and post 100 thoughts over summer! The theme I took was “Creating Great Schools”.

One of the invaluable assets in a modern teachers armoury are PLNs (Professional Learning Networks). In the ‘old days’ when I first started teaching in the 1990s professional learning (or PD) was something you often did on a typical one day course and then forgot about when you got back to school. The internet has changed all that of course so these days if your serious about professionally developing your skills you can do it anytime in any number of ways. One of the best for many is Twitter


Twitter represents for many teachers the modern day PD that can now occur anyday, anytime, including the so called holiday time. It keeps you connected to a wonderful group of fellow educators and then connects you to their networks as well which is like reading 100 newspapers instead of the one I read everyday in my small neck of the woods.

We all know professional learning is essential in many professions but some key questions to ask:

How many teachers in your school are connected via social media and actively join in PLNs?

How regularly do your staff engage and share good practice at staff meetings?

Do your meetings focus on “nuts and bolts” administration or is there time for sharing of learning?

Do your staff present at teacher conferences and share practice amongst colleagues at local, state and national conferences?

What is the “online” presence like of the teachers at your school?

Thought for the day: The simple response is great schools have great teachers who actively seek out and engage with other like minded educators who are constantly seeking to better their practice as teachers.