Education Vision 2020 – Mount Alvernia College, Kedron, Queensland


“Communicate, communicate, communicate.” This is the message of encouragement to parents, when it comes to engaging in their child’s education.

Mount Alvernia College Principal, Dr Kerrie Tuite and Deputy Principal – Student Development and Wellbeing, Annette Butterworth

Mount Alvernia College Principal, Dr Kerrie Tuite and Deputy Principal – Student Development and Wellbeing, Annette Butterworth.

Both the Mount Alvernia College Principal, Dr Kerrie Tuite and Deputy Principal – Student Development and Wellbeing, Annette Butterworth spoke with Learn.JoinTheAdventure as part of the Education Vision 2020 series.

This series aims to discuss the state of education in Australia and where it is headed.

During this discussion, Principal Tuite talked about the work being done to prepare for the new curriculum and assessment program.

“So, our big focus for the last three or four years has been preparing our staff so as they are able and ready to deliver programs and getting the programs written and the training,” Principal Tuite said in the podcast above.

“So, when I look back through the professional development log that we have for each teacher, many of them will have spent a lot of time with the Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) programs and the training and getting accredited and doing all of those things, rewriting programs, getting them submitted.

“So, that’s been our big focus.

“It will mean a shift in people’s perception, because we haven’t had external exams in Queensland for 40 odd years.

“So, that’s going to be a big shift.

“But having said that, even though we will have external exams, we can’t get away from the fact that we still have internal assessment and that internal assessment can be tailored to the particular school that you’re working in.

“So, for a student who is doing English, they will have one external exam, and the rest will be internal.

“Or a student who’s doing Maths and Science, they will have two internal pieces and two external pieces across the course of time.

“So, we’ve got to teach our girls to be resilient and understand that external exams are one thing, but they also have got to focus on the rest of their learning all the time.

“So, it has been for all of Queensland and I’m on one of the Steering Committees at the QCAA.”

Further, some of the benefits of a student attending an all-girls school was discussed.

Read the Education Vision 2020 – Mount Alvernia College, Kedron, Queensland Podcast TRANSCRIPT

Andrew: Thank you for your company and welcome back to another episode of Education 2020 or Education Vision 2020. This is where we’re looking at where education is now and where it’s headed for Australia and our society and the community. There’s a lot of changes, there’s been a lot of technological changes, cultural changes, all of that sort of stuff. And we like to chat with experts when it comes to these subjects. So today we’re at Mt Alvernia and we’re going to learn a lot more about that college, that school. With us we have Dr. Kerrie Tuite, she’s a principal. Dr Kerrie Tuite, how are you?

Dr. Kerrie: I’m very well, thank you. And you?

Andrew: Yeah. Good, terrific. Annette Butterworth, we also have her here, Deputy Principal, Student Development and Wellbeing. How are you?

Annette: I’m very well too. Thank you.

Andrew: Awesome. First up, we’ll go to the Principal. Kerrie, can you tell us a little bit about the college here?

Dr. Kerrie: Well, Mt Alvernia first class began in 1956 so that makes us just over 60 years old. At the moment we have around about 900 girls in our community and they range from Year 7 t0 Year 12. We’re a Franciscan community and all of that means that we follow the teachings of Saint Francis, Saint Clare and our founder, Elizabeth Hayes. And so we try to bring up our young women to be a remarkably Franciscan and in the way they live and learn.

Andrew: Yeah. So Annette, can you tell us a little bit about your role here at the college?

Annette: Funny you should ask that, I knew that was going to be the question. Well, my job is primarily to look after these student wellbeing, pastural care, but I look at that in four ways. You could look after their heart, mind, body, and spirit because we can’t just do it in one area. So I have a team that I work with to ensure that happens.

Andrew: Yeah. Kerrie for the state of education now, how do you see… It’s a girls only school, there’s been a lot of changes and commentary around such schools. How do you see the landscape of where we’re at right now?
Dr. Kerrie: I think data is showing that given the world, young women live in, it’s good for them particularly in their formative teenage years to be with other young women so they can develop themselves. So as they’re not in competition, which is what they will be when they leave school. So we like to develop them to their fullest extent so they’re able to deal with all of the vagaries that they might come across in the big wide world. So yes, I have taught in all boys’ schools, co-ed and all girls’ schools. And I think the jury’s out still for a lot of people, but for me in this particular context, in this particular culture, I think an all girls’ education provides a safe learning environment for young women to grow, to reach their potential.

Andrew: Yeah. Annette you mentioned very much the Franciscan approach to education with an all girls’ school, how does that allow that to happen?

Annette: No, it’s a big question.

Andrew: Yeah.

Annette: It’s a huge question. That’s why I’m pausing on it because we value relationships here. And I think Francis was on about relationships. So when Kerrie mentions respect, it’s about engaging students in how to be respectful, but that just doesn’t come from the students, it has to come from the staff as well. So it’s an all-round package of Franciscanism of encouraging respectful relationships. So we don’t tend to come over the top with our girls. We use restorative practices to build relationships. So if there’s harm in a relationship, we reconnect and get these students to build connections with one another, but also with their teachers if they’re gone by the wayside. So yeah.

Andrew: This question might be better for you, Kerrie, rather than a principal, because when we came in this morning, the welcoming culture, if we can put it that way, it was very noticeable. Right from the front gate, coming in through, meeting the staff, is that something that you see from the principal permeating all the way through the college and-

Annette: Totally, totally. And it’s got what we call a hidden curriculum. So it’s not an overt curriculum. The hidden curriculum is the things you see in the presence of even the gardens, the people, the statues, whatever, right? It’s those cultural things that just are there, that you don’t necessarily name all the time, but I think we value from the moment you walk through the gates, everybody who comes here gets that sense of calmness as well. But then we have staff here and students more importantly, who just light up the place anyway, so I think that’s what we have here, which sometimes you can’t put a name on it, but everyone comes through and that’s what they say.

Andrew: I love that term that you put on, a hidden curriculum. With that, is a hidden curriculum just as important as the overt curriculum? The one that we probably talk about most of the time, when you put it into the context of the world and where it’s heading, there are countries that it’s very widely reported that they focus on wrote learning and you must be able to do this and you must be regimented. Can you talk to that a bit?

Annette: Students need to be… So I keep using the word students-

Andrew: Yeah.

Annette: … Young people need to feel comfortable with who they are as individuals and you can’t get that by just pushing academia. Daniel Goleman is on about social emotional wellbeing. If you don’t get that right, then you might as well forget the academic side of it. And I think that’s what we are known for here at this college, is the pastoral care we give to our students. And if we lose that and we just keep pushing the academic, academic, we’re going to lose some students. We might capture the top 20% or 30% of our students. We need to do that by all means academically, but if the other students are not well, we’re not going to raise their capacity to see their potential. So wellbeing is just a huge focus of this school and I think that hidden curriculum that’s here, is that. That you see kids who do… For the most part, we don’t always get it right and I don’t think any school can do that, but for the most part, our girls feel safe and safe to learn.

Andrew: Yeah, Dr. Kerrie Tuite, and beautiful title again, because for the listeners, you’ve got A Doctorate Of Education, Masters of Educational Leadership, Bachelor of Arts and Certificate Of Teaching.

Dr. Kerrie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andrew: So you’ve got the credentials, you’ve got the experience, you’re the principal of this college, with what you’ve just had in mind, and we’ve heard through these conversations in the series that everybody is expecting big changes in the job opportunities and market into the future with artificial intelligence, robots and all of that sort of stuff. So where do you see people, humans, the students that you’re educating now fitting in in the future to be productive to society?

Dr. Kerrie: Well, I think one of the things that’s always been the case for Mt Alvernia , if there’s any student who comes to us, irrespective of their talents or their abilities, will be able to achieve. And I tell this story all the time of a couple of our past students to illustrate my point. And I told this story last night at our orientation night with our Year 7 parents for next year. And the story goes something like this, at the moment we have one of our past students who’s doing her PhD in London on genetics and genetic engineering, so she did very well at school. She’s won academic awards at university six from last report. Now that young woman is a high flyer. Yes, and she’s doing very well and she’ll make a real difference in the world. There’s another story that comes to the fore every week. We have a lovely young woman who graduated from here, I’m going to say seven or eight years ago, she went in to be a pastry chef, so when she was qualified as a pastry chef, she then thought, “I’m going to start my own business.”
So she went and got her TAFE qualifications in business. She then applied for an ABN, came to school here, made an appointment with myself and Paulette Corkery, our Business Manager, to see if we could negotiate her using our commercial kitchen for making the pastries that she sells to the local businesses. Now this young woman, Alex is her name, has been doing that for three years now. She volunteered last… Not last week, the week before when we had our graduation ceremony to assist in the kitchen. So she’s successful too. So, success comes in all shapes and sizes. She’s making a huge contribution to our community as is our lovely girl who’s in London making a huge contribution to the global community. So I think we can all make our little difference, but it’s about harnessing those talents and using them to the best of their ability. Because as I say to people, I’ve said this all my leadership journey is we we’re not a sausage factory.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s absolutely terrific. So if we can just explore a little bit more, being an all girls’ school, for a parent that is listening to this now and look, their child may be at a co-education primary school, and they’re thinking about the options when it comes to a secondary school. And you mentioned earlier the jury’s out, but can you just make the case as to why a parent really should be considering a college like Mt Alvernia?

Dr. Kerrie: Well for start, it lets girls be themselves.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dr. Kerrie: I think that’s it. It lets girls find their own way, and it often refers to find their appropriate tribe. Girls will go through a journey. It is having been a teenage girl and probably a fair bit of us is still are teenage girls around this table apart from you, you know full well that you’re experiencing a time of great concern, great tension, lack of self-esteem. The world is… I mean honestly if you consider the influence of social media in that young women come under the hammer really in a huge way. So to be in an all-girl environment where they see girls coming in all shapes and sizes, not just the people that you might see photo-shopped on Instagram, is quite consoling for the girls. Because I can say, right, okay, well, maybe I’m taller than the rest of my class or maybe I’m shorter than the rest of my class in my case.

But you can be yourself and give you a chance to find out who you are before you foisted onto the world and have to have some sort of image to sell. So, yeah, I think that’s… I don’t know if I’ve answered that question, but that’s-

Andrew: No, that’s really good.

Dr. Kerrie: … That’s kind of how I see it.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dr. Kerrie: I went to an all girls’ school, my daughters went to an all girls’ school. I suspect my granddaughter won’t because of her parents and that’s their call. But I just think for us at this particular point in time, given what girls have to face in the everyday world, this is a lovely safe place where they can explore who they are and of course, and in its leadership we have an amazing personal development program, which has been developed by our counsellors and our pastoral people, which tracks the girls through their stages of learning and their stages of development. And Annette is quite an expert on that.

She’s done quite a lot of research and put in a number of things in place, particularly in leadership, not just pastoral care, in leadership opportunities for girls across the school. And we’ve had this funny conversation over the last couple of years because Annette and I tend to, inverted commas, ‘Manage the College Captains.’ When we usually manage the college captains we have to really manage them to make sure they know how to do meeting programs and everything. This year we both just stood back and let them go because they had gone through the process of leadership. It’s only getting better.

Andrew: Annette, would you like to speak to that because we recently had the first female prime minister. We’ve a female premier in Queensland. Yeah, we are seeing more women becoming leaders and good strong wholesome leaders. What are some of the things that you’re doing to enable that through this college?

Annette: When you see a team of girls sit around and talk to you about the fact they’d been in a meeting with boys as well. And they sit back, and they don’t say anything because the boys take over. And even though our girls have got really bright ideas and feel intimidated, there’s alarm bells there. And I think we have a capacity in an all girls’ school therefore to encourage and drive the talent of our young women to see their potential. So about two years ago now, I think-

Dr. Kerrie: About two years back.

Annette: … I wrote the raise the bar leadership program, which was done by all students in the college. So it looked into leadership and what it meant and looked at female role models. And so every class in the school, as I said, did that for a term. So there was a lesson a week in leadership training, but that’s gone on now to a leadership program where students to become badge leaders. And I use that term because I’m going to use another term later. So for badge leadership, the students have to acquire particular skills because no one is necessarily born with these skills. But that doesn’t mean they can’t create them. So as part of their leadership training, if they’re interested in badge leadership, so instead of whole college leadership, now we have leadership within year seven and eight.

So that’s the Francis School and Clare School, nine and ten and we’ve got the whole college leadership. So we’ve created more opportunity. But we’ve also insisted that they do training in things like conflict management, public speaking, how to run an effective meeting. So they can’t go… That’s just to name a few, they can’t go for leadership unless they come and have that training. So that we’re raising that capacity for them to sit around a table and lead. And we’re starting to see that. And Kerrie was mentioning the college leaders-

Andrew: Yeah.

Annette: Well, they this year with the mentors for the leaders of Clare and Francis School, absolutely amazing leading, showing those young girls how to be good and effective leaders. It’s kind of taken the onus off asked to be the teachers of it-

Dr. Kerrie: Yeah, it is.

Annette: … Because they are far better at it. But one of the things I’m conscious of at the moment too is that while that’s been working, and it’s growing and getting better and better and we have more students wanting to partake in committees and community things, that it’s just grown because they’re going for that badge leadership.

Andrew: So you’re giving them experience outside of the school walls, is that what you’re saying? With community engagement and becoming involved in-

Annette: Oh yeah! Like their service learning and outreach, that’s part of our mantra here anyway, that every child can do that. But they have to put it on paper and show that they’ve done that to be taken as a badge leader. But while that’s working and we’re getting more and more kids signing up to community things and in school committees. There’s the self-leader I think we need to move forward on and that’s what will be our focus next year is on developing the leader of self.
The person who can set their own goals and time manage and organise and understand that it’s important to understand others and to respect others. So that will be a drive we’ll have because this leadership program is taking care of itself. But the leader of self, there’s, there’s a lot of talk at the moment because we’ve used the mantra to raise the bar and it’s gone on a little bit of a tangent now, which is strongly going push academic, push academic, push academic and I’m not against pushing academic but not to the detriment of the welfare of the child. So I think what we need to do is-

Andrew: And the hidden curriculum as you put it.

Annette: … Push the hidden curriculum and develop the person to develop their capacity to know their potential rather than have someone saying you’ve got to compete. So that’s the leadership that we’re driving for.

Andrew: Look, one of the great things about this type of forum is that you can take the time to really talk out stuff. And it’s important because there will be listeners and they will take things away from this. And I never really foresaw it coming into here and we definitely want to look at the future of education, the way that you see it. But just in what you were saying, I’d love to hear what you have to say because recently I was involved in an event, which was Moreton Bay Region Says No To Domestic Violence. It just happened last Friday I believe. And Petero Civoniceva, well known footballer, he stood up and he had a fair bit to say and you’re looking at women that are becoming leaders and doing great things in the community.

And this is a big subject and I’d love to hear what you have to say with how are you preparing women to avoid first and foremost those circumstances in the first place, but to also really put it on the agenda. One of the things that Petero Civoniceva said, which has created quite a bit of community debate, is that he can’t understand, forget where you stand in relation to the climate change divide, but it has had massive public media scrutiny and conversation and exposure yet domestic violence you got the statistics are horrific, but it’s not getting that same exposure. So what’s the college doing about that?

Dr. Kerrie: Well, it’s interesting because France is doing something countrywide and banned basically promoting the abolition, if you like, of domestic violence. But within our personal development program, Annette has built in with our psychologists here, a program of girls getting to understand what they prepared to accept and what they’re not prepared to accept.

Annette: It’s actually a written programme that we’ve taken on called Love Bites. And even the name of it-

Andrew: Yeah, yap.

Annette: … Suggests alternate and that’s what it is about. But we do that through grade seven to grade ten and eleven, twelve, but it actually goes to Year 10 and it talks to students and gives them experiences about how they should be treated, not how they shouldn’t be. And it does raise some really challenging topics at times, especially in grade 10 and 11 where there’ll be given scenarios where somebody has been the victim of domestic violence and they have to deconstruct how that came to be. And so what were the signals along the way, where could this young woman had pulled herself out of a situation that led to the domestic violence.

It’s about enabling them to see dignity in themselves because a lot of our young people, and I’m not just talking about women, but a lot of it tends to be women. They think they need to be the subservient for the male and in those discussions with students, you hear that. And yeah, it’s challenging, but I think by opening up the discussion, especially in grade seven and grade eight, talking relationships back there, it’s just staggering what they would put up with. Even if they’re in a friendship with a boy at 12 and 13 years of age.

Andrew: And is that why you have the opportunity as an all girls’ school to have some of that conversations that you just wouldn’t be able to have?

Annette: Yeah, totally.

Dr. Kerrie: You wouldn’t be able to have those unless you split them along gender lines in a coed school and it’s really important to have those conversations.

Annette: And we have a need and a desire to have a forum with boys and girls to discuss healthy relationships, which we were planning to do this year, but we will be putting into next year where we have year 11 and 12 both male and female sitting down together discussing, well, what is a healthy relationship and what can we expect from one another? And because we don’t do enough of that. But yeah, as Kerrie said, we have a capacity to teach our girls how to have dignity and be who you are. Don’t be what another person wants you to be. So, that’s what the benefit of doing this love bites program is.

Dr. Kerrie: And we did a lot of soul searching before we did it, didn’t you? We did a lot of research into what might be the effects of this, what staff we put on those programs, the training that went into the staff before they were even ‘allowed’ in inverted commas to take one of those PD classes because we knew there was going to be some fallout in terms of we didn’t know their reaction. I mean, we’ve got some staff who would have been victims of domestic violence, so there would be no way that you would have to expose them to that.

So we had to vet our staff really carefully and Annette did a great job on that, but it was also about training them that this is not going to be an easy conversation to have. This is not all sweetness, and light an d marshmallows and fairy cakes. It’s also about the reality of the fact that one woman is murdered every day in Australia by their partner and it’s just got amazing consequences. We see them at school here, when a child is in a home where there’s domestic violence, the effect on their wellbeing and also their learning particularly and it says you can’t learn if you’re not well.

Andrew: Yeah, and you do these things for outcomes and you’ve touched on that, but is there a clear and succinct way of articulating the outcomes that you’re looking for, whether it be in a local sense or in a more countrywide sense and shifting cultures?

Dr. Kerrie: I like our girls to be strong enough to speak out-

Andrew: Yeah.

Dr. Kerrie: Strong enough to speak out because they know who they are, they know what the real story is and they have the… Basically we’ve given them the strength and the courage to be able to stand up for themselves. Not in a negative way, but in a positive way that says if this community of ours is going to get any better, we’re going to have to learn to behave better.

Andrew: Yeah. So let’s look at the education as we go into 2020, what are some of the big things that you’re wanting to introduce them and work on for 2020 and beyond?

Dr. Kerrie: Well, to be truthful, 2020 in Queensland is going to be its own self with the introduction of the new QCE and the ATAR.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dr. Kerrie: So our big focus for the last three or four years has been preparing our staff so as they are able and ready to deliver programs and getting the programs written and the training. So when I look back through the professional development log that we have for each teacher, many of them will have spent a lot of time with the QCAA programs and the training and getting accredited and doing all of those things, rewriting programs, getting them submitted. So that’s been our big focus. It will mean a shift in people’s perception because we haven’t had external exams in Queensland for 40 odd years.
Andrew: Yeah.
Dr. Kerrie: So that’s going to be a big shift. But having said that, even though we will have external exams, we can’t get away from the fact that we still have internal assessment and that internal assessment can be tailored to the particular school that you’re working in. So for a student who is doing English, they will have one external exam, and the rest will be internal. Or a student who’s doing Maths and Science, they will have two internal pieces and two external pieces across the course of time. So we’ve got to teach our girls to be resilient and understand that external exams are one thing, but they also have got to focus on the rest of their learning all the time. So it has been for all of Queensland and I’m on one of the Steering Committees at the QCAA.

So I sit and talk with principals all the way through about how it is affecting people. But the bottom line is it is something really new, and will by this time next year we might have a bit of an idea. What I don’t want to happen is though, for people to just focus on those external exams and they’re going to be so hard and you’re going to have to work so hard. Yes, you will. But you will also have to lay the groundwork all the way through 11 and 12 and down to year 10 and then down into 9. So it’s a progressive thing. So we look forward to it and I’m quite excited because I think I’ve always loved exams, which shows how odd I am, but I much prefer to do an exam than-

Andrew: I think you’re the first person I’ve met, but that’s just great.
Dr. Kerrie: … No, I’ve always have. It doesn’t mean I always pass them, but at the meantime we won’t go there, will we?

Andrew: You’ve got a Doctorate, you must’ve done really quite well.

Dr. Kerrie: All right, well, it’s all right. It’s just a matter of it’s a journey, you go on it and it comes out the other end.

Andrew: So it is a journey. And is that the message for-

Dr. Kerrie: That’s our philosophy. They’re on a learning journey.

Andrew: So for parents do they need to be thinking about it as a journey too. I mean they lived that with their children for part of their lives, don’t they?

Dr. Kerrie: Well, we talk them through that all the way through. And we work with parents in terms of have meetings, discussions, and eventually down the track. We have parent nights for subject selections. We have all of those things, but still it’ll be a learning process. I think it probably took us… Well, I was thinking about one of my children did the QCS test and the bottom line is parents had to learn to cope with that. And eventually now that’s superseded, they’ll learn to cope with that. But we’ll work on our girls. We want them to be resilient. We want them to work hard. We want them to know their strengths and we want them to play to their strengths. So, we’re having a really positive slant on it. And with all of our wellbeing things in there, I think we’re going to be fine.

Annette: Yeah, and parents are part of our wellbeing program as well because in the big picture of student development, you’ve got to make sure everyone’s on the same page with adolescents. And we’ve done that this year, we put out memos to parents about how they can support their daughter through the process. So we will continue to do that so that the kids are getting the support at home as well. But I think our girls have come through, and I’m talking about the Year 11’s in particular. They’ve developed the right strategies and skills they need, but we’ve got to be mindful of their wellbeing. So, at the start of this year, they had a tendency to just head down, head down and that’s all they did. And they just wanted to study, which is fantastic. But we thought, well, now we need to get them off their backsides as well. So we put in a Moove ‘n Groove hour once a fortnight. So they have to, because they have study time-

Andrew: What does that look like? How did that work?

Annette: … Well, they have different activities that they can go to which, playing minute to win it games or going for a walk around the block or doing yoga, mindfulness. So at the beginning they just were resistant because that was like, no, that’s taking away from our study. Well, no, there’s more to you than your mind here. We need to get the rest of you going as well. So now they really love it according to all reports. So, yeah.

Andrew: Through the conversations with this big change, a lot of it has been about the compliance side of it, what needs to be done, how well our students need to learn, what are those changes? But I’m just wondering, what are the opportunities, have you identified any opportunities out of all of this?

Dr. Kerrie: Well, obviously there’s a number of new subjects that have come in that we haven’t had before, such as Psychology, which has been very popular. There’s been changes in things like digital technologies. There’s been changes in that. So I see a number of opportunities there. I think from where I sit and looking at the whole picture, I think it’s good, what we’re doing. We may find down the track, it has to be adapted slightly because all systems do. One of the things I do like about the new ATAR for next year is that the students will be able to do one non basic academic subject, a certificate course in hospitality or something. So we’re getting a more well-rounded young person because of that. And I’m hoping that plays out over time with a lot more interesting things that people can do.

Andrew: Yeah. Do you have anything to add to that, Annette, from the perspective of the hidden curriculum, does that have any opportunities in this new system at all?

Annette: See, it’s change.

Andrew: Yeah, isn’t it?

Annette: And change impacts everyone, but it can be chaotic or it can be smooth or it can be a bit of both. But I think what’s happening is that because the… Well, the girls are tending to manage their own resilience and development, so it’s kind of a change that shifted things and it shifted… I can go back to raise the bar and yet I’m feeling like that’s a bit of a swear word at the moment, but I’m going to go back to that anyway because while it’s mantra, mantra, mantra, and I think it’s done, it’s time, I think the girls have stepped up to realise what is required for them to move into the next system.

But I’d argue, well, that should have been required in the past. So therefore this change is actually a good thing because it is making a shift in a mindset all around, all right, well, this is about me. I’m not in comparison in an OP, my results will be what I put into it. And that message is going right down to year seven. So I think that’s a good message, as long as we’re mindful of their wellbeing in the process. And when I talked about before, leader of self, that’s where the change is. And really encouraging that through teaching it because you can’t expect kids to be able to lead themselves unless they know how. So I think there’s positives in that.

Dr. Kerrie: Yeah, I think so too. Yeah.

Andrew: So you’ve said that 2020 is going to be itself as far as this big change, let’s then really push forward. How do you think it all looks and look, a lot can change and a lot of predictions are made and they never go anywhere near it, but give a 10 years time, what do you think education looks like?

Dr. Kerrie: Well, for start, it’s not going to work if it’s not going to be relational. We will never make schools work if then you’re not in connection with people. So while I’m sure that we will be doing a lot more things online, there will still have to be relationships because otherwise we’re not turning out robots. We want to turn out people who think-

Andrew: What does that mean for humans? The relationship side of it even becomes more important than ever before because that is the unique… Let’s put it in commercial terms, a unique selling proposition of an individual versus a robot.

Dr. Kerrie: Yeah, perhaps. I think it depends on the job you want done. Of course artificial intelligence has got its place, particularly in terms of tedious things like filling up cans with jam and those sorts of things, which people did once and put the lids on jam. The people have got more capacity to do more. I just think it’s going to take some real considered thinking. We’re going to have to really consider it. It’s not going to be rush in, no matter what you say. If you don’t have a committed and dedicated workforce, and I’ll talk about my workforce as teachers, you’re not going to get a good outcome no matter what business you’re in. You can automate all you like, but if you don’t take care of your customers and if you don’t know what your core values are, and if you stray from your core value set, that’s why organisations fail.

They fail because they stray from their core values set. And I can quote you any number of organisations, just look at the Westpac Bank, look at the Royal Commission. What about the Royal Commission Into Institutional Abuse? Those people abused those children because they forgot what their core values were of the organisation they began. And if we strive from our core values, no matter how much automation we’ve got or whatever, and our core values are people, people, people, and more people. And in our case people made in image and likeness of God and as beings in their own right and owed respect because of their actual humanity. We’ll fail no matter what we do. And any school that strays away from its core values, which ours are very clear, in other systems I’ve been in, I’ve seen them stray from the core values and if you look at it, the point is that when you don’t adhere strongly to your values, you’ll fail. And you’ll fail if you’re selling shoes in a store, if you don’t look after your customers, the whole business will fail.

Saint Francis and Gubbio the wolf.

Saint Francis and Gubbio the wolf.

It’s no different from schools. Our business is girls and girls’ education. If we stray from that and we don’t stick to our core values, which are Franciscan values, which kept people in relationships first. I’ll just draw your attention to it, you can’t see this. I could do a Philip Adams now and hold it up so he could see it, which he does every time, I listen to him on the radio, but that’s Saint Francis and Gubbio. Now Gubbio is the wolf. The wolf was allegedly, I’ll say, because you know sometimes you never want to let the truth get in the way of good story, but the fact that he has his hand on the wolf’s head shows his respect for the wolf and the fact that the Wolf is nudging up against him wanting to be patted, shows the wolf’s respect for Francis. Now that’s the sort of… And I’m not suggesting the students are the wolf and we’re Francis, but you get the story.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dr. Kerrie: And so that’s what I’d say. A school will fail if you don’t adhere to your core values.

Andrew: So then Annette can we take it from needing to stay attached to the core values and that is means to stay away from failure to now let’s look at the strengths of staying with core values. What what are the positives? What are the affirmative things that you’re going to get out of staying with your core values?

Annette: Oh Jeez! Where do you start? I’ll go back to the students.

Andrew: Yeah.

Annette: You have well rounded students who are respectful of others and of society and who go out and are productive members of society. They’re able to engage in groups. I mean, Kerrie was talking… We talk about automation, but someone’s got to come up with those ideas as well. So unless you’re able to work in a team and be productive and build relationships in that team, then how are you going to come up with these ideas anyway? And most workplaces these days, including ours, you need to be able to work in a team. So core values, we haven’t named them, but respect, compassion, love, trusting in God, service and there’s more that I can’t think of right at the moment-

Dr. Kerrie: Yeah, simplicity. Yeah.

Annette: … And I’ll get shot for it.

Dr. Kerrie: No, you won’t, but remember them-

Annette: Not by you, but the students will laugh at me.

Dr. Kerrie: …. Because, I know them.

Annette: We’re committing ourselves to raising good young women who are going to be respected in society. And we hear that from the community when our students go out or might be on a work placement or we hear from an employer who is employed one of our girls saying how wonderful they are. Now admittedly we’ve got great families here as well, but it’s great to hear that that has transferred when they’ve moved on past school. And because you don’t get to see it, so it’s great to hear it. But it’s those values… When we employ staff, that’s what we use as our criteria. Now we’ve got it, and we don’t always get it right because you can’t always get it right. But if you’ve got core values and you’ve got something to live by, haven’t you?

Andrew: Yeah.

Annette: And you’ve got something to always return to. And when you’re talking to parents because their child has gone a little bit a stray, you can say, well, that core value is ours here and your daughter is not managing to do that, so how are you going to help us do it? Because we do work here very much as a wraparound, so we’re not in isolation, any of us. So, if there’s a student problem, we work together with the parents and the family and other teachers to help that student through. But, if you don’t have values you got nothing to hold onto. You can start me on a pedestal there.

Dr. Kerrie: Well, I do. I make speeches all the time about this as you probably all just heard before, but it is, it’s core to what you do, you have to have… When you’re faced with a difficult situation and we often are, you have to say to yourself, okay, I’m going to react. I’m going to deal with this situation because these are my core values. So that person needs to be called to account because what they have done does not sit with our core values, whether they are a parent, whether they’re a student, whether they are our staff member. Everyone has to be very clear about that’s the way we do things around here, that’s our culture. Our culture is we live by Franciscan values. We do it in everything we do. And as I say to people, we don’t have a hierarchy here.

I may be the principal, but I do a job, Annette does her job, Camilla does her job, Paulette does her job, the girls do their jobs. The people in La Cucina do their jobs. Everyone is equally valued. We just do something differently. So if we all do our jobs really well, then the whole thing has got a beautiful synergy and it works nicely.

Annette: And that’s what parents are paying for.

Andrew: Yeah.

Annette: They sign up for the Franciscan ethos. That’s what they signed up for in the main, don’t you agree?

Dr. Kerrie: Yeah, they do.

Annette: So if don’t call people to account to live by that, then we’re not doing ourselves a service. And as a business you’re not doing your business a service, which Kerrie referred to before. So yeah, they’re vital to us.

Andrew: Just speaking about parents, the engagement of parents with the school. Has that changed over the years and has continuing to change?

Dr. Kerrie: Well gone are the days when you only had parents here to have working bees and sell cakes in a cake stall or come once a year for a parent teacher interview. It’s changed quite markedly. Now in working with Catholic Parents Australia, they’re working very closely on parent engagement and all their research says the best parent engagement you can have at school level is a parent’s interest in their student’s academic outcome.

Andrew: Does that mean a parent participating in a school or doing that remotely from the school?

Dr. Kerrie: Well, it can. I’ll just give you one example that’s working here at school in our Maths area-

Andrew: Yeah.

Dr. Kerrie: Our Head of Maths, she will video her teaching in a couple of ways and that will be available for parents to have a look at when their students are ‘doing their homework’ in inverted commas.

Andrew: That’s great, isn’t it? Because how many times do you hear the parents say to kids, “What?”

Dr. Kerrie: I can’t I do that.

Andrew: We’ve got a video we can watch.

Dr. Kerrie: So, she does that regularly and is encouraging all of her staff particularly. And it works in the maths’ area too. But girls, well, did, or I never did. Maths is one of girls’ achilles heel. Can be a few who don’t work through it really well. So she’s doing a lot of creative things around that. But to get parents engaged so the parents can say, “Okay, well, Miss said that this is one way we could do it, but let’s have at it. Which way do you think you want to do it?

Andrew: So, for a parent that is listening to this now, what encouragement would you give them as far as engaging in their child’s education?

Dr. Kerrie: Communicate with their teachers. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Annette: Communicate, communicate, communicate. Totally.

Andrew: It seems like it’s a conversation that you have had.

Annette: Well, we encourage it and we encourage it both ways because we have a no surprises’ policy here at this school. So if a student is not achieving very well, then the parents need to know that. So it works both ways. So if a parent’s a bit concerned, they should be communicating with the subject teacher or whoever is the best person at the time. But yeah, that’s strongly encouraged. As Kerrie said last night at the Year 7 2020 parent night, she said, “No problem can be solved unless you let us know what the problem is.” So we don’t hide under a bushel here. We need to know what’s going on so we can solve it. And we’ve always got our doors open to that.

Dr. Kerrie: Yeah, we actively work on that.

Andrew: Yeah, Dr Kerrie Tuite, the Principal and Annette Butterworth, Deputy Principal, Student Development and Wellbeing. Thank you very much for your time with our listeners.
Annette: Pleasure.

Dr. Kerrie: Thank you very much. Our pleasure