Immersive Learning Ahead of the Game - 27 August 2015

Across the two schools there are strong examples of the schools working together in ways that benefit both. Our two Science Departments are working together under the leadership of Dr David Ash and Mrs Cathy King to engage students through science education and the launching of The Moreton Bay Colleges' Geological Society.

No doubt you will have heard of STEM which is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This term was developed in economic circles in response to emerging employment patterns and future productivity issues across many developed countries. Here at The Moreton Bay Colleges, STEM means creating learning environments that allow students to be more active. Whenever that happens, students are engaged in their own learning. There’s no manipulation in order to get students active, it just happens. The outcome is that students remember what they’ve learned as they are engaged in the process, and not as passive by-standers. I know that our science teachers, through their Extended Experimental Investigations (EEI), are focused on optimising kinesthetic learning through creative problem solving, natural enquiry, posing and testing a hypothesis, all of which is possible through scientific experimentation. With both Colleges soon to have state-of-the-art Science Centres there is a real investment for us in the subjects related to science. STEM programs offer a tie-in to real work environments, and to future employment possibilities.

We are currently building partnerships across both Colleges, with universities, as well as linking with corporations. We all have a vested interest in what students need to know, the skills they need to acquire as well as their future employment and life prospects. This forms the motivation for us as Colleges to really invest in the STEM subjects and to see our students develop academically as a result. We have the facilities, we have the teachers, the expertise and the networks to be really successful in STEM at The Moreton Bay Colleges.

Some would prefer STEAM, with the “A” standing for the Arts. Most of STEM would be lost without the arts involved, so that makes a lot of sense in adding the creativity of the Arts. Through creative planning and other Art related learnings and skills, students are extended to think beyond the expected and the traditional to create new possibilities. The recent Greene-Ware Visual Arts Showcase at MBC and the upcoming Manifest exhibition at MBBC are ample testimony to this.

In terms of academic development across the Colleges, I envision an education blueprint that fosters intellectual versatility, personal adaptability and interpersonal skills as key areas for us to develop in our students. This, of course, needs the development of foundation skills such as numeracy and literacy as well as 21st century learning skills such as digital literacy and fluency.

These are indeed exciting times to be a young person.  Social researcher, Mark McCrindle, describes young people as being “multi-career learners for whom upskilling and lifelong learning will be the norm.” This is a time where students are being shaped in different times, have different characteristics, expectations and communication styles, and schooling has to respond to this. As Colleges with a focus on the International BaccalauCreate inquiry-based instruction, we are ahead of the game in creating interactive and immersive learning. We will continue to develop the process of learning in ‘real time’ through data analytics to target our teaching on what students know now and what they are ready to learn next.

Together We Are Stronger - 13 August 2015

Recent Board meetings have focussed on actions that have come from the extensive consultations with the community over the last seven months. This process of seeking the views of the community has unearthed strong beliefs about the value of single sex education along with a realisation that there are certain benefits to be gained through a partnership between both Moreton Bay Boys' College and Moreton Bay College. The next phase of amalgamation calls for new ways of thinking about how the two colleges connect and are interdependent whilst retaining their unique and distinctive identity. The college vision Together we are Stronger begs the questions what does 'together' mean and what are we 'stronger' at?

After listening for many months my sense is that the Moreton Bay community believes that being together relates to the partnership or perhaps an alliance between the two schools where the relationship is akin to brother and sister schools. This is stated with the caveat that there is recognition and a deep value placed on single sex education and a desire to be the very best at this.  Further, there is an appreciation that each gender learns in different ways, experiencing life and learning differently and boys and girls develop in different ways. This, of course, means that teaching and the educational experience should be tailored to these differences.

Further, together also relates to how the community and key stakeholders are engaged in the Moreton Bay Colleges and how the colleges engage with the broader community. Schools are part of their community not separate from them. Taking this further the community is saying that the word stronger relates firstly to how working together in partnership across the two colleges allows boys and girls to learn in parallel with each other and coming together where appropriate to do so. Again, this recognises that each gender learns, grows and develops in different and distinct ways. There are, however, certain areas where boys and girls can learn from each other, about each other and where they can learn and work together. This will require further consultation and exploration. Secondly, the strength in the partnership comes from valuing the distinctive nature of each college and an insistence that this is both honoured and treasured. Thirdly, strength comes from the partnership in sharing of expertise, services, opportunities and resources.

This is an endeavour to capture the essence of what has been described to me by many hundreds of people since I commenced at the colleges at the end of last year. This has become our direction that we will work towards. It is a vision worth pursuing and I would really encourage you to consider the vision. In conclusion the vision focuses us on complex networks of deep collaborative relationships where student learning is the focus.

The next step is to utilise the shared services agenda to formalise how corporate services, the development agenda and shared academic and educational services can better benefit each school. The desired result is improved school performance, measurable gains in student learning, enhancing professional collaboration and reducing business costs through efficiency gains. I will communicate this with you as it is developed.

It has been reinforced to me time and time again, the fact that so many of our parents are incredibly successful in their professions, businesses and various walks of life. I have always appreciated feedback from parents in every school I have been in and the Moreton Bay Colleges are no different.

I welcome your views!  Keep smiling.

Contributing Community - 30 July 2015

The Moreton Bay Colleges have many wonderful people within our communities that contribute to the culture, life and events at the Colleges. In no small part this is one of the reasons why we have the culture and quality of the schools that we all now enjoy. The notion that we are 'all replaceable' and 'no one is indispensable' does not always sit comfortably with me. It does not resonate with me because everyone has a unique set of values, personality and gifts that combine to make them and their contribution a special and unique one. It is often said that lots of people come to schools but eventually everyone leaves. It is what we do while we are here and the legacy that we leave behind that helps in making the College a very special place. Imagine all the exceptional people who have worked at each of the Colleges over the last century. Think about the contribution they each made while they were here.

When staff come to the Colleges they work hard to make a difference to the education and development of students at each. It is not always the easiest of professions, being an educator, but it is certainly one of the most rewarding. The relationships teachers have with students through their teaching and co-curricular involvement creates an environment where students, be they boys or girls, are cared about and cared for. It is very special seeing a child grow scholastically, socially and developmentally.

In this manner you will have received correspondence indicating that Mrs Jan Howatson, Head of College at Moreton Bay College, has announced her retirement. A richly deserved and wonderful time for Mrs Howatson to step into the next phase of her life and an opportunity for us as a school to rejoice about having her special qualities and contribution over the time that we had together. After nearly three decades at the College it is only fitting.

A process has commenced which will see the position advertised nationally and internationally, to find the very best applicant who will undoubtedly bring their own special and unique contribution to the College!

A time to focus - 16 July 2015

Welcome back to Term 3! I always find this term to be the time where we get to determine progress after the first semester with report cards and NAPLAN results. It is also a term for the Year 12’s to focus on finishing well with the QCS Test and to attain their highest possible Levels of Achievement to impact on their OP scores. At various assemblies across the Colleges I have been reinforcing the theme of setting goals for the semester and asking students to consider what it is that they want to be celebrating at Christmas time. I would encourage you to spend time with your children over the next few weeks identifying goals for the semester. All students have had time to consider their report cards and identify areas for focussed work - now it is time to make the transition from a relaxing holiday to a more focussed phase of intensity in their work.

Perhaps the first strategy is to unclutter their work area at home and to establish an agreement about your expectations from your children in terms of their school commitments. Whether in their bedrooms or somewhere else in the house, each child needs a place to do their homework, revision, study or assessment. This area needs to be free from distraction! Similarly, I would encourage you to discuss your expectations around the use of social media and other activities that are acceptable during the holidays - but have to have some limits around them during the term.

Congratulations to the MBC Senior girls on an outstanding Formal held on Saturday 11 July. MBC and MBBC excel in providing rich learning environments for students to learn adult behaviours in formal environments. The Formal is so much more than a ‘rite of passage’. It is also about deportment, conduct and manners in unfamiliar, ‘formal’ and new environments. Our MBC young ladies were all elegance, grace and style! Well done! I look forward, with the same expectations, to attending the MBBC Senior Formal which is being held on Saturday 10 October.

As the term rolls on so will our strategic planning! Semester 1 has focussed on the consultation and this semester is focussed on the planning that will bring about the improvements and the initiatives that will result in enhanced learning and performance. I look forward to sharing this with you later in the semester.  Keep shining. 

A rich school experience for all - 18 June 2015

With the last newsletter of the semester it is timely to give thanks to the many people who make this great community work so well. There is always something happening across the Colleges, with wonderful events and an abundance of opportunities, because committed people are prepared to go above and beyond to make them happen. Across all areas - sport, cultural, service and, crucially, academic - students are being provided with excellent opportunities to have a rich school experience. I would like to thank the many staff, parents and community members who make these opportunities happen for our children.

What we have here at The Moreton Bay Colleges is almost unique in that we provide a gender specific education for our boys and girls, where they are learning in parallel. As teachers and parents we can exploit the best of ways that boys and girls learn and target teaching towards this. Being a sister and brother school gives us a unique opportunity to join together, when appropriate, to create an enriched opportunity for students. As we continue to explore new opportunities in parallel learning, the recent MBBC school production of "the Jungle Book" is a wonderful example, where students from both schools created, not only an excellent performance, but a rich learning opportunity for boys and girls to enjoy together.

Schools are at their best when they are 'feedback rich'! By this I mean that our practices, systems and processes are calibrated in ways that enable and, in fact, encourage, the regular exchange of feedback across all stakeholder groups. The outcome is improving the educational experience for our students so that their results indicate growth and our community is satisfied with our performance. I really believe that school report cards are a treasure trove of feedback. As report cards are distributed I would really encourage parents and their children to sit down and work through the results, the comments and other information, to get a clear understanding of their progress at this point in time. Remember though, report cards are not an IQ test, they do not indicate if a child is a success or a failure, they do not define us as people. They are simply a teacher’s interpretation of student work as judged against a series of criteria. This is hardly an exact science but can be made rigorous through internal processes such as moderation across classes and teachers, consistent assessment implementation practices and strong instructional leadership practices by teachers and middle managers. Use the report cards as a guide, a prompt for meaningful conversation between parents, children and teachers and as a way to set and celebrate goals.

The six months project I set myself, to consult across the two communities about where our key stakeholders see us, is nearing completion. In Term 1, I spent time with parents during the parent forums and this term I have focussed on individual meetings with staff members. There is strong resonance across parents and staff that there is an appetite for school improvement. The Board, the Senior Leadership Teams and I are in the process of creating a strategy and a road map to frame the timelines and the capability requirements for improvement. I look forward to keeping you informed of this towards the end of next semester.

Mr James Sloman
Executive Principal

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