Gerald Bain-King, Christian Brothers’ College St. Kilda, St. Kilda, VIC
In the past CBC was a well performing school. Unfortunately this has changed and standards have dropped over the last few years.
We felt we were underperforming as a school. Key Performance Indicators, including the national standards of literacy and numeracy showed that our school wasn’t functioning as well as it could.
We knew we wanted to improve our school in the areas of capacity building for our teachers but more so across the school.
We’ve been undertaking long term school change as an organisation where we’ve been transitioning from one school model to another.
The imperative to change that came from within the school, there was no external pressure put on us.
In fact I was employed to improve our school’s performance.
Our goal was to ensure we lifted our standards academically as well as in staff professionalism including:
- Creating an unified and consistent view of the role of a teacher
- What constitutes good professional conduct between peers as well as students
- Staff engagement in education forums
- Staff being active in developing programs and initiatives in the school
There were issues around the school that could be called “student demeanour” that needed to be improved as well. It wasn’t horrific by any means; however I felt improvement would benefit students, the school and ultimately the community as well.
Fairly early in my time at CBC St. Kilda, I was approached by Rosalie Jones, from the Catholic Education Office Victoria. Rosalie knew what we wanted to achieve at our school and suggested I contact John Corrigan of Group 8 Education.
We met with John in around 2007 for a meeting to see how he could help us.
Looking back and reflecting I’d say that our school wasn’t ready for the changes that we needed to implement back in 2007.
We were in the middle of dealing with some fundamental issues including investment in infrastructure, and I was fighting fires all the time. Our staff was also highly suspicious of the changes proposed and the leadership group didn’t have the capability to implement John’s program.
We came to the conclusion that we had to abandon the program for the time being. I wasn’t happy about it but was just the reality at the time.
We considered implementing John’s Performance Development and Coaching program again in 2011.
The improvement we’re looking for at our school is 50%, which is significant and it will take time.
By then we were ready.
We’ve developed a “shared decision making process” with the aim of getting our staff to have greater ownership of where the school is going.
So I suggested a group of my staff attend one of John’s seminars. I very deliberately wanted my staff involved in the decision making process.
They reported back that they thought the program would be of benefit for the school.
Because our school was in limbo for quite some time and things were done the “old” way, some of our staff really struggled to adapt.
In the end we recognised that the way to go was to develop implement the program at a much slower pace. It also became clear that joint decision making, between teachers and the leadership team, would provide a better outcome for the school, the teachers and the students.
We also had some changes in the leadership group making it more capable and efficient to be able to take on an external program.
We have to consider that schools have strong internal cultures; sometimes it is very hard to implement a new program. To try and attach a new program to the existing culture is difficult and time consuming, and it takes time, for all involved parties, to adapt to the changes at hand.
It appears to me that, between 2007 and 2011, John has made the program a bit more adaptive which works much better for us.
Some staff members are still suspicious of the program and they are questioning whether it’ll work or not. A very small group remains sceptical of the program, fearing that this is about keeping a file on them. Although I explained to them on a number of occasions, that this is not about keeping a file on them, they seem to be unable to believe that.
2011 was the year of introduction and 2012 the year of implementation.
What we saw was very good feedback from people who were the mentors who conducted the coaching sessions and the coachees commented that the coaching sessions were effective.
It is a fact that schools are unbelievably time poor places. My view is that the holidays prevent teachers from having a nervous breakdown through exhaustion.
It is a real challenge and requires a great deal of organisational commitment to fit programs into the school.
Group 8 Education’s “Performance Development and Coaching” program is not at all time consuming to implement. However, this doesn’t take away the fact that it takes a conscious effort to making the time to implement.
It is most important to have people who believe and are committed to the process. I am of the view that more contemporary management styles are required in schools these days and that up skilling is one of the consequences of this change.
We’ve had some really positive results in applying John Corrigan’s program. However we also recognise that we now have to take the next steps in order for the school, the teachers and the students to benefit even more.
I believe that we now do have the right people in the right places and that we are able to make the most of the program.
For any change to work it takes, as I call it, “school readiness”. This is when the majority of any group, say 80% of middle leaders, are committed to school improvement as a professional imperative.
Once this level is reached a program, such as the one Group 8 Education has developed, can be implemented.
The magic of the “Performance Development and Coaching” program is that it is both cooperative and it penetrates.
The next step is for our teachers is to move away from finger pointing. It is time for them to acknowledge that in order for the school to improve the teachers have to improve too. This is all about teachers being role models for the students.
However, no matter how good John’s program is, one thing that stands out is that the school and its staff have to be ready for this change. Depending on where the school is at, it may well be wise to slower the pace of implementation, just to make sure that everybody can keep up with the changes.
In my view, the cognitive coaching aspect of the program is the “engine room”, although I found the assessment part very interesting as well. However the two aspects are the two sides of the same coin.
At this stage I can’t really quantify any results, because we’re only in the second year of the program. However, in terms of adding to a developing culture I’d say the change has been significant.
The developing culture is becoming more and more a “learning culture”. A learning culture means that everybody in the organisation is a committed learner. Comparing this to when I started at the school a few years ago, the culture was very much “the teachers were the authorities and the kids were the learners and the type of learning was to mimic whatever the teacher was doing”
What I’ve noticed over time is that the initial scepticism has fallen away to now embracing the program. They are engaging in a very dynamic way and this is healthy.
Because there was so much change introduced into our school I can’t pinpoint any specific results. But what I can say is, John’s program is an important ingredient of what is an improving learning culture in our school.
John as a person has a high level of integrity, great intellectual depth; he’s internally and externally consistent, he coaches and mentors well, very thorough and he continually evaluates the program. He’s always open to conversations, very easy to work with. John’s a gentle and decent man.
I rate the program a strong 8/10, and I can’t see any reason why we’d abandon the program now. My school is ready for the implementation, and I have recommended John’s program to other schools.