The CaSPA Board is pleased to announce Dr Stephen Kennaugh as the new CaSPA President. Dr Kennaugh will bring valuable experience and leadership qualities to the role and we extend our best wishes to him as he takes on this important responsibility.
The media’s dogged focus on students who achieve ‘perfect’ ATAR scores each year is grossly unfair and unhelpful for teachers and students alike, an academic has said.
Dr Steven Lewis, education policy sociologist and senior research fellow at Australian Catholic University, believes the “wall-to-wall” coverage of high-achieving school leavers – most with scores of 99.95 and above – pushes a narrow and largely unattainable idea of success and sets teachers up to feel they’ve failed.
“To have such a highly publicised viewing of 99.95 ATAR students in the papers and in the media, on radio and whatnot, it's really difficult for [educators] not to internalise that as the mark of success,” Lewis tells EducationHQ.
“It’s very difficult to not assume that if the students in [their] care didn't get 99.95, then [they’ve] somehow failed … it’s an unfair expectation, it sets us up for disappointment, really.”
Among the headlines from late last year featured: ‘Practically perfect in every way: The students kicking honour roll goals’, ‘No way, no way’: Beautiful moment students told of perfect ATAR score’, and ‘Meet the duxes of 2023’.
According to Lewis, the whole ‘nuance and complexity’ of schooling is lost in the media’s skewed focus.
“We'd be remiss to not also acknowledge that it puts a lot of pressure on the teachers who are teaching these students, because in many ways that score, that ranking, is not only representing the success of the students, but by proxy it's representing the success of the teacher.”
One senior secondary teacher from Melbourne told EducationHQ that Year 12 teachers do seem to base their efficacy on the number of their students that achieve study scores over 40, and not on the learning growth they've seen over the year.
"You receive a pat on the back when (high) scores over 40 come through, but schools don’t tend to celebrate students who made significant learning growth through the year and achieved say a 30," she says.
For senior students, plentiful stories sharing the ‘perfect’ achievement of a select few delivers the wrong message about what it means to succeed and the options available to those that fall short, Lewis argues.
“It really does present the message, in my mind at least, that if you're not getting [the perfect score] you've somehow failed or you haven't maximised the opportunities you had at school.
“And I think when you do that, it sends the message that there's only one way to be successful once you finish Year 12. And I think that is demonstrably not true.”
For starters, a perfect score can only be attained by a very small percentage of students across the country.
“Even if everyone maxed all their grades, and got 100 per cent on all their tests, they still couldn't all be at 99.95. So, you're emphasising something that will only ever be available to a handful of people,” Lewis says.
“But I think the more substantive issue is that [these stories] suggest that somehow students who don't get 99.95 are really disadvantaged, or are going to miss out on opportunities post Year 12.
“I don't think that's a particularly helpful thing to put forward…”
The expert is keen to point out that success is not a one-size-fits-all concept in education.
“If you're from a very socioeconomically advantaged family, where everyone in your family has gone to university and has got professional careers, and you know how to navigate the system, then getting into law or medicine at a prestigious university might be success for you.
“Alternatively, if you're the first person in your family to go to university, to finish Year 12, or you've got lots of family issues, socio-economic disadvantages, or you don’t speak English as first language ... success might look different.”
Social media has also fuelled the public ATAR frenzy, Lewis notes, with ecstatic student ‘reaction videos’ attracting millions of views on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
“It’s just one more string to the bow of adding undue pressure to our young people,” he adds.
Although not wanting to downplay the importance of the ATAR and the very real anxieties that can often surround it, Lewis says it pays to bring some perspective to students’ understanding of the ranking system and remind them of the multiple pathways into their chosen field should they not get the score they hoped for.
“Once you leave (school) the importance of ATAR very quickly recedes into the rearview mirror ... it doesn't mean that pathway or that option is forever closed to you, it doesn't reflect necessarily where you're going to end up.
“As soon as you get into the workplace, or as soon as you get into university, once you're there no one's asking what your ATAR is - nobody is asking me now, as a university professor, what I got at the end of Year 12.”
Yet the expert cautions the media's feverish output of 'practically perfect’ stories is not solely to blame here.
“The media ... is responding to the pressures and the conversations that other people are having, as much as extending those conversations.
“So I think if we as a society want there to be less undue pressure and stress placed upon our young people around the ATAR, around NAPLAN or any of those big 'high stakes' assessments, then we also need to change the way we have those conversations,” Lewis says.
By Sarah Duggan
When Adam Voigt is told restorative practices are simply too soft to tackle really challenging student behaviour, the expert has a comeback at the ready.
According to former principal Adam Voigt, the myths plaguing restorative practices – such as they set low expectations and don’t involve any consequences for poor behaviour – need to be cleared.
For when given the choice, most students would rather be handed a lengthy suspension than sit and digest the full impact of their poor behaviour, Voigt points out.
“I’m often saying in reply, ‘well, how come they’re choosing the four days punishment if that’s the hard option?'
“Taking genuine personal responsibility for the way that you’ve affected people around you, is far, far more confronting, far more challenging for these students, than a few days home on the Xbox.”
The ex-principal and now CEO of Real Schools, a company that offers mentoring and coaching to schools in restorative practices, is concerned about the 'authoritarian' direction Australia is heading in when it comes wrangling poor behaviour in schools.
Last week a senate inquiry into disruptive classrooms called for a national ‘Behaviour Curriculum’ to be introduced as a means of ensuring good behaviour is taught explicitly at the whole-school level.
The proposed curriculum should outline the essential habits and instructional routines that are conducive to positive learning environments, the committee said.
Voigt is firmly against the idea.
“The model of trying to control people into better behaviour is flawed, especially for today’s kids,” he tells EducationHQ.
“I’m concerned that we’re going to overwork more teachers. I’m concerned that we’re going to ask them to deploy ways of working that don’t match with their moral purpose with being educators in the first place.”
Voigt says if we think we can ‘hark back to the glory days’ and reinstall a model of behaviour management that worked in the 1960s then we are sorely off the mark.
“[The call for a behaviour curriculum] is making an assumption that habits, that routines and that values are not being taught by teachers, and it’s just giving them a list of things that they can tick off and make their kids do…
“It doesn’t help them to value that behaviour, it doesn’t help them to actually want to do that behaviour…”
Although there’s no harm in teaching kids good behavioural habits, Voigt says imposing a regime of behaviour standards via an authority figure was not the way to foster empathy, self-regulation and compassion in children.
“In an environment where young people feel that they need to do that behaviour to try and get a reward, or if it feels like a dare to do a negative behaviour without getting caught, then we’re not encouraging the growth and the development of empathy that our young people need – we’re not building their value for working collaboratively.
“We’re teaching them it’s something they need to do to please us, and I don’t think that’s the most productive way to build a young person that is ready for the real world,” Voigt argues.
Rather, the key ‘social piece’ for schools is to empower students with the tools of self-regulation and collaboration – and this should be done “without having Big Brother watching them or without having a list of behaviours that we can take tick off and say, ‘I’ve got that done,’” Voigt adds.
Yet Tom Bennett, the British Government’s ‘behaviour tsar’, who in October outlined a case for Australia to adopt a stand-alone behaviour curriculum and also spoke at the inquiry, has taken direct aim at the use of restorative approaches in schools.
Bennett contends that relying on these as the only means of rectifying challenging school cultures “almost guarantees a future crisis of misbehaviour and danger”.
The expert argues that restorative approaches are only useful when students are capable of remorse and understanding consequences, and can learn what they did was wrong, and not for those who won’t take responsibility.
Voigt maintains that restorative practices are the most effective way for schools to turn around a culture of misbehavior, while also enacting “a little bit of a moral mission as well”.
“I want to acknowledge that like any model, if it’s implemented poorly in schools it can produce results that we’re not looking for,” he concedes.
“But what we are seeing in Australia is hundreds of schools, who are implementing restorative practices successfully, who are not pushing their school to the edge of a crisis, who are actually making this the legacy work of the school leaders in the school.
“We’re seeing countless schools at the moment that are able to drive up their staff retention, because their staff feel like this is work that is close to the reason that they got into teaching in the first place.”
Voigt reports that those schools following restorative practices – with the right supports in place for staff – are reducing the amount of complaints from parents, slashing the frequency of suspensions and building thriving professional learning communities around their work.
To this end he cannot get his head around the criticism cast at restorative approaches.
“I certainly don't understand why there are proponents in the community that would not look at [those schools’ success and not] support it.
“And I have no idea why some people who are big on what they call the ‘older-school ways’ of working, would feel the need to so vehemently attack schools who are doing it really, really well,” he says.
Bennett has flagged what he sees as another flaw with restorative practices: students can learn to game the system and simply spit out the desired response to ‘speed through’ the process.
“Finally, restorative practices ignore the sad truth that a lot of misbehaviour is wilful and intentional. Deterrents like sanctions are a necessary part of providing boundaries of conduct. Boundaries with no consequences are not boundaries, but suggestions,” he adds on X.
Voigt says the idea that students can outsmart the system and offer fake apologies is “a really good example of restorative practices being rolled out in a school in an unsupported way”.
“The role of restorative practices is not to get them to say the right words, [it’s] for them to be able to repair harm.
“So, we have schools who even use the analogy of ‘UN’, which is that if your actions led someone to feel scared, then your job is to UNscare them. A fake apology won’t do that job for you.
“You’ve got work to do, you’ve got time to spend, you’ve got effort to provide, to make sure that that harm is fixed up if these are behaviours you’re going to choose.”
According to Voigt, the myths plaguing restorative practices – such as they set low expectations and don’t involve any consequences for poor behaviour – need to be cleared.
“…schools (must) understand that this isn’t about conducting a good conversation. It’s about conducting a conversation that leads to a young person taking supported personal responsibility,” he says.
“And then for a staff member to be able to thank and congratulate that kid for doing it. That becomes a model that’s really high expectations, but it’s also a model that’s really fair…
“Now, the only way to actually get people engaged in a really highly cooperative way, is to have them feel that the school is a fair environment for them.”
Voigt fears that as a nation, we’re swerving too far towards ‘control bias’ in our bid to stamp out disruptive student behaviour.
“If we’re looking to just build a sequence of habits, behaviours and values that we’re going to teach the young people, we will feel like we’ve made progress when we tick them off, but then we’re going to look out the window and see that they haven’t actually changed their conduct,” he says.
“We felt the thrill of progress without actually noticing whether it was making a difference…”
More rules, more control and more behaviours to teach is a solution to be avoided, he warns.
“We’re creating systems that require enormous surveillance.
“And particularly at schools where the biggest challenges are, they don’t have the workforce to be able to provide all of that effort.”
CaSPA 2024 National Conference – Planning well underway
Be sure to express your interest to attend the Conference via the conference website here
Conference theme and logo
Dreaming the future of Catholic Education will provide an opportunity to reconnect, imagine and dream the future of Catholic Education as we gather on the lands of the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Boodja (country).
We recognise and acknowledge that as leaders of our schools we are already on the journey to shaping the future of Catholic education. Grounded in our faith, the Conference will take us on a deeper journey of innovation, imagination, and collaboration.
Together, we will delve into visionary ideas and innovative strategies that will shape the future of Catholic education, ensuring it remains a beacon of hope and wisdom for generations to come.
Our Conference logo has been designed using CaSPA’s commissioned artwork piece from Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmer Baumann titled Unity. Further information on this piece and the essence of the painting can be found here
The two-day program includes keynote speakers, student panels and abstract presentations and workshops. The themes will range from innovation and adaption, inclusivity and diversity, faith integration and community engagement. You will have a choice of school visits where you will be hosted by the principal and have a chance to see how we work in Western Australia.
Call for Abstracts Now Open
Please consider how you could possibly make a contribution to the 2024 Conference program by submitting an abstract for consideration.
As we face the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, we must collectively dream, envision, and act to ensure that we continue to lead Catholic education to transform lives and serve society.
How do we evolve as leaders in the changing landscape of education? How do we continue to lead and innovate our teaching practices and education systems while retaining our faith and mission? How can we lead and be progressive in a fast-changing world where values drive strong communities? What will leadership look like, how will we lead?
We are seeking abstracts that delve into the heart of Catholic education's future. We invite you to submit your innovative ideas, research findings, and practical insights that address:
- Leading Innovation and Adaptation: Explore innovative teaching approaches, technological advancements, and new methods to nurture the growth and vitality of Catholic education.
- Leading Inclusivity and Diversity: Share your perspectives on creating inclusive educational environments that embrace diversity, foster unity, and maintain Catholic values.
- Leading Faith Integration: Reflect on ways to infuse faith, ethics, and spirituality into modern curriculum and teaching practices, ensuring the enduring relevance of Catholic identity.
- Leading Community Engagement: Present strategies for strengthening the ties between Catholic educational institutions, local communities, and the global world, emphasizing service, outreach, and social justice.
Meet our Conference MC
Karen Tighe is a well-known face and voice of ABC TV and radio sport since joining the ABC in 1989.
She has co-hosted ABC Radio’s cover of the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics, Kuala Lumpur and Manchester Commonwealth Games and has hosted six Paralympic Games (Lillehammer, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Beijing and London) with ABC TV.
Karen was the Media Award Winner at the 2000 and 2001 Australian Sports Awards and in 2020 received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports Australia Media Awards in Sydney.
Karen is married to former ABC sports commentator Glenn Mitchell and is mother of James who has recently finished school.
Karen’s polished communication skills, professionalism and engaging personality have made her one of Perth’s most requested masters of ceremonies and we are delighted to have her as our MC for the 2024 National Conference.
Start Planning your visit to WA
Start planning your time in Western Australia and we encourage you to explore beyond our CBD to some of our beautiful regions. From the Coral Coast and swimming with dolphins to the tall trees and world-renowned wineries of the South West, there is an itinerary to suit every interest and length of time you can afford.
Further ideas are available on the website
Compass College – Davoren Park, SA
The plan for this Social Action was for the Compass College students to design some outdoor furniture, which would be jointly constructed at St. Patrick’s Technical College (Edinburgh North) and then installed by the students at Compass College.
Compass is an alternative education option for students aged 17 to 24 who have not thrived in mainstream schools, offering new opportunities for learning, work and community participation. Compass adopts teaching and learning approaches different to mainstream school environments without the ‘packaging’ of school. It is a fee free new school located in the northern suburbs of Adelaide at Davoren Park. Compass College offers Stage 1 and Stage 2 SACE and some VET courses.
Please pass on our thanks to CaSPA, the Construction students and staff of St Patrick’s Technical College for building and putting together the bench seating in our Community Garden. It’s the perfect addition to the space for us!
I’ve attached a few images of the seating in action. We’re going to stain/paint it in 2024
Scott Hockenhull (he/him)
Partnerships Lead, Compass Catholic Community
- The CaSPA Board has sent the 2024 subscriptions to the State & Territory Principal Associations. There has been no increase in fees from 2023.
- All CaSPA Partners have re-signed for 2024 and are looking forward to the Conference in July.
- Next CaSPA Board Meeting will be in Canberra in March 2024
- CaSPA Board has advertised the CaSPA Executive Officer position and interviews have been held in January. The new person will commence in July 2024.
- CaSPA Board welcomes the New Directors commencing in 2024:
Elizabeth McDougall (Tas)
Dan McMahon (Qld)
John Bormolini (WA)
- CaSPA also congratulates the new Board appointees:
Dr Steve Kennaugh (President)
Maria Urbano (Treasurer)
- CaSPA once again congratulates and sends its best wishes to the newly appointed and transferring Principals in 2024. May they all experience joy, success and God’s Blessings.”
Profiles of all the CaSPA Board are available on the CaSPA Website: https://caspa.schoolzineplus.com/current-and-past-board-members
- 2024 CaSPA Conference is still calling for Abstracts and promotion materials will be distributed soon.
- CaSPA Conference registrations will be open soon. Keep an eye on the CaSPA Website.
- CaSPA gives great thanks to Ann Rebgetz, Craig Deayton and Annette Morey for their great service as CaSPA Directors
- CaSPA has begun the updating of the Data Project for 2024
Start Planning your visit to WA
Start planning your time in Western Australia and we encourage you to explore beyond our CBD to some of our beautiful regions. From the Coral Coast and swimming with dolphins to the tall trees and world-renowned wineries of the South West, there is an itinerary to suit every interest and length of time you can afford.Further ideas are available on the website
Greetings to all our Principals,
I hope the school year has started well for you and the staff are settling into their roles. From personal experience the year starts with an analysis of the Higher School Certificate Learning Gain and acknowledging the great work that staff have put into enabling our students to achieve this growth. Whilst the examination results are cause for celebration the question that always comes to mind for me is what result should each student have received. That is where the learning gain analysis comes into its own. The dialogue that ensues between staff KLA Leaders, teachers and senior leadership brings a richness to learning and a desire to do better.
With new staff inductions and Leadership Team Meetings happening it is a time of excitement and anticipation as we welcome back our students. The employment environment still remains extremely competitive. With these challenges that we all face it is even more important to keep our networks strong and support each other. One way of doing this is attending quality professional learning.
We hope to see you all at our biennial Conference in Perth, Western Australia from July 14-16 at the Crown. We have also extended an invitation to our Primary Principals across the country and hope to see this opportunity as the start of a greater connection with our Primary Associations, especially with a number of schools moving to a K-12 model. For all communications, please refer to our CaSPA Website or communicate with your State/Territory Director.
The CaSPA Board has already been approached by the Senate Select Committee on the Cost of Living to participate in a public hearing for its current inquiry on Thursday, 1 February in Brisbane. We all know of families who are struggling to pay school fees and associated costs so this will be a good opportunity to have a voice in this domain. Ann Rebgetz will represent CaSPA at the Senate Select Committee.
We have also appointed a new Executive Officer to succeed Phil Lewis who will retire at the end of July this year. I am pleased to announce that Michael Egan will be the new Executive Officer. Michael comes with a wealth of experience as a Principal Leader as well as numerous connections across Principal Representative bodies. We will start the handover process at our first meeting in Canberra. Thank you to Michael Lee OAM and Ann Rebgetz for joining me on the panel and conducting the relevant Referee checks.
Have a successful year.
Dr Stephen Kennaugh