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Harnessing our Heritage to Shape our Future

Background

On Saturday, 23 July 2011 over 70 current staff and students, parents and alumni participated in the school’s Centenary Deliberative Assembly. The purpose of this significant event was

‘To harness the wisdom of the past and present to help Perth Modern School build on a culture that embraces opportunities and contributes to our society’. As part of the school’s centenary celebrations, this significant event will provide an opportunity to discuss with past, present and future members of the Perth Modern School community how the school can best develop into the future.’

The Deliberative Assembly was facilitated by Professor Janette Hartz-Karp from the Curtin University of Technology Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute, with assistance from Emeritus Professor David Black. Janette is an internationally renowned practitioner in the discipline and processes of ‘deliberative democracy’ – an approach for inclusive public dialogue and decision making. Participants self nominated their attendance and in preparation for the event were given an event information package which included: information on the school’s programs and approach for catering for gifted and talented students; an overview of the processes that would be used on the day such as ‘Open Space Technology and ‘World Café’; a paper prepared by the Perth Modern School Thinking Group ‘Mapping our Direction; a paper on the importance of ‘Philosophical Inquiry in a curriculum for gifted and talented students; and papers on a range of issues prepared by alumni who were unable to attend.

Processes (Overview)

After the ‘Welcome to Country’ by the President of the Student Council, Emma Dyce, the assembly addressed a number of key questions which provided the framework for the active and rich discussions including:

1. In an ideal school – How would it best contribute to society? What would we need to keep (past and present) to reach that ideal? What would we need to change (into the future) to reach that ideal?

2. What are our best ideas around ‘building’ a school culture that embraces opportunities and contributes to our society?

Numerous themes were identified by the small groups. These were further expanded by the small groups who discussed their ideas around ‘Building a school culture that embraces opportunities and contributes to society’. The discussions resulted in the small groups developing 14 project proposals. At the conclusion of the day the assembly celebrated the shared deliberations captured in the proposals. (Appendix 1)

Outcomes (Summary)

The overarching theme of the deliberations was the belief that Perth Modern School through its balanced, innovative, and challenging curriculum should aim at developing global citizens through local actions. All agreed that it is critical students be provided with the knowledge and skills to make their way in the world with purpose, and in a manner of their choosing, through deliberative and considered actions.

Throughout the discussions, Balance and Sustainability were key themes that related to the educational processes, curriculum offerings, and the skills needed by students as local, national and global citizens. A key outcome was also the belief by all that the school had a responsibility of encouraging a culture of innovation, community responsibility, creativity and ‘being the best I can be’.
Key items from the discussion on what the assembly considered Perth Modern School should be providing, with a focus on a ‘local balanced actions’ approach, includes the following:

  • developing a positive culture which appreciates individuality, but is balanced with a ‘commitment to community’ (“I” and “Us”);
  • allowing students to develop as individuals whilst encouraging the collaboration of students, teacher’s alumni;
  • providing an educational experience that develops knowledge, but balances this by giving students tools for reflection and thought. (“Scores” and “Skill”);
  • encouraging students, through their school experience to develop confidence, but is balanced with an appreciation of opportunity; and
  • developing leadership and entrepreneurial skills as well as caring for others, having empathy and providing a service to others.

The assembly considered that the above actions can be sustained with the school community by ‘educating’ one another and continuing to ‘pass the torch’ by:

  • the whole community – teachers, parents and students-embracing and enacting the ‘Perth Modern School’ culture; and
  • promoting greater school community links through community projects, expert speakers and the mentoring of students.

As a school community, it was agreed that the school needed to maintain the following:

  • the acceptance and valuing of the diversity of its school community;
  • the importance of maintaining a balanced curriculum;
  • a focus on providing individual programs for students enabling them to achieve excellence in their own way; and
  • the promotion of a culture and attitude of ‘striving for personal best.’

Discussions on how the school community could best contribute to society were engaging, innovative and forward thinking – and some of the key points included:

  • a need for the school to focus on providing a curriculum and learning environments that aimed to produce well rounded and successful graduates;
  • the importance of encouraging a strong connection between the school, graduates and the wider community;
  • the school providing students with an importance of having a ‘life-balance and the understanding that life is about making informed choices; and
  • the promotion of an understanding of the value of life long learning, and
  • all have a responsibility to make a contribution to society in their own way.

A number of key areas were explored in the context of ‘What do we need to change?’ such as:

  • the need to balance the ‘I ‘and ‘Us’ – and through this process harness the heritage of the school and the involvement of the alumni and wider school community;
  • a focus on balancing the ‘Skills’ and ‘Scores’ culture by broadening students’ knowledge through the curriculum offered at the school, after school, and the students’ connection with the community;
  • ‘growing resources for a growing school’ with the channelling of resources into student outcomes; professional development of staff to ensure best practice learning and teaching, and the innovative use of technology in classrooms;
  • ensuring a culture that values flexibility as the key to success (eg timetable, acceleration programs, innovative use of facilities);
  • building and enhancing the school community – eg keeping strong communication with parents, community members and alumni;
  • extending community service projects, and developing and supporting leadership skills in students for service in the wider community;
  • the harnessing of the Perth Modern School heritage (eg more involvement of alumni in the school as mentors, engaging community members in student learning, developing stronger links with alumni to maintain and enrich traditions, pride, reputation of the Sphinx Society and Perth Modernian Society; and
  • the development of a range of life-long skills that enhance the knowledge base of students – skills such as leadership, thinking, reflection and innovation that students are able to build upon through out their lives.

The assembly concluded that as a school community, it could best contribute to the wider community and society by ’ Developing well rounded individuals with a passion for learning, having the skills to balance life, and the ability to positively touch the lives of others in whatever capacity they choose’.

Appendix 1

1. The availability of a fully flexible curriculum, and timetables, to embrace students’ individuality.

2. A school approach that provides for the encouragement and development of entrepreneurial and managerial skills across all subject areas.

3. The availability of the Open Learning/Community Projects- enabling students to engage in student driven inter-disciplinary projects.

4. A school approach for stimulating learning interests through community engagement.

5. An approach for the continuity of the Perth Modern School culture.

6. An approach that supports the transition of students from high school to university through a range of teaching styles, including lecture and tutorial options.

7. A school approach and learning opportunities that aim to develop leaders for present and future communities.

8. An approach that leads to an ‘open education philosophy’ – where education is not contained either by school or the curriculum.

9. A school culture and programs that embrace the spiritual and moral welfare of students and staff.

10. A focus on re-invigorating the Arts through a range of programs, events and opportunities.

11. The development of a clear vision and philosophy for the school and addresses the question ‘Who is the school?’

12. Availability of a balanced, holistic curriculum to ensure students of Perth Modern School have a balanced, holistic education.

13. A focus on developing students with a life long approach to learning.

14. A curriculum and school environment that prepares students for global citizenship.

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