On June 9 we welcome back all students and staff to Catholic College Wodonga. I say this with a sense of excitement and relief. Over the past month, I have noticed an increase in mainstream media and social media highlighting how schools should respond to the new educational landscape that we enter post COVID 19. Perfect fodder for my Hume Highway dreaming.
Last week I participated in an online gathering of Principals from primary and secondary settings. This medium is clearly a new part of my educational landscape. The gathering was facilitated by Brendan Maher, an ex-primary Principal, who has always challenged the view of what a school should be. Brendan has recently joined Leading Teams as a Facilitator.
As pre-reading material Brendan provided us with an extract from Stan Grant’s book “Australia Day.” This was beautifully timed as we are currently in National Reconciliation Week. Brendan drew our attention to the following passage where Stan writes:
“The story of Australia begins on that shore, when a people of steam and steel met a people of flint and wood and bone.”
Brendan asked us to consider:
“As you lead your school communities in and through this turbulent time can you consider who ‘the people on the shore are and who are those on board the ship’?
Having listened to and watched Stan regularly over recent years, I hear his story of being caught between the shore and the ship in his world, and dreaming of a future connection where both those on the ship and those on the shore come together as one. In my case Brendan’s question draws me directly to those whom I am aligned to as Principal – our students. I find myself considering:
“Which of our students, as they move through their years at Catholic College Wodonga, are in the space between the ship and the shore”?
Over the past month, two opinion pieces from Twitter sparked my interest and have challenged me, as I consider which students might be between the ship and the shore. Andy Hargreaves, a world-renowned Educator, and Bernard Marr, an author and futurist have written about the opportunities that are presented to us post COVID 19.
Hargreaves focused on the opportunities for schools to provide vocational skills and training. He believes there will be a related ‘push for vocational skills’ as economies look to lessen their dependence on the vulnerable global economy. Being based in a large regional community, we need to consider what pathways our students have to develop their skills and enter a regional workforce that extends to capital cities on our eastern seaboard. We currently provide vocational pathways through the seven VET subjects as well as our VCAL pathway. These are in high demand and our students are able to develop skills which Marr highlights are those which employers will look for in the years ahead. He reminds us that the technical skills that come with courses such as Engineering or Creative Industries are very important, but so too are creativity, critical thinking, innovation and entrepreneurialism.
A couple of key questions arise for me when considering these themes. Are we offering the right range of VET courses? Are our students caught in the space between the ship and shore, where they are selecting courses which do not necessarily fit within the pathway they are truly looking for?
This year has shone a spotlight on services which have been front and centre in our response to COVID 19. Our health care workers have provided our communities with incredible support and this is clearly a field which a large number of students choose as a career. We will explore the possibility of running Allied Health as a VET course so that our students will have the opportunities to develop skills and have experiences with the health sector. This could in turn lead to further studies or careers in a field which will continue to grow in the years ahead. At the same time our community continues to look for ways to support families as parents re-enter the work force, we see an opportunity to provide partial certificates in Early Childhood and Care which could be delivered at Catholic College Wodonga.
Being a college located in the North East of Victoria we have many families involved in the agricultural sector. Over a ten-year period, whilst I taught in Ararat, I delivered the VET course Food Processing – Wine and I have seen first-hand how agricultural courses in secondary schools can lead to careers for our students in fields such as the wine industry. We currently have five students participating in Agricultural SBAT’s (School Based Apprenticeships and Training) via Wodonga TAFE and while we may not deliver all the courses at Catholic College Wodonga, it is important we look to strengthen our partnership with local TAFE and universities.
In the coming months our students will commence our course counselling process. As a school we will continue to look at new courses such as Allied Heath to complement our current vocational pathways and explore external partnerships so that our students are not caught between the ship and the shore.