Wesley College Melbourne Australia
Wesley College Melbourne

Principal's Lines

5 May 2017

Wesley Year 7 students building 3d shapes

The marvellous celebrations for our 150th, enjoyably exhausting as they were, are now behind us. I found it to be a most exhilarating year, chiefly in what it demonstrated time and again about the Wesley spirit, and the pride we take in our very real sense of community. This expressed itself in the participation of OWs, present students, and parents and staff, in all kinds of events designed to help us connect with a school that generates palpable affection from many quarters. But that was then, and this is now. The future beckons, and so it was appropriate that a document setting out our plans for the future of this great school should have been introduced at the very end of the sesquicentenary. No time for standing still.

Framing the Future of Wesley 2017-2030, sets the direction for next generational development of the College. The response to the plan has been gratifying, and the document is both aspirational and realistic in its objectives.

This year’s theme, something we have established to give a particular coherence and focus to each school year, is Learning in an Expanded World, and is derived explicitly from the Framing the Future document. The world is expanding on our doorsteps, almost on a daily basis, as a result of the world ironically being brought much closer to us through the varieties of digital media. Expansion through contraction would not have made sense a decade or so ago. Without our even going out of the door, the internet has enormously expanded our access to information and networks of other people who now no longer need to be living close by. There are endless streams flowing into and though our lives: friends on Facebook, renters on Airbnb and Uber, opinions on Twitter, commerce through Amazon and Alibaba, music through Apple, Pandora and Spotify, knowledge through Google, the ideas of others through instant text messaging and email and so on. It seems endlessly expanding, this brave new world, and is both beguiling and bewildering.

And all this is bringing new challenges for schools and educators generally. How students learn, and indeed from whom they learn, is being radically transformed. Not just at Wesley, but everywhere now across this expanding world, decisions have to be taken about being selective: what no longer works, and what, in this “shock of the new”, will enhance learning? As usual, the answer is not definitive and lies somewhere in the middle. There are risks and challenges with which we must critically engage.

The world of work is also dramatically changing. My generation was certainly encouraged to find a work or career destination and more or less stay put for the duration. It was conservatism emerging from a different historical time. This is no longer the case. For many, the future work force will be flexible, adaptable, and likely to change directions several times in a working life. As the Framing the Future document establishes, we must be right on the ball in preparing our students to meet many new practices, and to ensure that as far as possible they leave school with certain attributes (outlined in the document) that we think will be essential. Our educational programs will involve a more extensive engagement with industry and universities, with new technologies in both the science and the arts, and with other schools around the country and across the globe. Schools will expand in tune with the evolving world of which they are a part.

Wesley Elsternwick students drumming

Elsternwick students find a rhythm in their music class

But for me schools, and Wesley especially, must focus on what we think is central to education in any era, and with renewed passion: the provision of a set of humane values that promote humility, integrity and mutual respect within a sustaining and nurturing community. And, perhaps more than ever, as digital isolation threatens to drive us further from human interaction, an enduring sense of the joy of living in the company of others. We have prided ourselves throughout our history on this aspect of our school. It is embedded in our culture, and may have never been more important.

An up-to-the-minute metaphor for this conviction is already with us in the new Learning in Residence at Glen Waverley: the world is coming to us as we reach out to it in a powerful and transforming way. And how appropriate that this is the first new project for “the next 150 years.”

With best wishes

Helen Drennen      

Add your voice: